Did the Troutdale City Council and city staff violate Oregon's public meetings laws and Troutdale city ordinances? According to the Troutdale City Council meeting minutes of January 13, 2015, the City Councilors publicly nominated candidates for Council President. However, according to the meeting minutes,
"Each member of the City Council submitted their vote for Council President to the City Recorder (a copy of the voting record is included in the meeting packet). Debbie Stickney, City Recorder, announced the results: Councilor Allen received 3 votes; Councilor Morgan received 2 votes; Councilor Anderson Received 2 votes. Councilor Allen has been elected as 2015 Council President."
This voting procedure violated Oregon public meetings law because it was a secret vote. This secret vote also violated the City of Troutdale's Title 2 because the City Council failed to publicly vote by roll call or by an "aye or "no" vote. In addition, the Troutdale City Charter and Troutdale ordinances do not authorize ballot votes at city council meetings.
By submitting their votes privately to the City Recorder, the City Council violated public meetings law, which specifically prohibits secret votes. According to the meeting minutes, City Recorder Debbie Stickney announced the votes for each candidate for Council President, but failed to identify the member voting and the result of that member's vote at the time of the vote. Although the meeting minutes state "copy of the voting record is included in the meeting packet" (referring to the meeting packet for the January 27 council meeting), her failure to announce "the member voting and the result of the members vote at the time of the vote" violated Oregon public meeting law.
"Voting- All official actions by governing bodies must be taken by public vote. The vote of each member must be recorded unless the body has 26 or more members. Even then, any member of the governing body may require that the votes of each member be recorded. ORS 192.650(1)(c). Written ballots are not prohibited, but each ballot must identify the member voting and the vote must be announced. Secret ballots are prohibited. The state law supersedes and nullifies any local government charter authorization or requirement for a secret ballot."
"A secret ballot is a vote of the members in private after which only the result is announced to the public. Absent specific statutory authorization, such a procedure would violate the Oregon Public Meetings Law. If improper procedures in voting such as the use of a proxy, an absentee ballot, a vote by mail or a secret ballot are used, it will cast grave doubts on the validity of any decision arrived at as a result of using these procedures."
-Oregon Public Meetings Law
This vote for Council President violated Troutdale Title 2-Rules of the City Council- because the votes were not taken by roll call vote, by "ayes" and "nos", and because at the time the written ballot was taken, the City Recorder failed to identify the member voting and announce the vote at the time of the meeting. In addition, nothing in the Troutdale city charter or ordinances authorize City Council votes by ballot at any city council meeting.
On the contrary, Troutdale city code requires,
On the contrary, Troutdale city code requires,
"Every councilor present when a question is put votes for or against the question unless excused by the council or required by law to abstain".
In addition, The city code and/or charter do not permit ballot votes of any kind for public city council votes.
"The vote on motions to read or adopt ordinances and resolutions is taken by roll call vote. All other votes may be by calling for "ayes" and "nos." Any councilor may request and obtain a roll call vote on any item. At the conclusion of any vote, the recorder informs the presiding officer of the results of the vote, and the presiding officer announces the vote. A councilor does not explain his or her vote during roll call. Any council member may change the member's vote prior to the next order of business. The council president or appointed presiding officer acting temporarily as mayor may vote in all cases. Every councilor present when a question is put votes for or against the question unless excused by the council or required by law to abstain."
To quote the Oregon public records and meetings manual, I too have "grave doubts on the validity of any decision arrived at as a result of using these procedures."
In the interests of local government transparency, the Troutdale City Council should:
1) Officially declare the vote taken for Council President on January 13, 2015 null and void;
2) In compliance with Oregon public meetings laws and Troutdale city ordinances, new nominations and a public City Council vote be conducted for Troutdale Council President.