PENDLETON - Ron Hughes smiled broadly and shook Judge Robert Ridgway's hand Tuesday night after being sworn in as Pendleton's newest City Council member.

His first meeting was a doozy.

The meeting lasted three-and-a-half hours, and started with Val Toronto of the Pendleton Tax Payers Association arguing the benefits of a double underpass plan during public input.

But the City Council, faced with a lawsuit on the matter filed in Umatilla County Circuit Court Tuesday, declined to listen to Toronto.

"With legal action against the city, we would choose not to hear this at this time," said Steve Bjerke, council member.

"Obviously you've got closed minds. You've made up your minds," Toronto said.

The peremptory writ of mandamus - filed by the Pendleton Taxpayer Association, Val Toronto, Rex Morehouse and Roy Comrie - apparently seeks to force city manager Larry Lehman to support Toronto's design for a railroad underpass near Wal-Mart in Pendleton.

The complaint isn't in the proper form, and statements in it aren't true, said Pete Wells, Pendleton city attorney, who added that the city would file a response on Nov. 27.

The basis for the argument is an agreement Lehman signed with Roy Comrie of the PTPA. The agreement stipulated the city would have the proposed underpass designs reviewed by a reputable engineer and if it was found feasible and cheaper than a proposed overpass design, then Lehman would support it.

The two agreed on an acceptable firm, but Comrie hired a different Walla Walla engineer without the city's knowledge and had him evaluate the underpasses design.

That engineer found the underpasses would be cheaper and feasible, but the city, besides saying Comrie didn't follow the agreement, said the engineer didn't do a comprehensive study.

The original firm that was agreed upon is doing the study.

The City Council held an executive session for about 30 minutes to discuss litigation.

In other council news:

•Former police chief Gary Ward, fired for misconduct in June, made another emotional plea to the council during public input, saying his firing and treatment has been unfair.

•The council unanimously approved a $30,000 local improvement district for sewer repairs on Southwest 15th Street, even though three of the four properties in the area didn't want the improvement.

The City Council could form the LID even if all the property owners objected because Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has called the situation a public health hazard.

One of the households has raw sewage leaks. Representatives for the other three properties complained that they were having to pay to fix another house's problems. Jerry Odman, public works director, explained the problem was in the line itself - which all the houses were connected to.

•The council also unanimously approved a $28,000 LID for street improvements on Southwest Hailey Lane. Most of the 12 property owners in the area were in favor of paving the street. Three opponents said the LID would cost too much.

•Four street vacations also were approved for portions of Southeast 11th Street, Southeast 16th Street, Southeast 21st Street, and Southeast Emigrant and Southeast 10th Street.

•A clean-up committee for the city was formed and needs volunteers. The committee would try and build community pride by facilitating the clean-up of properties.

•A contract for a consultant who is overseeing the city's proposed Urban Renewal District was approved, at $26,700.

•Hughes will fill out the remainder of Carolyn Anderson's term, which runs until January, before beginning his own four-year term. Anderson left Pendleton to live on the coast during the summer. Hughes was elected in a landslide Nov. 5.

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