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Newest Council Member Chastised

POSTED December 22, 2010 7:34 a.m.
In a meeting where transferring Bridle Ridge funds and the health of the city budget were discussed, newly-elected Oakdale City Council member Jason Howard was chastised and reprimanded by fellow council members for his taking of confidential documents from city hall.
Councilman Tom Dunlop called Howard’s actions “not acceptable” and “very troubling.” Dunlop added that there was the potential to believe items may have been added or removed from the confidential reports by Howard’s taking of the papers from city hall.
Councilman Michael Brennan told Howard he should show respect to the office he was elected to and that he had defied the city attorney’s instruction not to remove the items when Howard had previously asked.
“Think about the respect of the seat and what you’re supposed to do,” said Brennan.
“It looks really bad,” added councilwoman Katherine Morgan.
Though Howard had presented the council an item of the creation of a policy for council members to remove confidential items to take off-premises to study, Howard said he removed the reports after his swearing in because he didn’t want the documents laying out in the room they were in when others had left.
The other members did not buy that reasoning, pointing out that City Manager Steve Hallam was in his office, phone calls to other staff members could have been made, and that city attorney Tom Hallinan told him the items could not be removed.
Dunlop stated he could not trust Howard by his actions and called for discipline.
“I feel like I got spanked,” said Howard.
“You should have been slapped,” quipped Brennan.
Morgan advised Howard of the potential civil liability he created to himself and the rest of the council.
Howard had earlier proposed an ad-hoc open government committee for the purpose of a “transparent government.”
“I thought that’s what we were,” responded Dunlop when Howard asked for input.
Howard said he did not think enough was being done to communicate issues and without the transparency, some issues could fester or “blow up.”
Dunlop cited other commissions already in existence and said opportunities were built in for concerned citizens to get information.
“I don’t know why adding another layer of bureaucracy, in my mind, will improve things,” said Dunlop.
Brennan and Morgan said they did not oppose the idea but asked what the goals and key issues of the committee would be. Morgan added that she agreed with Dunlop that a forum was already in place.
Dunlop advised Howard that the committee needs to be more than an idea and wanted to know how it would work, saying he did not want to make the current process worse.
Howard agreed to look into the matter and return with more defined goals for the proposed committee.
Earlier in the meeting, new Mayor Pat Paul appointed Dunlop the city’s Mayor Pro Tem, citing his highly regarded status in the Oakdale business community and noting that it would send a strong message.
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