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Council reverses decision, retains legal firm

Scappoose City Council backpedals on earlier decision to end decades-old contract with Jordan Ramis PC


by: FILE PHOTO - While Scappoose will continue to use Jordan Ramis PC as its legal counsel, city officials say they're not sure who will be representing the firm at their next meeting. After exiting an executive session Monday, Jan. 6, Scappoose City Council reversed an earlier decision by opting to retain its contract with Jordan Ramis PC, the city’s legal counsel.

At an earlier special meeting held Jan. 2 at 8 a.m., council voted to terminate its contract with Jordan Ramis PC, providing no reason.

Community members appeared at Monday’s meeting to criticize a range of City Council decisions over the past six months, including council’s failure to pursue its stated goals and efforts to veer into administrative control of the city by skirting the legal framework of the voter-approved city charter.

Mayor Scott Burge confirmed Tuesday the city will continue to use Jordan Ramis for municipal legal counsel, but will hire a second attorney to handle employment issues.

“The motion was to rescind the action [council] took on Jan. 2, so I’m going to be sending a letter to Jordan Ramis stating that the 30-day notice has been rescinded and we need to develop a contract that will exclude employment related services,” Interim City Manager Don Otterman said Tuesday following the meeting.

Otterman said it’s not uncommon for cities to use multiple firms for different matters within the city.

“When I was [city manager] in North Plains, I used different firms. One was for employment-related issues,” he said.

Although Jordan Ramis PC will still operate as the city’s legal counsel, Otterman said the city would likely not use Ron Guerra, Scappoose’s former city attorney, in the future. Bernhard

“I can’t tell you who’s going to be here at the next meeting,” he said.

Prior to the council’s approval to retain Jordan Ramis at its legal counsel, audience members spoke in opposition to the board’s original decision. Former Scappoose City Council President Jeff Bernhard asked for an explanation on Guerra’s termination as well as other matters.

“You went into executive session, you came out of executive session, terminated the contract between you and Jordan [Ramis] — a long-term attorney’s office with this city for over 20 years — without any discussion, without any reason to the voters,” Bernhard said. “You gave nothing to the voters. It isn’t that I’m sitting here questioning why you did it. You must’ve have good reasons to do it. I assume you all had good reasons to do it, but the point is that you didn’t give any reason why at all. When did it become appropriate that this council took action without any type of discussion and allow the citizens to hear what you’re thinking?”

Council President Larry Meres declined to respond to Bernhard’s comments because of legal issues surrounding the matter. To date, the city has not provided a reason as to why it initially voted to fire its legal counsel.

Sue Leipzig, of Scappoose commented on how the timing of the City Council’s actions appeared suspicious.

“Is it reasonable to have a meeting that’s decided on New Year’s Eve and have it the day after New Year’s at 8 a.m.?” she asked, “I think it’s completely obvious that you guys are trying to do things without people giving input.”

Otterman said he will send out a request for proposals for an attorney to advise the city on employment issues within the next two weeks.

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