The 911 Board's Weaselly Maneuver | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

The 911 Board's Weaselly Maneuver

For a six-year period in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Oregon's state slogan was "Things Look Different Here." Although that was replaced in 2003 with "We Love Dreamers," many things still are different here - including the way public officials are able to hide things that are the public's business from the public.

The Deschutes County 911 Service District has been having some real problems lately. In early December the district's board of directors put its executive director, Becky McDonald, on paid leave and launched a personnel investigation. The board hasn't offered any explanation of why the director was sidelined or what's being investigated.

It came to light a few days ago that the district risks losing a $900,000 federal grant for failing to complete an environmental and historical review before breaking ground last summer on the new $8.5 million 911 dispatch center. Whether that had anything to do with McDonald's ouster is an unanswered question.

And it might remain unanswered forever if the 911 board keeps behaving like it did last Tuesday.

The board went into a closed-door executive session to discuss a personnel matter, as the state's open meetings law allows it to do. Then the board came out of executive session and voted unanimously to take action.

But they didn't say what action they were taking. Instead they voted to "direct legal counsel to proceed as directed in executive session."

Strangely, the open meetings law says reporters can sit in on executive sessions - and at least one was present during this one - but they can't report what happens. So unless the reporter is willing to break the law, there's no way for the public to know what the board decided.

Oregon law requires public governing bodies to make decisions in public. The 911 board's legalistic dodge - "We're publicly voting to do the thing we secretly decided to do, whatever that is" - makes a mockery of that requirement and gives the finger to the district's voters and taxpayers. Therefore, we are very openly and publicly applying THE BOOT.

We saved a little space at the end of this week's BOOT to give special recognition to that hard-working public servant, state Sen. Chris Telfer.

With the state mired in recession, unemployment rampaging, foreclosures rising and revenues sinking, Telfer found time to rally her colleagues around a bill to allow Drew Bledsoe's private club, "The Loft," to serve booze. The bill, which passed 90-0, relieves The Loft of the hardship of having to deal with the restaurant downstairs to obtain alcoholic beverages.

It's easy to see that the new bartending jobs created by Telfer's legislation could number in the double digits statewide. And it will boost the Bend economy by encouraging people to become members of The Loft (initiation fee $2,000, membership fee $200 per month, motto "Above It All") and let their wealth trickle down upon the rest of us.

So here's the GLASS SLIPPER to Telfer. May she drink many a delicious glass of champagne out of it at The Loft.

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