BOARD OF COMMISSIONERSí
October 5, 2010
Harris Hall Main Floor
Commissioner Bill Fleenor presided with Commissioner Rob Handy, Pete Sorenson and Faye Stewart present. Bill Dwyer was excused. County Administrator Jeff Spartz, County Counsel Liane Richardson and Recording Secretary Melissa Zimmer were also present.
1. ADJUSTMENTS TO THE AGENDA
2. PUBLIC COMMENTS
Bonnie Bennett, Eugene, recalled she read a discrimination complaint about HACSA to the Board two weeks ago. She said because she complained, she is the brunt of text book retaliation. She stated that HACSA is constantly calling her physicians and therapy providers. She said it is contrary to specific HUD rules. She said that Chuck Hauk denied legitimate medical claims and deductions. She said she has cancer and other ailments. She said there is no one in HACSA she can go to for her recertification. She said no one from HACSA talks to her. She was given an eviction notice for a dog bite that never happened. She said she wants to continue living there. She asked the Board to stop the way HACSA does business.
David Huffman, Eugene, chose not to give testimony today.
Peter Thurston, Eugene, recalled a month ago they were talking about the Extension Building at the Fairgrounds. He indicated the Board asked that they as a group of citizens see whether or not it was a usable building. He reported that they did that and consulted with professionals in the community. He said they did a walk through on September 23. He said they looked around for about an hour and their conclusion is that it is still a usable building and it hasnít deteriorated into a liability. He noted the report the Board received earlier indicated that it would cost $1.4 million to remodel the building. He said they recommended that the building could be rehabilitated in pieces over time. He reported that the HVAC system has reached the end of its life. He said there is a lot that could be done with energy conservation that would make the basic structure functional again. He recommended reviewing this and receiving a proposal from one of the agencies that examined the building that has a good record in the community of rehabilitating buildings and working with the County to make use of the structure. He stated that it is an asset worth $1 million between the expense and what it would take to replace the building. He thought it would be a significant amount lost if they didnít take every effort they could to save the building.
Carols Barrera, Eugene, said he examined the building and he thought it was a solid building. He said the HVAC system is the major problem that needs to be repaired. He encouraged the Board to keep the building and to let someone else do the repairs.
Sophie McDonald, St. Vincent de Paul, Eugene, indicated they were one of four agencies invited to tour the Extension Building to see if it could be utilized by one of their programs. She presented a proposal on how they would like to use the building if the Board were to grant them a long term lease on the property. She said St. Vincent de Paul manages affordable housing in Lane County and they have 1,000 units. She said what she would like to do is move their property management offices into that building. She thought it would be a great way for the space to be utilized to serve the people they serve in the community. She added that if space allows, they would like to be able to move some of their housing programs into the office. She said it would give them access to more space to be able to expand. She added that it would also give them access to confidential meeting space. Said their plan is to take a portion of the building and use it for services and to take the remainder of the building and lease it out to small businesses in the community. She wanted to continue to make the auditorium open to be used for groups. She added the space would be ideal for the Egan Warming Center to provide shelter to people who are homeless on nights that are below 28 degrees. She reported that St. Vincent de Paul is currently working with an architect and contractor to assess the repair needs for the building. She said if they are allowed to proceed, their plan would be to lease the building from the Fair Board for a token annual rent of $1 per year for an extended period of time and undertake a prescribed and agreed upon scope of work to fix up the building. She said they want to bring the building up to good useable standards.
3. COMMISSIONERS' RESPONSE TO PUBLIC COMMENTS AND/OR OTHER ISSUES AND REMONSTRANCE
Sorenson reported that the Census Bureau last week by release of the ďOregon Center for Public PolicyĒ pointed out that Oregonís poverty rate is increasing.
Handy asked if there would be some kind of audit with regard to HACSA. He asked if there were recommendations for the Board to consider in addressing this issue.
Spartz said he didnít sit in on the meeting last week and he didnít recall that any direction was given. He said Counsel said when investigations are deemed warranted by the Board; they work through Human Resources that handle that role with HACSA. Spartz said if the Board believes it is warranted, then that is the direction that should be given.
He said they should ask Human Resources to commence work.
Fleenor asked if this would have to be done through a HACSA meeting.
Richardson responded that it would be cleaner if the HACSA Board decided to hire an investigator. She said there was no direction last week. She thought they should call the HACSA Board. She added that their office never hires an investigator, it is always handled externally.
Stewart recommended setting a HACSA meeting regarding this issue as soon as practicable.
Fleenor was interested in the cost benefit analysis of the Extension Building as it relates to community purposes versus the Lane Events Center needs/opportunities. He commented that the Lane Events Center is in a financially stressed position and by making a decision to continue the operations of the Extension Building for some other purpose than to provide opportunity to the Lane Events Center might be detrimental to the survivability of the Lane Events Center. He said they need to take that into consideration. He said they have to access the long term impacts and implications on the Lane Events Center in the event they continue the operations of the Extension Building. He thought it would be a lost opportunity.
4. EMERGENCY BUSINESS
5. COUNTY COUNSEL
b. DISCUSSION/Public Meetings Law.
Richardson reported that the Attorney Generalís office just came out with their latest version of the Public Meetings Law and Public Records Law Manual. She noted for public meetings laws, the laws lie in Oregon Revised Statutes 192.620. She indicated that the state of Oregon has a policy that they do good governance by being transparent by having public meetings and having the publicís business done in open meetings. She added that ORS 192.620 states that all meetings of a governing body of a public body for which a quorum is required in order to make a decision or to deliberate toward a decision on any matter are subject to this law. She said it must be posted so citizens can see the general topic of discussion and know what date and where. She added the law doesnít apply only to the Board of Commissioners, but it applies to any committees, subcommittees or advisory groups if a quorum is required or if they give advice to the Board. She said because they are in a world with computers, they talk about communications between and among quorum members and they say a meeting can be convened electronically. She stated if meetings are being convened electronically, there has to be notice and the public has to be able to view it. She stated that they give a warning to members of public bodies to be carefully they are not making a decision or deliberating toward a decision via electronic communications.
Fleenor asked when it states electronically linked computers, what that meant.
Richardson replied that the example they gave were commissioners actually communicating at the same time, like e-mailing each other at the same time. She noted whatever city they were using as an example has created a law that a quorum canít be using the computers at the same time.
Fleenor asked if three commissioners were at their computer doing unrelated activities if that was prohibited.
Richardson said it wouldnít be a violation of the Public Meetingís Law. She explained the intent is they want decisions made in public and they want the public to hear what the information was the body heard in order to make a decision. She asked the Attorney Generalís office about sequential e-mails. She said the Board always receives e-mails from the public and they usually include all five and they are giving information. She said their concern is what happens at that point. She asked the Attorney General about that and it hasnít come out yet. She indicated there are varying opinions from varying attorneys who have to advise public bodies on how careful they need to be. She stated that usually their advice is to not reply to all, reply back to the individual and if it comes up in a public meeting about this item of discussion, that the information is shared, so everything is out in the public.
Fleenor said intimating there is a possibility there could be a quorum by e-mail, or if a Board wishes to have a public meeting by e-mail, if that could be done.
Richardson said there could be a way to post all of the e-mails that are occurring on a website. She said it would be like an instant message that they have given notice.
Spartz commented that given the current state of technology, he would find it difficult to enable the Board to have a public meeting over the internet, because for those who didnít have the internet at that point in time, they would be excluded from the meeting.
Richardson said they are warning that they can have what constitutes a public meeting in a realm where they could be in violation of the law by using new forms of communication that donít allow it to make it public. She said because of new technology and e-mail, it might now potentially create a problem where an entity gets in trouble for violating the Public Meetingís Law. She said the law doesnít apply if you canít make it public. She commented that it makes it hard for Boards in this day and age when they are receiving things via e-mail. She stated her recommendation is donít reply all, to reply back to the sender, but donít start talking about how they are going to decide or what they are going to do via e-mail because the public is excluded. She said they are protecting their entities from getting in trouble.
Spartz said be careful that they donít have a meeting that is not properly noticed and is not accessible to the public. He said they could inadvertently engage in a public meeting by instant messaging or responding fast to one another.
Sorenson wanted to know about the use of e-mail. He didnít think an e-mail was different than sending a letter. He asked if there has been case law where a government decision was either pointedly or inadvertently made because information or perspectives were being exchanged, but there was no difference between sending that and multiple documents. He asked why they are treating e-mail differently than any other written communication.
Richardson noted in the newest manual they refer to a city case where they were deliberating on their computers via e-mail. She added that the Attorney Generalís office said it was in violation of the manual. She said with the difference between letters and e-mails, they donít reply back to everyone in a letter because of the difficulty with replying. She noted they usually reply to one person and in e-mails it is more of a conversation than what would be in a letter, and that is why people are concerned. She stated that doesnít happen in a letter form.
Fleenor asked if they could have content, deliberation and action.
Richardson said if the communication constitutes a decision, or deliberation toward a decision for which a quorum is required, or the gathering of information on which to deliberate, it has to be more than having an e-mail landing in their box. She stated the Board canít control when an e-mail lands in their box, they can only control what they do. She said deliberating toward a decision in each case is different. She said what needs to be clarified further is the gathering of information on which to deliberate. Her concern is the tone of how the Attorney Generalís manual talks about public meetings. She said it states they acknowledge that strict compliance with the substantive requirements of the Public Meetings Law frequently may sacrifice speed and spontaneity for more process and formality. She said it states they should err saying meetings via e-mail are meetings for purposes of the Public Meetings Law. She noted the Attorney Generalís advice is to be cautious and have no question. She reiterated for the Board not to reply all, but to reply to a single individual. She said if it starts to feel to them like it is moving toward where someone wants them to deliberate, to donít do it and wait to get into a public meeting. She indicated that the Public Meetings Law doesnít apply for judicial proceedings but it still applies to fact finding. She said site inspections are exempt.
Fleenor asked where a quorum of an elected body can actually meet outside of a public meeting.
Richardson explained that a quorum of an elected body can attend state or national events that the County belongs to, they can attend conferences, social and political events. She explained the prohibition is to not talk about County business while the Board is attending an event. She added that County business is anything that might come in front of the Board in the foreseeable future. She said there is no prohibition about an elected body being together, it is more of what it looks like to the outside. She said they recommend if the Board goes to a conference to sit apart. She wanted to make sure it doesnít look like something that it is not.
Sorenson believed they should consider the Open Meetings Law into their Good Governance Board Order, that although it is possible to have commissioners attend conferences, it is his view they should maintain the common policy, to never have three commissioners in one place. He commented changes in technology could affect the subject.
Fleenor agreed with Sorensonís recommendations of further modifying the Good Governance by putting in Item 15 that would state no more than two commissioners can be in any one conversation at any meeting, at any time or at any place.
Richardson said although Oregon Revised Statutes governing public meetings laws do not prohibit a quorum, she will state the Board is making a stricter policy than what is the law.
Fleenor asked with the Electronic Communications Policy in the 2010 Revised Open Meetings Law Manual, if County Counsel should provide them with guidance, as to what would constitute violations and they might incorporate that into their Good Governance Board Order while they are waiting for the Attorney Generalís office to catch up with technology.
Richardson requested that the Board donít continue long threads of e-mails. She said only reply to one person.
Stewart thought it was in how they reply to an e-mail and the verbiage. He thought they needed to use a higher level of discretion on how they apply.
Sorenson said it is still possible someone could be mistaken that they saw him with two other commissioners. He said because he has observed this rule for so long, the number of those instances can be counted on one finger.
c. DISCUSSION/Public Records Law.
Richardson said they have an Open Public Records Law. She said things in the possession of public entities are presumed to be public records available for the public to inspect unless there is an exemption that prohibits it. She said in almost all cases the public body can still disclose information if it chooses to. She said there have been changes with the Attorney Generalís manual. She noted before the manual update came out, entities were expected to respond to public records request in a reasonable amount of time. She added the Attorney Generalís office has opined that they should be able to process a public record request within ten working days of receipt. She thought 75 percent to 85 percent of the time they could still respond within that time. She said the problem will be the rest of the requests. She said they now have to have it processed within ten days. She said if it requires IS work, they only have one person who works on it. She thought they might get complaints from the public.
Fleenor thought they should send a letter to the governor to include that when you have a distressed county they might not be able to provide the level of service that is required by law with respect to the Open Records request.
Richardson noted the other major change is the Attorney Generalís office believes they have some authority to review fee schedules. She noted the Attorney General said if someone thinks a fee is too high they can appeal it to the Attorney Generalís office and they can review to see how Lane County sets its fee schedule. She added under law they can recover actual and reasonable expenses and to charge for staff time to go through the documents and copy costs. She said the Attorney Generalís office has opined that they can make sure those fees are reasonable. She said she doesnít know what the process is yet.
Handy thought having a fair schedule and response time is good. His goal was for them to find consistency in whatever they do so it is fair, keeping in mind the stress situation of staff. He thought they should check AOC to see if there is a statewide input in how they are dealing with this.
d. DISCUSSION/Naming Policies of Public Facilities.
Richardson recalled that several times in the past year the Board has been asked to take a position or to allow a name change to occur. She said the Board of Commissioners has never adopted a naming policy. She said the Board asked their office to bring forward different examples about what type of naming policy the Board would like to see so when they have future requests they would have some basis to make a decision. She pulled together examples. (Copy in file). She noted the city of Eugeneís policy tries to incorporate geographic or geological reference into naming a place so the public can recognize the location, or a name based on someone who has impacted the city significantly. She said they will not rename existing facilities after they have been named unless the personís legacy has been diminished. She noted that all naming requests for major city owned facilities require a public comment period and they will enable an existing committee help them with the naming process. She commented that the city of Eugeneís was the most extensive policy they found. She added the city of Portland provides two opportunities for public comment and they mainly talk about parks and renaming city streets. She noted for Benton County they have criteria for naming land or facilities and it has to be reviewed at a public meeting. She added that they donít require a public meeting but they can. She added the city of Salem only provides information for naming public streets. She recommended doing a more extensive policy similar to the city of Eugene and then they can bring it back to the Board.
Sorenson thought having a policy when someone wants to give the County money and honoring their family would be a good policy. He was in favor of having a written policy and to have further work done to see what other communities do. He wanted to follow the larger counties in Oregon. He asked about comparable sized counties.
Richardson responded that they started out with the larger counties. She indicated they contacted 15 counties and several cities and what they got back is in the packet.
Fleenor asked if the Board supported Richardson using the city of Eugeneís model as the basis and to come back with a draft proposal.
Handy was not in favor of staff or the administrator making a decision. He wanted to see it go before the elected officials. He wanted to have a super majority of four commissioners approving the matter. With regard to financial implications, he wanted to do it without putting undue stress on the Countyís limited resources. He liked city of Portlandís notification of various neighborhood associations. He thought it should be vetted through a committee before it comes to the Board. He didnít think they needed a standing committee. With renaming of streets, he wanted signatures or endorsement from a percentage of people or businesses that reside along the street. He wanted to see a threshold of support for a possible renaming. He thought they should have public hearings all the time. He thought they could rename rooms within County facilities for immediate naming to allow for sentimentality, but new naming or renaming outside of Lane County facilities need to have a higher standard.
Stewart said they might not have a Board policy established, but they have policy in the County in different areas. He noted information about naming roads already exists. He said when they rename roads in Lane County; it requires the petition, and the suggested name. He added they are required to have a public hearing. He thought that could be a starting point. He wanted to understand what the Boardís responsibility is when they are being asked to affirm a geographical area. He wanted to have a policy but have flexibility built into it. He did want to have a public hearing for all the naming possibilities so they can hear from the citizens.
Richardson stated that she could have a rough draft for the first week of November.
e. ORDER 10-10-5-1/In the Matter of Amending the Good Governance Board Order Clarifying Methods of Requesting Waiver of 15-Minute Rule.
Richardson recalled that the Board asked her to review the 15 Minute Rule to make it clear what options a commissioner has for a waiver of the 15 Minute Rule. She stated that the 15 Minute Rule could be requested in three ways: the commissioner may submit a board order for the Consent Calendar for an exception to the 15 Minute Rule and in the proposed board order they should include the amount of additional staff time and resources they are requesting. She said the commissioner may also use a verbal request at any Board of Commissioners meeting during Commissioners Announcements or Commissioners Business to ask for additional staff time. She noted the third item is to make a request to the agenda team to place an item on a future agenda.
MOTION: to approve ORDER 10-10-5-1.
Sorenson MOVED, Handy SECONDED.
Handy, asked about Section 3. He didnít believe the designated secretary will use a recording device.
Richardson, said whatever attorney has it activates the recording device. She said she can rewrite the section.
Handy asked about Section 14, encouraging voluntary e-mail address acquisition. He asked what the barriers are to do this.
Spartz said the issue is what they would do with them if they were integrating them into their system. He said they donít know the topics an individual wishes to be communicated with. He thought a better way is having access through their website so they can register their e-mails and indicate when they are interested in getting e-mails.
Handy said there seems to be a conflict with carrying this out. He asked what the recommendation would be. He wants e-mail address for the things he sends out. He wants to widen a pool for the people who come to talk to them.
Spartz said he would work on it and get back to Handy.
Fleenor asked if they should eliminate e-mails to the County Administrator.
Richardson said they can change it. She noted this section has been in since the draft was passed around.
Sorenson thought it was a safety valve that should be kept in. He said it protects staff as a way to say no or to only deal with the commissioner involved.
Fleenor said there are situations where staff is hesitant to put things in e-mail that would be considered challenging to a commissioner, but contacting the County Administrator would be better.
Handy said given other changes, he wanted to see this brought back and deal with what was proposed.
Richardson said she recommended taking no action today and she will bring back the board order.
Handy wanted to include e-mails. He wanted to see options for commissioners to be able to acquire the e-mail addresses if the County as a whole is not interested.
Sorenson withdrew his motion. Handy seconded.
6. EXECUTIVE SESSION as per ORS 192.660
(Commissioners' Conference Room)
Per ORS 192.660 (2)(h) for the purpose of pending litigation.
7. OTHER BUSINESS
There being no further business, Commissioner Fleenor recessed the meeting into Executive Session at 11:25 a.m.