Using taxpayer funds to make sidewalk repairs for private businesses also violates city ordinances
Coquille Mayor Kathy Simonetti acknowledges downtown business owners failed to meet their fiscal responsibility to fix sidewalks that caused multiple serious falls.
In a letter to the editor of a local newspaper meant to disparage City Councilor Matt Rowe, Mayor Kathi Simonetti admits that Coquille City funds Urban Renewal funds were misdirected toward sidewalk repairs for private business owners on 1st Street. Simonetti’s letter admits the city could have “…forced these businesses make the repairs, with an abatement letter and enforcement…” This would have been the lawful response to the sidewalk problem. But then she asks, “…how hard do we push?”
Rather than push or for that matter even ask these businesses to repair their sidewalks Simonetti lobbied the council to appropriate urban renewal funds and city funds, adding up to $8,000, to make these repairs on their behalf. She shames Rowe, in her letter, for voting NO.
According to Coquille City ordinance “12.12.020 – Duty to repair and clear sidewalks,” it is the responsibility of the building “owner or occupant” to maintain the sidewalks. Simonetti argued in her letter she didn’t own the building where she maintained a business, Kathi’s Unique Gifts, and wrongly claimed therefore she wasn’t responsible for sidewalk maintenance.
“It is the duty of an owner or occupant of land adjoining a street to maintain in good repair, and remove obstructions from, the adjacent sidewalk.”
Further, city ordinances also require the building owner to bear all liability.
“The owner of real property responsible for maintaining the adjacent sidewalk shall be primarily liable to any person injured because of any negligence of such owner in failing to maintain the sidewalk in good condition.”
Not only does it appear that the use of both city and URA funds to improve the sidewalks of businesses belonging to city council members violated city ordinances it also appears to have violated Oregon ethics laws.
[ORS 244.040(1)] Oregon’s ethics laws prohibit each public official from gaining a financial benefit or avoiding a financial cost as a result of his or her position.
Clearly, business owners and city councilors Julie Nighswonger, owner of Denny’s Pizza, and Ann Parker, owner of River Cities Realty, along with Mayor Simonetti benefitted from their vote to have the city cover costs of sidewalk maintenance by “avoiding a financial cost” as per Oregon statute.
Parker and Simonetti are both actively trying to have Rowe recalled and they along with their fellow recall committee member, Jean Ivey Gurney all had businesses that benefited from their vote to misuse city funds for sidewalk repairs.