OAKRIDGE, Ore. — The Oakridge city manager narrowly escaped losing his job Thursday night.
The city council voted 4-3 not to terminate Gordon Zimmerman.
While that would seem to be a relief to Zimmerman, he actually told the council if they didn’t terminate him, he would eventually resign.
The main issue is the $420,000 shortfall in the city budget. Zimmerman has said he can’t explain where the money is.
He’s held firmly to his words that no embezzlement or fraud has taken place; rather, he says it likely has to do with poor auditing.
The budget problem has forced officials to cut eight of the city’s 28 employees. The issue has outraged city councilors and residents.
Thursday night, it was a close call, but the motion to terminate Zimmerman with cause failed.
Some of those who voted to keep him say they don’t want to let him off the hook.
“I think he also needs to take responsibility for fixing the mess, and I think it would be very inappropriate to bring someone else in that has no clue as to what’s gone on,” says Rayetta Clark, Oakridge City Councilor.
“And now we have a councilor who’s advocating firing him and costing us at least another $100,000. And we’re going to have people out here still demanding instant answers regarding ‘where are we, where are we, where are we,” said Glenn Fortune, council member.
But another councilor countered their argument. Dan Barclay brought the motion forward to recall Zimmerman.
“We have at this point not gotten any substational [sic] answers as to what got us into this mess, so how would I expect that somebody who doesn’t know how we got here, is going to know how to fix it,” said Barclay.
Councilors Ernie Baszler and Jerry Shorey voted with Barclay.
Zimmerman promised to resign after the finances got sorted out because he says he wouldn’t want the city to go through the lengthy and expensive process of replacing him during this crisis.
He asked the council to allow him to wait until at least December to resign to give the city time to work out the financial issues.
The vote ended a dramatic night. Beforehand, the council accepted a tax-anticipation loan from Siuslaw Bank to help the city cover the hole in its budget until taxes come in.
Now Lane County Commissioners must decide if they want to help out.
Last week, Zimmerman said that Siuslaw Bank agreed to give Oakridge a $500,000 property tax anticipation loan.
The loan will solve the city’s current cash flow crisis and allow them to pay back the loan after they receive most of their annual property tax revenue, which is November 15th.
Now the next step is up to Lane County. Commissioners must decide if they want to become the “paying agent” of the loan. The county wouldn’t be responsible if Oakridge couldn’t pay, so the Suislaw Bank wants word that once property taxes are collected, the bank will get its loan back.
Also Thursday night, residents still adamant about recalling officials turned in their petitions. They’re asking that three councilors and the mayor be recalled.
Those councilors include Amy Kordosky, Glenn Fortune, and Rayetta Clark. The petition to recall Gerald Shorey was not turned in.
The council also decided to have an external agency do an internal review, but not a full audit.