Friday, December 14, 2012

Clatsop County Commissioner, Peter Huhtala Clarifies His Position On Clatsop Housing Authority

Statement regarding Clatsop County Housing Authority agenda item

delivered by Commissioner Peter Huhtala at Clatsop County Board of

Commissioners meeting on December 12, 2012

Note: This statement expresses the views of Peter Huhtala only, and is not an

official statement of the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners. It was read

into the record on December 12, 2012.

Public meeting law compliance is the central issue here, in my opinion. The core

of this is the methods employed by the Housing Authority in conducting the

public’s business.

Concerns were initially raised about matters that the Board of County

Commissioners decided could best be discussed after more information was

available. But it became more apparent to me that the questions raised by these

matters- which in themselves could be debated- were symptomatic of processes

that were taking place outside of the public arena.

Oregon’s public meeting law applies to the governing body of a public body –

including its subcommittees. Notice must be given as to the time, place and

agenda of these meetings.

On November 28 a CCHA Board member delivered a carefully worded statement

in response a BOCC request for information. This statement had to have been

crafted somewhere, but there was no notice of a public meeting. Similarly, the

language the Chair read into the record at the Housing Authority meeting on

December 6 couldn't have just emerged from the ether, but there was no notice

of an earlier meeting. Also on December 6 the CCHA Board ratified the Finance

Committee retaining an attorney. But there was no opportunity for the public to

observe the deliberations of the Finance Committee. There was no notice of a

Finance Committee meeting to consider hiring an attorney.

Beyond Executive Session exceptions, is there any reason why the Finance

Committee or any other subcommittee of the Housing Authority Board should not

be expected to develop recommendations and make decisions in public? No,

there is not.

The IPM resignation letter certainly caught our attention because of allegations

of child endangerment and breach of contract. But what was more bizarre was

the lack of documented discussion about this matter. If the letter was provided

to the Board, why didn't the members react? Perhaps there was confidence that

a sub-set of the Board was comfortable with the matter. In the March 8, 2011

Minutes, Chair Coulombe states: "We also had a management company

overseeing our properties. The Board was unhappy with their performance, and

we requested more than they were willing to do, therefore they resigned." This

view had apparently become the accepted explanation as opposed to IPM’s

letter. But where in the public eye was IPM’s resignation letter discussed?

In the Hyak procurement matter I don't see that the full CCHA Board exercised

their contract review function. If the contract review discussion was documented,

and the RFP process described to the Board, eyebrows may not have risen.

The CCHA apparently has either explicitly or tacitly delegated contract review

authority to the Projects Committee. The Projects Committee met, again without

any public notice of which I am aware, sometime prior to the September 11,

2012 CCHA Board meeting. That evening the Projects Committee reported to

the full CCHA Board regarding the Hyak property. But the report was for

information only. The contract had already been approved by the Projects

Committee. That's why the details of the Hyak procurement process cannot be

understood by reading the minutes from the full board meeting.

And that's the central point of the procurement matter. It's not whether

procurement policies were followed, but that public moneys were committed

outside of the public's view.

Unfortunately it appears that there is a pattern within the Housing Authority that

discussion, deliberation and at times decisions about important matters occur in

non-noticed subcommittee meetings. The Board is then free to act on the

recommendations from these subcommittees unless decisions have been

delegated. I suppose that this could be an efficient system. But it is not an

acceptable system for a public agency.

Public meeting laws are about openness and transparency. The public has a

right to know what its officials are up to and how public money is being spent. If

we fail to ensure transparency, we lose the public trust.

Note: This statement expresses the views of Peter Huhtala only, and is not an

official statement of the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners. It was read

into the record on December 12, 2012.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately it appears the BOCC does not value volunteers in our community. Their job is to support not tear apart. Sadly, Clatsop County will see more of this, and the costs that go with it.

Anonymous said...

You could have formatted the cut and paste to make this readable

Patrick McGee said...

It reads one word after another...could it be any simpler?

Anonymous said...

cindy howe redux DOJ is circling

Anonymous said...

yes, it could be a LOT simpler if it was formatted correctly