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Burge: Emails should be with 'each individual' councilor, not en masse

BurgeScappoose Mayor Scott Burge suggested the Scappoose City Council may have to change its email procedures Tuesday, Nov. 26, in the wake of allegations that a chain of emails earlier this month between him and three Scappoose city councilors constituted an illegal meeting.

Within the email exchange, four of the seven council members — Barb Hayden, Mark Reed, Jason Meshell and Burge — were involved in a back-and-forth discussion that led to the conclusion to hold an executive session Nov. 8, at which the city council terminated then-City Manager Jon Hanken’s contract. All seven Scappoose city councilors were copied on the emails.

Attorney Jack Orchard, a partner in the Portland law firm Ball Janik LLP, said since a majority of the councilors effectively convened a meeting over email, they should have followed Oregon public meetings law and had those discussions in a public session.

On Tuesday, Burge cited a city ordinance stating that the mayor must call any meeting requested by at least three councilors: “The council may hold special or emergency meetings after providing public notice as required by state law. Special or emergency meetings may be called by the mayor, and shall be called by the mayor upon request of at least three councilors. Special and emergency meeting agendas shall be limited to the purposes for which the meeting is called.”

“When I looked at it, I saw the emails as calling for a meeting and I don’t have a choice,” Burge said. “I guess the only way they’re supposed to contact me is through individual emails.”

Under Oregon public meetings law, no quorum (or majority) of a governing body is permitted to meet in private for the purpose of deliberating toward a decision.

Burge said in the future, he will be careful not to form a quorum over email, and instead encourage councilors to approach him individually rather than as a group.

“I guess that’s the only way to do it,” he said. “Each individual council member should contact me.”