Resident challenges legal services ballot measure
A resident has filed a formal challenge at the Clackamas County Circuit Court regarding a ballot title for a November vote to determine the future of West Linn's legal services structure.
Karie Oakes, who testified frequently throughout the West Linn City Council's deliberations on the matter, submitted the challenge Aug. 17. She objected to the language of the ballot title, which proposes the restoration of a clause that allows the council to hire any legal services deemed necessary, while also clarifying that any legal advice provided to the city must be overseen by City Attorney Tim Ramis.
The ballot title was approved by the City Council Aug. 8, ending a long debate about the merits of an assistant city attorney position that stretched over multiple meetings and work sessions.
In her challenge, Oakes stated that the ballot title "is insufficient, not concise and unfair." She went on to add that "the ballot title combines two distinct changes to the City of West Linn Charter and (presents them) as one measure. I believe the changes require two ballot measures."
Further, Oakes said that the ballot title actually wasn't restoring the exact language about the council hiring any legal services deemed necessary. While the original clause, 8f, stated,"The legal advisors shall report to and serve at the discretion of the council," the clause on the ballot title read, "These legal advisors…"
"There is a distinct difference between the words the and these," Oakes wrote, pointing to a council meeting during which that difference was discussed.
Finally, Oakes wrote that the new language about the City Attorney overseeing all legal advice was "vague" and misleading.
"The true major effect is that it carves out a position as a favored position for special consideration; gives the city manager authority to qualify candidates for a city officer position, contrary to existing city charter language … and dilutes the authority of the city council," Oakes wrote.
In an Aug. 31 memo to the council, City Manager Eileen Stein said that City Attorney Tim Ramis submitted a response to the petition at the circuit court, and that the court would ultimately determine the final language of the ballot measure.
Residents will vote on the measure in a Nov. 7 special election.
Read the full challenge here.