First, an apology. This blog is something that I should have written earlier. Years earlier. No excuses. I should have done it sooner.
What I want to talk about is ex parte contact. Do you know what it is? No? Well, I really don’t either.
Here is some context. When attending land-use hearings, either at the Planning Commission level or a City Council review, there is a segment of the scripted (by state law) proceedings that covers conflicts of interest, ex parte contacts and site visits.
Well, two of the three seem easy enough to decipher.
I believe ex parte contact means that a commissioner or councilor should disclose any information that he or she received that other members have not been privy to — such as a conversation with a neighbor or a call from a constituent.
I checked an online dictionary and wound up with the following as the definition for ex parte: with respect to or in the interests of one side only or of an interested outside party. The term is Latin, but it is my understanding that Latin has never been the official — or diplomatic — language for land use.
If you google ex parte contact you get definitions that refer to criminal cases in which the problem is that the judge makes a decision without one party (we’ll call it the ex parte) being present.
So I did what any enterprising city reporter would do. I called the city and asked Jason Yaich, the planning division manager, who is the city staffer who always is present at Planning Commission meetings.
Yaich, as I am sure you will recall, was one of the city staffers immortalized in my 2012 blog in which I referred to Yaich and a handful of other Community Development Department staffers as the “Jedi masters” of the land development code, which is about 6 inches thick and contained at that time, or so I thought, 610 pages. It always seemed as if Yaich — or one of his pals — could find ANYTHING in the LDC in seconds.
Not so this time. Here is my response from Yaich:
Sorry about the delay. There is no definition to provide for ex parte contact. You are probably going to have better luck consulting a law dictionary.
That thudding sound you are hearing about now is me bouncing my cranium off of my desk and gnashing my teeth in frustration.
This is monstrous. I flashed back to Bennett Hall’s Saturday story on murals. It noted that the LDC has 22 pages of code on rules and regulations governing signs. Which doesn’t count the three pages devoted to sign-related definitions.
This just in to my blog research team: I just googled the Corvallis LDC. The PDF is now 1,016 pages. Have they added more than 400 pages since I have been writing about this stuff? Probably a topic for another day.
Anyway, I am not going to take this lying down. I advised Yaich that he should IMMEDIATELY begin developing plans for a land development code text amendment on ex parte contact. How many more pages would that take? Would the binder sit any higher on Yaich’s desk?
“You’re a funny man Jim,” said Yaich.
Funny ha-ha or funny peculiar?
Can’t tell you — that would be ex parte contact.