Public testimony sides with Herrera

Members of the Keizer City Council were taken to task during public testimony for calling to investigate Councilor Roland Herrera for potential violations of public records law and council rules and policy.

The push to reprimand Herrera comes more than a month after the former city manager fired a gun in his city hall office.

Despite efforts by Councilor Ross Day to head off critique, few residents held back in commenting on the situation. (The allegations and council action in response are in related story Council pursuing on page A14)

Resident Cyndi Swaney took issue with members of the council targeting the council’s first and only Hispanic member in the history of the city.

“I’ve heard members of this council told, in regard to an inclusivity resolution, that words were only words without action. Unfortunately, since passing a statement of values, the only action I’ve seen is keeping Roland in his place,” Swaney said.

Swaney added that pursuing corrective action or admonishment was “a misdirection of resources when the city manager fired a gun in his office.”

Gwen Carr, a new arrival to the city, said, “I’m upset about city officials taking an issue with an email more seriously than a gun being discharged in city hall.”

Michele Roland-Schwartz questioned whether there were no other means by which Eppley’s incident report, published in this paper on March 18, could have made its way into the light. Someone might have printed the email or copied and pasted it into a Google document, she said.

Roland-Schwartz asked why the city leadership had not provided accommodations to help Herrera overcome physical limitations. Herrera said eyesight difficulties led him to begin forwarding emails to a personal account so that he could view them on a larger screen.

Roland-Schwartz said seeking to reprimand only Herrera smacked of “bullying and a possible violation of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).”

Regarding the use of social media by council members, the council’s policies state that councilors shall only use their public accounts when acting as representatives of the council.

She cited two examples of other councilors, Mayor Cathy Clark and Councilor Dan Kohler, using private social media accounts as representatives of the city since the council agenda was released.

“I do not suggest the council censure or write up a statement of concern regarding social media practices. That is overly punitive … and not the kind of community I want to live in,” Roland-Schwartz said.

Councilor Ross Day took offense to the suggestion that he was personally bullying Herrera as a result of disability. One of Day’s children is disabled and requires a wheelchair. Roland-Schwartz clarified that the council as a governing body was using its heft to bully Herrera, but not before Day’s interruption caused an outburst among those in attendance that Roland-Schwartz be allowed to finish her statement.

Nearly all letters submitted to the council as part of public testimony offered support for Herrera and called for dismissal of investigation into his actions.

“Bringing up issues about alleged minor infractions at this point in time seems [to] smell of payback and backroom deals from a departing city manager and his supporters,” wrote Sean Nikas. “Please don’t drag all of Keizer through the mud with this investigation.”

Carrie Brown wrote that the marginalization of Herrera appeared to begin well before the incident with Eppley and the ensuing fallout. In January, the council voted in Councilor Elizabeth Smith as council president, a position that has traditionally gone to the councilor with the longest continuing service, which would have been Herrera.

“From the outside looking in, it sure seems like there is a divide in the council and Councilor Herrera is being singled out and treated with bias. This is how it appears whether intentional or not,” Brown wrote.

Only one letter supported the council’s press to reprimand Herrera.

“I, along with most of us, would be very upset if details from my personnel file ended up in the newspaper. I hope your investigation finds out how the information was leaked so we can all make sure it doesn’t happen again,” wrote Jonathan Thompson.