Editorial: Too much secrecy in Sisters’ manager’s departure

Published Apr 3, 2013 at 05:00AM

Sisters City Manager Eileen Stein weathered an attempt to fire her just over a year ago, but she was less lucky this spring, when three city councilors essentially forced her resignation.

There are enough questions surrounding the efforts of Mayor Brad Boyd and Councilors McKibbon Womack and Wendy Holzman to fill a small book. Among them are charges by the two councilors who supported Stein that they were left out of early discussions regarding her employment.

One might also question the decision by councilors David Asson and Catherine Childress not to go public about the majority’s effort once they were told of it a month ago. We understand the impulse that says staying quiet will save the city money — Stein has agreed not to sue — and the unwanted community dissension. In reality, however, their actions simply cut Sisters residents out of a process they had every right to be told of long ago.

Then there’s this: Oregon’s public meetings and public records laws are clear about notifying the public and press of meetings whenever a quorum of council members meet — three, in this case. Though serial meetings of two members, then another two and so on, are technically legal, they surely violate the spirit of laws whose sole aim is to keep the public informed about what its elected officials are doing.

Now, however, the council and the citizens of Sisters must look to the future. It won’t be easy, we suspect. The wrangling of the last 12-plus months has left hard feelings all around, and coming together to work for the good of the city will require setting those feelings aside.

An interim city manager must be found. So, too, must a permanent replacement for Stein, if any qualified candidates are willing to take a job from which they can be dismissed in such a cavalier fashion.

Having pushed Stein out in secrecy, the council cannot hire replacements in the same way. Sisters residents have a right to expect much more from their elected officials, most particularly a willingness to abide by the spirit of laws designed to keep them informed about what is, after all, their business.

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