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Villages board stays on hiatus

Commissioners stress importance of building trust after troubles


The Villages at Mt. Hood Board of Directors will stay on hiatus for now, following a four-to-one vote by the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners at its Tuesday, June 28, policy session.

Commissioner Paul Savas cast the lone vote in favor of reforming the board.

The Villages board had been on hiatus since Feb. 9, when commissioners voted to dissolve it following a series of problems that included public squabbles, ethics complaints and the joint resignation of half of the board. The seven-person board had one vacancy at the time of its dissolution, and the resignations of Robert Bruce, Joe Mazarra and Gina Royall left the dais without the ability to reach quorum.

After voting to place the Villages board on hiatus, commissioners asked staff from the county’s public and government affairs department to research a way forward for the troubled board and return to present those recommendations. One of the ways that research was conducted via a survey, which was completed by 455 Villages-area residents.

Amy Kyle, public and government affairs strategic communications manager, said the surveys showed there was no consensus about how residents felt about the Villages board. The surveys also revealed many residents distrust the county.

“The general theme is the community is very split,” Kyle told commissioners.

Staff also said they had conducted stakeholder interviews, including meeting with past and present Villages board members. Mediation also occurred between the county’s legal counsel and two of the members of the Villages board that did not resign, Chairman George Wilson and Carol Burke.

County staff recommended to commissioners a draft memorandum of understanding that outlined how Wilson and Burke would appoint two additional board members to create an interim Villages board; these members would need to be approved by Kyle and Gary Schmidt, director of public and government affairs. The interim Villages board would once again have a quorum and the board could work toward holding an election in August or September of this year.

Commissioner Jim Bernard zeroed in on the survey results in explaining why he believed the board was better on hiatus, especially since residents said they didn’t trust the county.

“I think the Village has value,” Bernard said. “There’s no question the Village has value. Look at what they did in the past. I think we need to leave it on hiatus for awhile and start rebuilding that trust.”

But Commissioner Savas disagreed.

He said there seemed to be no cause to keep the board on hiatus.

“I think we owe the community some direction, some certainty,” he said.

In February, Commissioner Savas also cast the only dissenting vote against placing the board on hiatus. At the time, he said he voted against it because he felt that dissolving the board gave the impression that Wilson, Burke and Vice-Chair Marilan Anderson had done something wrong.

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.