Recent terminations in Oakridge have some wondering if it’s even legal

Oakridge embroiled in controversy started the first city council meeting for Oakridge in January of 2019, with Mayor Kathy Holston speaking of holding no grudges, and letting the past stay in the past, evidently that is not to be the case.

I spoke with a few of the recently let go Oakridge Fire Department Volunteers who said they were let go for inadequately attending training. Each person I spoke with said the same thing, they felt that they were let go because they do not agree with the Contractor for Oakridge Fire Department Michael Hansen, some even citing that it was political revenge for them being friends with Councilor Chrissy Hollett.

With letters going out to at least five Oakridge Reserve Fire Personnel, Hansen LLC signed letters as Interim Fire Chief, even though he is not, raising even more legal questions. The Oakridge City Charter also does not allow the contractor to terminate employment of volunteers. This comes just one day after Interim City Administrator Messina goes on vacation, the timing looks suspicious. In looking at the contract of Michael V. Hansen LLC and the City of Oakridge, it allows for the consultant to recommend termination of employees to the City Administrator, unknown if this could legally be done by guidance from an Interim.

There is still argument from many in Oakridge that Michael V. Hansen LLC was illegally hired by then City Administrator Louis Gomez, some citing that Gomez not only did not have the authority to hire the contract without the city council, but that he did not have authority to renew the contract under that same authority. Gomez cited that he had received clearance from the Oakridge City Attorney to go ahead with the contract.

The City of Oakridge is seeking a new city attorney, at least one current councilor citing this as a reason for needing a new attorney. Gomez, whose contract with the city was terminated as of 01/01/2019, is under DOJ ethics investigations for receiving money from Michael V. Hansen through his own LLC, and then subsequently renewing the Michael V. Hansen LLC contract after receiving the money. 

Photo curtesy of Oakridge Fire and EMS Facebook page.

Written by Stephan B

City of Oakridge gets interim City Administrator

On December 14th, 2018 I met with Phillip Messina at Oakridge City Hall, the Interim Oakridge City Administrator has been on the job two weeks, I asked him how it was going so far. Messina indicated the outgoing City Administrator, Louis Gomez had been helpful during the transition, and that it was moving forward. I asked Messina if he had met with all of the members of the incoming council, he indicated he had met with all but one of them, and that he was looking forward to working with them.Among the topics we discussed; was the cities complaint process, Messina said he had plans on reviewing a process with the Mayor, the Council, a the city attorney. I asked him if he had met with any bias since he had been here, he said he had not and that the people of Oakridge he had met seemed interested in “moving ahead.” Also among his list of priorities was the hiring of a city administrator. Messina indicated that he would work with council and the Mayor, perhaps putting together a hiring committee. To get quality applicants, “advertising is important” using the International City Managers Association, The League of Oregon Cities, and a couple private recruiters are some of the ideas he discussed as ways to lure in talent. Getting ready for the budget was another area Messina indicated was upcoming. As far as his background goes, Messina spent time with Central Point, Colfax, and Carnation. Messina said he was a “generalist” as far as city administrators goes, and that while specializing in no particular area, he has 30 years of experience, and is familiar with all areas of city management.

submitted by Stephan Ball