The proposed resolution has stirred up a good deal of controversy. It was the first time that any city in the nation had confronted the setup of its task force and demanded more accountability. Federal agents had reacted to Potter's resolution by digging in their heels and saying they would not relinquish security clearances. (Although widely--and incorrectly--reported by the Willamette Week and the Oregonian, the resolution did not call for the city withdrawing from the task force. It simply asked that the mayor, police chief, and city attorney be given the same security clearances as the officers involved with the task force.) Until the actual vote last Wednesday, this new blueprint for structuring the task force seemed destined to pass--it was co-introduced by Council Member Randy Leonard and supported by Council Member Sam Adams, giving it support from an apparent majority of council.
But late on Wednesday evening, joined by Council Members Dan Saltzman and Erik Sten, the mayor caved in to pressure from federal agents and shelved the resolution. The overwhelming majority of comments during Wednesday's three hours of public testimony favored the resolution and more oversight, but during the previous days, FBI agents and US Attorney Karin Immergut had lobbied vigorously against it--holding backroom pow-wows with Council Member Saltzman and Mayor Potter.
The vast majority of people testifying at City Council Chambers on Wednesday were also opposed to delaying the vote. But even so, Mayor Potter, who campaigned on the promise of listening to the people, asked for a delay--a decision that was met with hisses from the crowd. Not only did the mayor's decision postpone a vote that has been pending for several months, but it also potentially weakens the city's future bargaining power with federal agents over the task force.
The resolution is now rescheduled for Wednesday, April 20. Over the next few weeks, federal agents will negotiate with the mayor over the setup of the task force--and how, or whether, the city will participate. One idea floated by federal authorities is having the security clearances of participating police officers be downgraded from "top secret" to "secret" clearance--a difference that would keep officers from having full access to federal files. Since the mayor and council members only want the same clearance levels as the police officers, this compromise may ease concerns from FBI agents who believe that elected officials only need limited access to information.
Another sticking point in the negotiations has been Mayor Potter's request to be part of the task force's governing executive board. So far, FBI Special Agent Robert Jordan has rejected that idea, saying the board only consists of "full-time law enforcement executives"--an objection that seems silly in the face of Potter's background as police chief and law enforcement advisor.
Commissioner Leonard, who co-sponsored the original resolution and who pushed on Wednesday to not delay the vote, is confident the resolution will emerge intact. He opposed delaying last week's vote, pointing out that the resolution already represents months of compromise meant to facilitate dialogue with federal agents. But, in an interview with the Mercury, he also expressed his "full faith" that Mayor Potter will not budge from demanding oversight of the participating officers.