Charter Review Committee: How much council crime is too much?

The city’s Charter Review Committee spent part of its meeting January 7 determining an acceptable level of crime for Keizer’s elected officials. 

The section of the charter that prompted the discussion involves the creation of mayoral and city councilor vacancies. The language in the existing charter states that a vacancy is created upon an elected official’s “conviction of a felony, other offense pertaining to his or her office; or unlawful destruction of public records.” Language suggested by the League of Oregon Cities, which is being used as a guide, simply states a mayor or councilor’s seat is vacated upon “conviction of a misdemeanor or felony crime.”

Committee Member Broderick Pack suggested removing the misdemeanor portion and limiting it to felonies. 

“I would like to remove the misdemeanor because there are too many minor infractions,” Pack said. Charges included among misdemeanors in Oregon are fourth-degree assault, driving under the influence of intoxicants and contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor. 

Zaira Flores-Marin, another member of the committee, balked at the change. “People are going to want an explanation if something comes to light,” she said. 

In a situation where a more severe misdemeanor or multiple misdemeanors were committed, council policy allows other councilors to censure the offender or issue a memorandum of concern, said City Attorney Shannon Johnson. Censures and memorandums of concern immediately become part of the public record and invite others into the conversation. 

In the end, the committee settled on a combination of the two versions: vacancies are created upon conviction of a felony or other offenses pertaining to the office. 

The committee also briefly broached the topic of adding an anti-discrimination or inclusivity statement to the charter document. Johnson offered a view from a legal standpoint, “The anti-discrimination language, regardless of how general it is, becomes target for a lawsuit.”

Johnson said the question at hand is if including such language is “meant to add additional protections over state or federal law. If not, it would add another avenue to be sued by.”

Committee Member Pat Fisher suggested that a recommendation to the city council to pass an inclusivity or anti-discrimination resolution might be a better solution. The city council has declined to pass such an ordinance in the past and, when the council reviewed its goals at a work session Jan. 13, it re-affirmed that stance. 

Other changes proposed during the meeting included relaxing residency requirements and deadlines for replacing city managers.

The committee expects to finish its initial review of the charter at its February 3 meeting, which will include discussion of Section 44, the anti-LGBTQ+ section of the charter approved by voters in the 1990s. 

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