Controversy being pulled out of a hat

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(KEIZERTIMES/File photo)

(KEIZERTIMES/File photo)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Going over the items on the agenda didn’t take too long at Monday’s Keizer City Council meeting.

The public comment portion at the start, however, was a different story.

Six citizens spoke about the process of a Volunteer Coordinating Committee (VCC) meeting from Dec. 13, with most questioning how the meeting was handled.

The exchange led to curt replies from both Mayor Lore Christopher and Marlene Quinn, the incoming councilor who chairs the VCC.

Of particular interest was VCC members recommending Evan Christopher – the mayor’s son – and soon-to-be former councilor Brandon Smith be put onto the Parks Advisory Board, instead of Rick Hammerquist and Jacob Martin. After a couple of tied votes, names were drawn out of a hat.

Rhonda Rich supported Hammerquist, former president of the Keizer Tennis Association.

“A number of people showed support for him and Jacob Martin, who applied by the Nov. 15 deadline,” Rich said.

Carol Doerfler also supported Hammerquist.

“I ask you to reconsider,” Doerfler said. “I was somewhat taken back by the procedure when there was a tie in balloting. Somehow that seems flawed to me. It takes out the consideration of qualifications. It’s a flaw that has to be looked at.”

David Zerbe attended the meeting with wife Debra and their 11-year-old son to support Martin, a local volunteer baseball and football coach.

“We thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to support a coach and volunteer, while also exposing our son to a taste of city government,” David Zerbe said. “It was a strange voting pattern. It doesn’t seem to be above board.”

He added his son observed the mayor show up, asking why 50 people were present and leaving.

Mayor Christopher responded she arrived at 7 p.m., 30 minutes after the meeting started.

“My son is 24,” she said. “He’s an independent adult who does what he wants. He was involved with the Keizer parks this summer. He was approached by two on the parks board – not from me – to be on the board. I didn’t want anyone feeling intimidated by my presence.

“I said I would not be part of the Parks Board vote but would be there for the rest of the meeting. When I got there, I knew I had an appointment at 8 and I knew it would go way past that.”

That explanation did little to calm Debra Zerbe.

“I’m here to tell you I’m livid,” she said. “I brought my son with me. I was proud of his demeanor. But I’m no longer as proud of my city government. I’m livid at the lesson he was taught, mainly from the mayor herself.”

There was some confusion about whether some steps in the voting procedure were missed or not.

“There were some inconsistencies and missteps,” incoming councilor Ken LeDuc said. “I would say take a mulligan. Just sit back, look it over and let’s get everybody on board. Let’s look at it in January.”

Quinn was upset about having to defend herself.

“When I walked into the room, 54 people were there,” Quinn said. “It was great the nominees have support. But we all felt intimidated. We were accused of rigging the vote, accused of numerous things. I should not have to defend myself or the committee. It’s really sad one of our committee members had to quit and will not continue based on what happened last Thursday.”

Mayor Christopher had a brief dialogue with Richard Walsh, chair of the Keizer Parks Board.

“Tell how my son applied,” the mayor said.

“I asked him to,” Walsh responded. “At the time there were three spots open and one applicant.”

“Also, clarify my role in him applying,” the mayor said.

“Your role was zero,” Walsh said.

No confirmations were made at Monday’s meeting, meaning the issue will be brought up in January.

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