A recent North Bend council meeting was not without drama after counselors voted to reimburse North Bend City Administrator David Milliron for $12,000 in legal fees. Mr. Milliron was subject to an internal investigation by the city, which was the result of a grievance filed by a city employee. The North Bend counsel has been, apparently, ordered to remain hush-hush about the incident, though there appears to be no findings of wrong-doing on Mr. Milliron’s part.
During the investigation, Mr. Milliron obtained legal counsel. During a work session, the topic was discussed as to whether or not the City of North Bend would reimburse Mr. Milliron for the legal expenses he incurred. The consensus was that there was support among the counselors to reimburse Mr. Milliron using city funds.
During the public comment portion of the agenda, two residents spoke out against the idea of using city funds to reimburse Mr. Million’s legal fees. In addition, two more comments were read into the record, both of them expressing disdain for the payment of city funds without more disclosure as to the nature of the investigation.
A motion was made to bring to issue up a later date. That motion failed 3:3 (rules state that “ties” are consider failures). A second motion to reimburse Mr. Milliron’s fees was entertained. That measure passed 4:2, with Counselors Noordhoff and Goll casting the only opposing votes. What’s more, during councilor comments on the motion, Counselor Noordhoff expressed her concerns that the motion is indicative of cronyism, a lack of ethics, and that it possibly corrupt.
“…it’s pretty clear where the allegiance of the city council lies. Without getting into any details, I think it’s unethical, I think it is cronyism, and possibly venturing over into corruption. I don’t like to say that, I don’t say that easily, but this is not good, and I think if council votes in favor of this, they have crossed a pretty big line…”Counselor Noordhoff
So, what’s the big deal?
Well, for one, $12,000 is nothing to sneeze at. It’s not a huge sum of money, as a portion of the city’s overall budget, but certainly citizens are within their right to wish that money was allocated elsewhere. Also, the choice to enlist the services of legal counsel was just that, a choice. It’s perfectly understandable that Mr. Milliron would wish to seek legal help during an investigation, but it’s certainly a valid stance to take that taxpayer funds shouldn’t go directly into the pocket of a city employee to offset costs that he chose to incur. And then, there’s also the fact that the investigation is shrouded in secrecy. Even taxpayers that feel that the reimbursement would be an earnest and appropriate measure are likely to feel some apprehension without knowing the details of the investigation, itself.
It would certainly seem that this particular saga is over, given that the council did eventually vote to reimburse Mr. Milliron, however there will almost certainly be political implications for the mayor and members of the council.