When Damascus City Councilor Randy Shannon and three other councilors attended a political action committee meeting Saturday, April 21, they completed what's known as a quorum - or a voting majority of the council.
And to some people that was enough to set off alarms. That's because Oregon's open-meetings law is intended precisely to guard against secret meetings and deal-making that create majority voting blocs that form outside of the public spotlight.
But Shannon and the other three councilors did nothing wrong by the letter of the law. According to the Oregon Attorney General's Office, if councilors meet on business unrelated to the city government, then they are free to gather in private. In this case, the PAC was gathering to discuss candidates for upcoming elections, which is not an issue that will come before the City Council.
Given this scenario, we think any further discord on this topic would simply be a waste of time and energy.
However, there is point to be made that private gatherings that involve a quorum of a governing body are generally unwise.
At this moment, the simple fact that these councilors DID meet in private raises the very real question: What ELSE did they talk about? The public will never know. And the possibility - however remote - has been planted in the public's mind that the conversation may have strayed to an inappropriate topic - such as city business.
It is much better that city councilors avoid these situations by simply avoiding quorums at private gatherings. These situations - no matter how benign - raise too many questions about government transparency at a time when the trust of government is already at a dismal low.