TALENT — The City Council approved the filing of a complaint last week with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission over alleged conduct by former City Manager Tom Corrigan.
Corrigan was fired Jan. 30 by the council.
“We are public officials. We do have an obligation to follow up on an ethics issue that came up as a result of the investigation,” said Councilor Stephanie Dolan, who made a motion that directs City Attorney Christy Monson to file a complaint based on findings in an investigation.
Corrigan was terminated for cause after the investigative report alleged he made illegal recordings and benefited from purchases he made for the city through a rewards program. The report also cited an unprofessional management style and poor work ethic.
Dolan and councilors Daria Land and Ryan Pedersen voted for the motion. Councilor Ken Baker voted in opposition. There was no discussion of the motion, which was not on the meeting agenda and was considered in the “other business” period at the end of the Feb. 7 council session. Councilors John Harrison and Emily Berlant were not at the meeting.
Baker declined to comment on his reasons for the no vote.
“I think if there is an ethics violation, that is a violation against the people of Talent,” said Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood. “I think it's incumbent on the council to call for an investigation.”
The Talent Police Department is not investigating the alleged illegal recordings, said Ayers-Flood. That work is being done by another agency, but the mayor said she wasn’t certain which one.
The council also directed Monson Jan. 30 to enter into negotiations with Corrigan to seek a waiver that would prevent potential legal claims against the city.
“They’re ongoing,” was the only comment Corrigan’s lawyer, Ryan Vanderhoof, would make about negotiations between his client and the city over a waiver.
Interim City Manager Ryan Martin said as of Monday a complaint had not been filed with the Ethics Commission. Martin also said he could not comment on the status of negotiations with Corrigan.
More investigation into the level of potentially inappropriate or corrupt conduct by Corrigan should be performed by the council, said Derek Volkart, a Talent resident who attends council session and tracks the group’s actions.
“While an ethics complaint is probably appropriate, the Oregon Government Ethics Commission is not going to do the council’s job for them,” said Volkart. “Rather than negotiating with the former manager to avoid his legal maneuvering, the council should be shining a spotlight on the full extent of Corrigan’s impropriety to help the city of Talent avoid this situation in the future.”
— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.