The Pendleton mayor and city council members were recently advised that communications between them in an official capacity were a matter of public record. Each member was subsequently given an “electronic device,” a tablet per se, to record those discussions, thus keeping a permanent record.
Remember those days at a city council meeting when the clock struck 7, the gavel was struck, and the meeting came to order? All comments during the meeting, including those from the public, were entered into the minutes and became public record. That’s been changed. The meeting is still opened at 7, the public is given their 15 minutes, and after completion of that segment, the meeting is then called to order, and councilors discuss those items on the agenda, where the public is not allowed to speak unless a public hearing is required.
Public comments made at the July 2 meeting were omitted from the official minutes presented to the council for their approval at the following meeting, where they were approved without amendment, leaving out those comments. Legal? Maybe, but not very ethical. The East Oregonian doesn’t generally report public comments. Maybe they will in the future.
So, why the change? The city manager develops the meeting agenda, and it’s then approved by the mayor. You can make your own conclusions.
Was the omission an honest mistake? I’d like to think so. Our city officials seem genuinely concerned about transparency in conducting city business and welcoming public participation in the decision-making process, yet some are ill prepared to answer questions put forth at city council meetings. I don’t know —total silence, or an incorrect answer, can be embarrassing and happens far too often.
This incident could also just be a ruse to get public attendance up at council meetings. So, if you’re truly interested in what’s really going on at City Hall, attending city council meetings is your first step.