City Administrator’s Past Performance Questioned

OAKRIDGE, Ore. — Reports of $420,000 somehow going missing from the city of Oakridge bank account made residents furious last week.

“It just don’t make sense,” said one resident.

“We just think we’ve misallocated it. It’s in someone’s accounting record somewhere,” said Gordon Zimmerman, Oakridge City Administrator.

But for Zimmerman, this scenario has an all-too-familiar ring.

There were financial mistakes at his former job in Baker City as well.

In 2003 he told the council there that the city didn’t have enough money to run efficiently.

City employees feared they would lose their jobs.

But after weeks of investigating, former Baker City councilor Jeff Petry said, “We find out, ‘Oops, there’s an extra half-million.’ That didn’t sit well with the council.”

Petry sat on the city council then, and along with other members, put Zimmerman on probation for his mistake.

“Just incompetence,” Petry said.

But other concerns arose, and after three months the Baker City Council asked him to resign.

“He had low scores on his evaluations. We don’t just, one thing you’re fired.  We lost confidence in him,” Petry said.

But not according to Zimmerman.

“In Baker City when we had a change in elected officials, they came to me and said it’s time for a change,” Zimmerman said.

“I’m like a baseball manager. You’re hired to be fired,” Zimmerman said.

But Zimmerman didn’t seem to have any problems as city manager in two other cities.

He started off in Nyssa in 1993 where the current City Manager Roberta Donvan says there were no issues with him.

She says he left on his own terms.

Then Zimmerman made his way to Vernonia before heading to Baker City.

Former Oakridge mayor Larry Pearson says he did extensive research on Zimmerman before they hired him from Vernonia and says no red flags came up.

But Petry disputes Pearson’s account, saying red flags were raised when Oakridge councilors asked about Zimmerman and yet Oakridge ended up hiring him anyway.

“I really didn’t believe in my heart he should be running a city,” Petry said.

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