The following is a statement of Toledo Mayor Billie Jo Smith, and Toledo City Councilors Terri Strom and Deanne Dunlap. Their opinions and observations are strictly their own and are not necessarily those of the staff and management of NewsLincolnCounty.com
Response #5 to Toledo Recall Petition Claims
The voter recall petition that was circulated for signatures in Toledo makes 5 claims against Mayor Billie Jo Smith, and 4 claims against City Council President Terri Strom and Councilor Deanne Dunlap. Some of the claims are completely untrue. All are misleading and are the opinions of the individuals leading the recall. The petitions against Terri Strom and Deanne Dunlap repeat the claims against the Mayor, and accuse them of supporting the Mayor. In fact, the Mayor and Councilors have all been acting on the decisions of the City Council.
This particular petition claim names Mayor Billie Jo Smith only – not Council President Terri Strom or Councilor Deanne Dunlap. To respond to all of the claims in one article would make it too much to print and read. Also, some of the claims have several parts. To make this easier for readers, we have responded to only one of the claims at a time. This is the fifth, and last, in this series of responses.
The claim is divided into three sections:
1. Recall Petition Claim: Questionable Personnel Practices. Mayor Smith forced the termination of Municipal Judge Parsons
The Municipal Judge, the City Attorney, and the City Manager are employees of the City Council. A new state law requires that all municipal judges must now be members of the Oregon State Bar – and they must be lawyers.
Dr. Parsons had served as Toledo’s Municipal Judge for 50 years. He was dedicated to Toledo but did not meet the new qualifications. Following the direction of the Council, Mayor Smith, regretfully, asked Dr. Parsons to retire as our Judge and to allow the City to recognize his dedication, service and contributions. She also told him that the city would need to terminate his employment for “no cause,” if he did not retire. Dr. Parsons was gracious, and agreed to provide the City with a letter of retirement. His letter, however, stated that he was leaving the position because he was terminated by the City. He also declined any recognition for his service. Toledo’s Municipal Court now has a qualified judge who is able to expand its services to include diversions.
2. Recall Petition Claim: Supported and participated in the hiring of Interim City Manager Craig Martin without disclosing his forced retirement from the City of Sweet Home, OR, and that this information was withheld from other Toledo City Councilors and the public.
Three newly elected City Councilors in Sweet Home wanted City Manager Martin to develop an ordinance that would violate state laws. They were also proposing actions he believed would damage the community. He negotiated a separation, rather than continuing the conflict.
All applicants for the Toledo Interim City Manager position were vetted by our City Attorney. In addition to applications, recommendations, and resumes, a background search was conducted which provided additional and important information. All Council members were informed of Mr. Martin’s resignation from his former position.
The City Council may hold an Executive session, according to state law, to consider the employment of a public officer, employee, staff member or individual agent. This is where applicant details can be discussed. The actual hiring decision was appropriately made in a public meeting. Information about his former employment in Sweet Home was and is available on the internet.
3. Recall Petition Claim: Illegally participated in the termination of Fire Chief Ewing.
The Mayor served only as a witness to two employment conferences with Mr. Ewing. This was at the request of the City Manager, who was being advised by the City/County Insurance Services Legal Counsel. The City Attorney would normally serve as the witness, but could not because of charges that were being considered against Mr. Ewing. The Mayor did not participate in the conferences and also did not, at any time, tell the City Manager that he should, or should not terminate Mr. Ewing’s employment. The Toledo City Charter states in Ch. V, Section 20(8): A – A member of the council shall not directly or indirectly, by suggestion or otherwise, attempt to influence the manager in making an appointment or in removal of an officer or employee. This rule was followed by the Mayor.