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Clackamas commissioners vote to dissolve troubled Villages at Mt. Hood Board of Directors

County staff charged with helping to develop future solutions

The Villages of Mt. Hood Board of Directors is no more, at least for now.

On Tuesday, Feb. 9, the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of dissolving the disordered board, which has been troubled of late by bickering, ethical complaints and a public admission that the six-person board could no longer work together. Villages board members Robert Bruce, Joe Mazarra and Gina Royall resigned immediately following the board’s most recent meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 2, leading commissioners to take up the issue at their Feb. 9 meeting.

The vote dismisses the remaining members of the board – Chairman George Wilson, Vice-Chair Marilan Anderson and Carol Burk – and renders the board inactive, said Amy Kyle, strategic communications manager for the county's Public and Government Affairs department.

“The Village entity exists, that structure exists, but the board is inactive currently, because there are no members,” Kyle said.

The vote also tasks the county’s Public and Government Affairs staff with helping to develop a path forward. Kyle said staff and county legal council would meet with representatives of the Villages community to identify their goals and priorities concerning a new board. They will also discuss how and when to hold the next board election.

Staff will then present those findings and recommendations to commissioners at a study session in the future.

The Villages board was created in 2006 to help set up a bus transportation system in the Mount Hood corridor, but is also a quasi-governmental entity designed to allow more input and control on local issues and activities. It covers 4,500 residents in the unincorporated communities of Brightwood, Welches, Wemme, Zigzag and Rhododendron. It is a seven-person board, but the dais had one vacancy at the time of its dissolution.

Problems developed on the board when member Bruce alleged that Wilson had committed ethics violations and behaved in a threatening manner towards members of the board. Wilson said these claims were untrue, and that Bruce's complaints stemmed from a personal conversation he had with Bruce in 2015 regarding state and national politics. Wilson added that the conversation did not break any bylaws of the Village board.

The board became divided between those who supported either Bruce or Wilson, and those divisions appeared to spread to many living in the Villages area. The board’s Feb. 2 meeting was marred by audience shouting, jeering and crosstalk.

County commissioners attended that meeting, and recalled it in making their decision to dissolve the Villages board. Commissioners noted that some attendees were in tears, while others appeared to have been drinking alcohol.

Commissioner Jim Bernard felt that the current board needed to be dissolved because it was dysfunctional, and that an experienced community board should be formed to revise the Village’s bylaws. He also believed that a forum should be held to provide education in how to hold a difficult meeting, and that mediation support be offered to the new board.

Commissioner Tootie Smith cautioned against creating a situation like the one several years ago at the Hamlet of Molalla Prairie. In that instance, a fractious board was also dissolved, but has never reformed. She said she did not want to see the Villages board meet the same end.

“That hamlet has such a dirty name, nobody inside or outside of Molalla wants to serve on it. It’s that badly tainted,” Smith said.

Commissioner Jim Bernard made the motion to dissolve the current board. Commissioner Paul Savas cast the dissenting vote against the motion. Savas added that he felt a dismissal gave the impression that Wilson, Anderson and Burk had done something wrong.

Next, county staff will work to develop their recommendations for the Village board and present them to commissioners at a coming policy session.

“We’ve got a community that wants to be heard,” Kyle said. “It’s just going to take a little bit of regrouping.”