COTTAGE GROVE – The city manager of Cottage Grove will be evaluated after the mayor requested an executive session to review “the employment-related performance” of the chief executive officer of the city.
This isn’t the annual evaluation for city manager Richard Meyers, where the council reviews his overall performance.
Mayor Candace Solesbee made the request after The Chronicle reported on the contents of the internal investigation of former Cottage Grove Police Chief Scott Shepherd and Captain Conrad Gagner – an investigation that was conducted by Meyers.
“The citizens have a right to feel like everything, especially with the police department, is being run at a top-notch level,” Solesbee said. “So that’s what I’m trying to get to the bottom of.”
The high-ranking officials – who were both long-standing members of the department – were placed on administrative leave in July 2022 for reasons initially undisclosed to the public.
A public records request for documents relating to their leave was filed by The Chronicle, but was denied by the City. After an appeal, that denial was overturned by the District Attorney in February, and some documents were released to the press.
Those documents outline the officers’ misconduct, including racist language, mismanagement of security footage, and failure to assist outside agencies. Some documents were not released, as they are protected by attorney-client privilege, meaning they are unreleasable to the public record.
After the news report circulated, Solesbee requested all investigation-related documents be made available to council members to view prior to the city manager’s evaluation in executive session.
“I just want to make sure that we dot our i’s and cross our t’s and make sure that everything was handled appropriately,” Solesbee said.
Executive sessions are non-public meetings, but under Oregon Public Meetings Law, media members can attend in most cases; however, while reporters can attend, they cannot report on details of executive sessions.
According to a Cottage Grove executive session memorandum, “the material contains information that directly ties into current active investigations” and much redacting would need to take place before the documents could be made available to the public.
Rather than engage in a full discussion at the executive session, in order to “increase efficiency,” the memorandum states that council members can view the documents prior to the meeting, one-by-one.
If councilors were to discuss the documents amongst one another, or meet to view them, the meeting would be considered a “serial meeting,” and would be subject to Oregon Public Meeting Laws, according to Jake Boone, assistant to the city manager.
Because there would be no “quorum,” or majority of council members, the media cannot attend these one-by-one viewings.
Solesbee asked that the executive session be scheduled during the May council meeting, but the city has yet to confirm the date.