Bend political activist drops Mirror Pond lawsuit

Aug 30, 2018

Bend Bulletin

Bend political activist drops Mirror Pond lawsuit A Bend political activist abandoned his lawsuit asking the Deschutes County Circuit Court to force the city of Bend and the Bend Park & Recreation District to hold open meetings about Mirror Pond — after their closed-door meetings were done.

Foster Fell sued several city councilors and park board members late last month over a decision to hold private committee meetings to research methods of paying to dredge Mirror Pond, but he never had any of the defendants served. Fell said Thursday that he decided not to pursue the case to avoid hurting Mayor ­Casey Roats, who’s named as the lead defendant but isn’t on the committee.

Roats announced Aug. 15 that he would not run for re-election because of unspecified health issues. Fell said he had planned to have a process server serve Roats at a council meeting that night, but decided against it because of Roats’ health.

“Rather than risk hurting the mayor in any way in his hour of vulnerability, I immediately called off the process server and, subsequently, dropped the lawsuit,” he said in an email.

Mayor Pro Tem Sally Russell, City Councilors Bruce ­Abernethy and Justin Livingston and park board members Ted Schoenborn and Brady Fuller, along with City Manager Eric King and Bend Park & Recreation District Executive Director Don Horton, participated in two meetings in July and August with representatives of the private group that wants to dredge Mirror Pond. Neither meeting was open to the public or the press.

Unlike other city committees, the Mirror Pond group didn’t make decisions or recommendations to the City Council. Because the committee didn’t make decisions and didn’t contain a quorum of either the City Council or the park board, city legal staff said it wasn’t subject to state public meetings laws that require governing bodies to make decisions in open meetings that the public knows about in advance.

During a council meeting on Aug. 15, King shared a four-page memo recapping the history of discussions about dredging Mirror Pond and the current state of funding for dredging, replacing old city stormwater outfalls that empty into the pond, connecting sections of the Deschutes River Trail near the pond and restoring riverbanks.

King also gave councilors a paper listing 15 options, including a bond measure, stormwater fee increases and grants, that the working group talked about to pay for projects in Mirror Pond. The City Council didn’t discuss those options in August, but they’re expected to talk about them during a pre-meeting work session on Sept. 19.

The park board will discuss Mirror Pond funding at its Oct. 2 meeting.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160; jshumway@bendbulletin.com

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