The Roseburg City Council selected Paul Eckert as the final candidate for the city manager position at its regular meeting Monday.
The decision authorizes the city to complete a reference and background investigation of Eckert prior to giving him the final offer.
The background investigation may provide city councilors with insight into a retaliation lawsuit filed in 2013 against Eckert and the City of Sioux City, where Eckert was formerly city manager, before the city makes a final offer.
Eckert has been city administrator in Gridley, California, a city with a population of about 6,600, since 2016. Between 2013 and 2016, he was city manager of Mount Shasta, California. Before that, he was city manager of Sioux City, Iowa, a city with a population of about 82,500, where he worked in city administration for 16 years.
The city held a reception for the final two candidates Thursday. Immediately before the public meeting Monday, the City Council met in executive session to discuss the city manager hiring process.
The City Council chose Eckert instead of Brian Latta, who has been the city administrator of Harrisburg, Oregon, since 2013.
At its regular meeting, the City Council voted 6-1 to select Eckert, as City Councilor Ashley Hicks voted no. City Councilor Bob Cotterell was absent from the meeting for health reasons.
Mayor Larry Rich asked if Hicks would like to explain her vote, adding that she isn't required to.
"I'm just not excited about where we're at with this," Hicks said.
According to reports from the Sioux City Journal, Brittany Scott, a former Sioux City employee, filed a lawsuit against the city and Eckert, alleging she faced retaliation for her previous complaints that Eckert sexually harassed her years earlier.
The city settled the lawsuit in 2015 for $300,000. The newspaper reported the city’s legal fees for the lawsuit cost taxpayers more than $1 million.
Scott, an administrative assistant in the Sioux City public works department at the time, alleged Eckert created a sexually hostile work environment in the early 2000s by making unwanted sexual advances toward her, touching and rubbing her shoulders and sending emails with sexual innuendos, according to The Journal.
Scott said the harassment stopped in 2004 after city councilors in Sioux City inquired about sexual harassment complaints made against Eckert by another female city employee.
In the 2013 lawsuit, Scott claimed the city failed to follow its policies regarding her complaints. She alleged Eckert retaliated against her for the complaints by demoting her from her full-time position to a part-time position in a different city department.
A U.S. District Court judge in Sioux City dismissed some of Scott’s claims, stating they fell outside the statute of limitations. Eckert vehemently denied the allegations in 2013, according to the Journal.