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City gets it right
Baker City Manager Steve Brocato had been at work barely a month when, in March of this year, he had a tough choice to make.
He made the right one.
Chris Ruddell, then the city's building inspector, told Brocato in March he'd heard that a former inspector, Larry Rockenbrant, and two other building department employees, Vicky Foland and Debbie DeShaw, had received cash for some of their work related to electrical inspections.
The payments, according to District Attorney Mark Shirtcliff, were made between November 1998 and June 2002.
Brocato called Shirtcliff and Oregon State Police to report the allegations.
Brocato's aggressive action was not only justified, it was starkly different from the approach of his predecessor, Jerry Gillham. Gillham, who resigned as city manager Sept. 1, 2006, told an OSP detective in August 2007 that Ruddell had mentioned the alleged cash payments during the spring of 2006. Ruddell had no details, though, and Gillham told the detective he didn't take any action.
Gillham and Brocato were in essentially the same situation: neither was city manager when the alleged payments were made, and neither manager ever supervised Rockenbrant, who retired more than a year before Gillham was hired in October 2003. To put it another way, if anything improper happened, neither Brocato nor Gillham was in charge at the time.
Yet the allegations Ruddell related to Gillham and Brocato are serious enough to warrant an investigation.
Brocato, to his credit, recognized this.
The statute of limitations has expired on any potential charges against Rockenbrant. A Baker County grand jury concluded neither Foland nor DeShaw had criminal intent.
But those are matters outside Brocato's purview. His job is to ensure the city handles the public's money properly.
He's striving to do so. Besides reporting the allegations, Brocato has assigned Jeanie Dexter, the city's finance director, to audit the building department's books. That, too, is a wise decision.