The Goldendale City Council held a special meeting Monday, Feb. 8. Media outlets were notified in advance the previous Friday, but the meeting did not appear on the city’s website. Had any member of the public sought to attend, they would have found an extremely short open session before the council adjourned to an executive session to consult on union negotiations with the city public works employees.

During the five minutes of open session, the council did vote on terminating the contract with Justin Leigh as city planner, a contract approved at the first meeting in January. Councilor Shannon Middleton was a lone no vote against termination. The contract had been a bone of contention for Councilors Loren Meagher and Kevin Fieock, who in previous meetings questioned paying Leigh, who is a lawyer, at a $50 per hour rate in the contract, rather than putting the contract out for bid. Other councilors expressed doubts that any practicing lawyer or planning director could be found who would work at that low a rate.

The dispute flared up at the previous week’s meeting, where Leigh began protesting that he had been harassed by Meagher, before he was cut off by the mayor.

Asked what the city’s next move would be, Mayor Canon responded, “The Council accepted the proposal to cancel the professional service contract with Justin. Council realizes it may have to pay more than the original contract. There are several colleges in the northwest that offer Land Planner courses. We are hoping to find a recent graduate interested in our city. A planner is seriously needed for Goldendale. This is a period where there are so many never experienced concerns regarding longer range unknowns like never before. One thought is to find an assistant city manager to support Larry [Bellamy]. Future planning discussions are definitely planned for council. The uncertainty of the fiscal situation for Goldendale is still unknown and worrisome. 

“All in all, the plan is to find a trained Land Planner quickly and possibly begin searching for an assistant City Administrator. While the future is unclear as concerns economic recovery, the Council is forward looking to better days in future.”