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City Council Study Session Agenda & Minutes
Thursday, February 27, 2020
February 27, 2020
Medford Room, City Hall
411 W. 8th Street, Medford, Oregon
The City Council Study Session was called to order at 6:00 p.m. in the Medford Room of the Medford City Hall on the above date with the following members and staff present:
Mayor Gary Wheeler; Councilmembers Clay Bearnson, Kay Brooks (arrived at 8:06 p.m.), Tim D’Alessandro, Dick Gordon (left at 8:30 p.m.), Alex Poythress, Eric Stark, Kevin Stine and Michael Zarosinski (arrived at 6:21 p.m.); City Manager Brian Sjothun, Deputy City Attorney Eric Mitton, Deputy City Recorder Winnie Shepard, Chief Financial Officer Ryan Martin, SOREDI Executive Director Colleen Padilla, and Charter Review Committee Chair Al Densmore
SOREDI Executive Director Colleen Padilla provided an update of SOREDI activities. (PowerPoint attached.)
Ms. Padilla explained that SOREDI works with state agencies, local developers, businesses and colleges to determine potential business locations and provide qualified employees. There are many reasons that businesses don’t move to Medford: A lack of large vacant properties, the price of land, few incentives for businesses, a difficult land development process and high cost of living.
Charter Review Priorities
Deputy City Attorney Eric Mitton presented an update on the Charter Review Committee’s recommendations. (PowerPoint attached.)
Charter Review Committee Chair Al Densmore noted that the committee reviewed a model charter provided by the League of Oregon Cities. He had researched various charters and review processes of other Oregon cities as well. He requested Council direction regarding revising the number of Councilmembers, the supervision of the City Attorney and Council compensation.
Number of Councilmembers
Council voiced the following comments and opinions regarding potentially changing the number of Councilmembers: It could require additional staff time, would be difficult to implement and possibly problematic for a larger group to reach a consensus. Medford has more Councilmembers than the average city our size. The configuration could be changed to six Councilmembers and two at-large members.
After discussion, Council directed the committee to remove this item from consideration.
Supervision of the City Attorney
Mr. Mitton noted that the Charter Review Committee discussed the City Attorney’s supervision extensively and considered two matters: who would supervise and how to handle conflicts. The committee recommended that Council address this internally through an ordinance or policy.
Councilmember Bearnson noted Council has discussed the language in sections 5 and 10 of the Charter and the differing interpretation by counsel. He stated that ultimately it was Council’s decision on how to proceed.
Council voiced the following comments and opinions regarding the supervision of the City Attorney: Council and staff rely on counsel to interpret the Charter. The Council sets policies which staff then implements. It is unethical for the City Attorney to support the Council’s violation of any law. Council should receive unfettered advice. City Attorney supervision varies in other cities. It could be difficult to supervise City staff. The City Attorney has an ethical duty to provide accurate legal advice regardless of supervision. The City Attorney represents the municipal entity and not the Council or the City Manager. A mechanism, policy or process should be established for conflict resolution and the use of outside counsel. Council disagreed regarding whether this matter should be a choice of the voters.
Mr. Densmore reiterated that the Charter Review Committee recommended against this topic to the voters.
* Councilmember Kay Brooks arrived.
Councilmember D’Alessandro clarified that Council would like the Charter Review Committee to provide recommendations for dispute resolution which are very clear and concise.
Mr. Mitton stated that currently the Council receives reimbursements for expenses incurred. The Charter Review Committee would like direction regarding what to consider for compensation.
All Council comments were in support of some form of compensation as it would enable more people to serve. Increased interest would potentially create a wider diversity of race, economic status, age, etc. and would result in a Council that more accurately represented all citizens of Medford.
Mayor Wheeler requested Mr. Densmore to direct the Charter Review Committee to explore this topic further.
Mr. Mitton questioned whether Council had other topics that should take priority for the committee’s review. Councilmember Poythress requested the committee consider the Council vacancy process.
* Councilmember Gordon left the meeting.
Hospital Facilities Authority
Councilmember Stark explained that the Hospital Facilities Authority Board (HFA) is comprised of two Councilmembers and five community members appointed by Council. HFA’s are regulated by the State. The City’s HFA facilitates low-interest bonds for hospitals or other health-related fields. In the past, Asante and PRS have been the primary applicants and have also managed the Board; the City had a very small role.
However, the HFA will consider some significant applications from Asante in the near future. Councilmembers Gordon and Stark serve on the Board and requested Council feedback regarding whether the City should be more active in the HFA.
Mr. Sjothun outlined a past situation in which an organization requested funding through the HFA. When the HFA could not conduct a meeting within the timeline, the organization requested and received the funding through the State. It was later determined that the revenue from the bonds was used to purchase a facility outside of Medford. Mr. Mitton reported that outside counsel recommended an intergovernmental agreement before approving bonds which affect organizations outside Medford. Council has the authority to approve those agreements, despite the opinion of the HFA.
Potentially the City could charge the HFA a flat fee per transaction. Chief Financial Officer Ryan Martin clarified that typically fees are charged if there is more staff involvement than we currently provide.
Councilmember Stark advised that the HFA discussed the process for applications. He stated the statute doesn’t specify that the funds are used here in Jackson County; they can be used throughout the State.
Mr. Sjothun suggested that Councilmembers Gordon and Stark report to the HFA that the Council would like to formalize and develop an application and increase staff involvement with the Board. The City could also increase awareness of the availability of this funding. Councilmember Stark will discuss this matter with Councilmember Gordon.
Council may consider an application or transaction fee in the future.
Council President Stine provided a brief overview of the Council Officer’s meeting.
The meeting adjourned at 8:57 p.m.
Winnie Shepard, CMC
Deputy City Recorder