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Creswell council to consider issuing reprimand.

Byline: Winston Ross The Register-Guard

CRESWELL - The Creswell City Council will hold a special meeting on Tuesday with only one purpose: to consider disciplinary action against one of its members, A.J. O'Connell, for comments he made on his Facebook page and website.

This would not be O'Connell's first reprimand. In August, the council sanctioned him for violating three council rules that deal with inappropriately contacting the city staff, which is banned to avoid any misunderstanding about whether city councilors have authority over city employees.

The comments for which he's now facing sanction stem from O'Connell's proposal at last Monday night's meeting to require all city staff and employees, including members of the City Council, to be "mandatory reporters" of abuse against children, adults who have mental illnesses or developmental disabilities, the elderly and "individuals in nursing facilities."

O'Connell's proposal was inspired by the Oregon Legislature's recent expansion of the state's mandatory reporting law, which added more officials who are legally required to report abuse but didn't include local elected officials and municipal employees.

The idea was shot down by a 5-2 vote. O'Connell was not happy with that result, and he said so on his Facebook page and later on his website, at one point quoting councilor Jeanne McKittrick as allegedly saying she had voted no because: "We don't want beaten and battered children coming into City Hall."

Except, that's not exactly what McKittrick said, City Administrator Mark Shrives told O'Connell in a follow- up e-mail. Shrives demanded that he retract the statement and offer a public apology. O'Connell agreed to review the meeting's transcripts and make changes if necessary, but not to apologize.

The Register-Guard has not reviewed the transcripts because City Hall was closed by the time Tuesday's meeting was announced. O'Connell alleges that what McKittrick actually said was that she didn't think it appropriate for councilors to report someone who comes into City Hall with a beaten and battered child.

"If anything, I'm guilty of paraphrasing what she said," he said, and refused to remove the quote.

On his website, O'Connell admonished the council for rejecting his proposal. Councilor Jack Gradle accused O'Connell of only putting forth the idea so he could use it as a "feather in the cap," which led O'Connell to write that Gradle "obviously has put the Cabal's re-election strategy above protecting the children in the community."

McKittrick, O'Connell added, "showed that she is in denial of the growing and, depressingly, common acts of abuse in our society."

Mayor Bob Hooker simply refuses "to mediate on several levels," O'Connell said, which is in part a reference to the council's decision not to mediate differences with Eugene Skydivers over use of the Creswell Airport.

Now, O'Connell faces sanction. Neither Hooker nor Shrives could be reached for comment Friday, but the meeting's only item - besides the Pledge of Allegiance - is "to consider complaint and debate discipline against a public official, City Councilor O'Connell, for egregiously and knowingly publishing lies about a fellow councilor in violation of Council Rules and in contravention of good ethical conduct."

Informed of the meeting by a reporter, O'Connell laughed.

"I'm upset that city staff is so preoccupied with my Facebook page and my website that they're losing sight of what the real issues in Creswell are."

McKittrick declined to comment.

"I'm not going to answer any questions," she said. "I'll let the lawyer do that."
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Title Annotation:Local News
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 18, 2012
Words:566
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