An Open Letter to the Council: Censure Jensen and Graham

Madam Mayor and Esteemed Councilors:

The Council has a serious problem.  Here is the solution that you must take to resolve this problem, and prevent it from reoccurring.

The problem:  Two members of the Council have clearly violated the recently adopted Code of Conduct and the AMC, one of them repeatedly.

The solution:  Those members must be censured.

The Code of Conduct:

“The mayor and city councilors will follow these rules of conduct:

RESPECT

·Respect the role of the Mayor as presiding officer.
·Practice respect, professionalism, and decorum during discussion and debate. Assume good intentions and refrain from impugning motives or professional competency of any meeting participant, including City staff, presenters, and the public.
·Avoid negative personal comments and casting of aspersion either directly or indirectly. One may speak in opposition but do so without personal rancor. Refrain from derogatory or misleading statements about each other, City staff, contractors, and other stakeholders in all public venues.”

“VIOLATIONS OF CODE OF CONDUCT

Because of the importance of maintaining a healthy working relationship within the Council, it is essential that potential breaches of this Code be addressed in a public and timely fashion at the next Council meeting.”

The Ashland Municipal Code:

From AMC 2.04.080 D.
“The Mayor and Council members should strive not to criticize any person in a public meeting or in public electronic mail messages.”

The Violations:  

1- In an article in the 6/16/21 Ashland Tidings, Stephen Jensen was quoted:
“This resignation can be laid squarely at the feet of our mayor and two councilors, who have demonstrated a stunning level of dishonesty, personal attacks and inability to come close to anything resembling responsible municipal governance,” said Councilor Stephen Jensen. “Having the city attorney resign because of this kind of behavior was tragic in itself — to have both the city attorney and a very able city manager resign is beyond understanding.”

2- Stephen Jensen commented for publication as reported in the 6/19/21 Ashland Tidings:
“Councilor Stephen Jensen claimed Mayor Julie Akins and two city councilors are at fault for critical staff members jumping ship, which all three refuted in a joint statement.  Jensen said dishonesty, aspersion toward staff members and irresponsible municipal governance put Hanks’ resignation “squarely” at their feet.”

3- Tonya Graham was quoted in the 6/19/21 Ashland Tidings:
“City government in Ashland is in crisis due to the behavior of our mayor and two councilors, who have together created a toxic working environment for our staff,” Graham said.

The Mandated Response: 

AMC Section 2.04.115 Representations
 “A Council member is free to express personal views on any issue in any forum as long as any statements he or she makes about the positions of the full City Council and the positions of other individual Council members are accurate and objective. Upon two-thirds vote of the entire Council, a Council member may be censured for noncompliance with this requirement.”

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Less than a month after the Code of Conduct was unanimously approved by Council, these two Councilors have directly violated the code that they helped formulate.  And not just a little, but in full force.  They must be held accountable.

Please do not attempt to portray the statements made by Councilors Graham and Jensen as “accurate and objective”.  They clearly are not.  They are personal attacks which have no basis in fact.  They are pure political theater. They are explicit, direct violations of the Code of Conduct, and must be addressed as specified in the AMC.

The Council adopted the Code of Conduct in a Special Meeting on 5/13/21 expressly in order to put a halt to this kind of discourse and behavior.  To ignore these clear violations of the intent and letter of the Code of Conduct and the AMC will be a clear failure to abide by the rules established by Council, and the AMC.  To ignore these violations  and not uphold the AMC would be a direct violation of your oath of office.  You are legally obligated to censure these two Councilors for their violations of the Code of Conduct and the AMC.

A final quote from the Code of Conduct: “Failure to abide by this code could place the city of Ashland at legal and financial risk, jeopardize the productivity and efficiency of the Council, and harm the working environment of staff who are tasked with ensuring the effective and safe operation of the city.”  The violations noted above are having that effect.  They must end.

Please do your duty.  Don’t make the Code of Conduct a meaningless, hypocritical, political exercise.  Stop these attacks by sanctioning these violators who are crippling the work of the Council.  Get back to doing the work you were elected to do for the good of the City and all of its residents. You have an awesome responsibility, and no time to lose.

Thank you for your service, and your consideration.

Dean Silver
Ashland

//inserted by Sharon