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Councilors back recall effort
Councilor Milo Pope also files a complaint with state Ethics Commission against recall target Bev Calder
City Councilor Milo Pope has filed a complaint against fellow Councilor Beverly Calder with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission.
In addition, Pope, along with Councilors Andrew Bryan and Sam Bass — the trio who voted against the motion to fire City Manager Steve Brocato on June 9 — have volunteered to gather signatures for petitions in the campaign to recall Calder and Mayor Dennis Dorrah.Calder and Dorrah both voted for the motion to fire Brocato, which passed by a 4-3 vote.
That decision prompted a local group to file the recall petitions. The group has until mid-September to gather at least 603 signatures from residents registered to vote in city elections, the minimum required to force a recall election this fall.
The two other councilors who voted to fire Brocato — Aletha Bonebrake and Clair Button — are newly elected councilors who were exempt from recall when the petitions were filed against Dorrah and Calder in late June.
Pope said this morning that he is concerned his participation in the recall effort could sour relationships among councilors.
However, Pope said he also believes that those relationships are already strained, in part because of the 4-3 vote to fire Brocato, and that so far he hasn’t seen any evidence that his involvement in the recall has had an effect.
Bryan said he attended the most recent meeting of a pro-recall group, and spent Wednesday evening going door-to-door seeking signatures.
“That’s been the extent of my involvement,” Bryan said.
He said he decided to assist the recall campaign because he, like Pope, believes Calder and Dorrah, along with Bonebrake and Button, acted too hastily in firing Brocato.
Bryan contends the four councilors should have scheduled an executive session meeting, which is closed to the public, to outline their complaints about Brocato, allow the three other councilors to express their opinions, then give Brocato three to six months to try to address the councilors’ concerns.
“I think that full process would have been the more appropriate approach,” Bryan said.
“They didn’t think it out,” he said of Dorrah, Calder, Bonebrake and Button. “They didn’t seem to want us in the mix of things, and I just really think they should go.”
Bass said he would support a recall of Bonebrake and Button if petitions are filed against them.
Dorrah said this morning that although he’s disappointed that fellow councilors are helping the campaign to recall him, he doesn’t think their involvement will affect the council’s business.
“I think that regardless of our personal feelings for each other, all of the councilors are mature enough to make decisions that are best for the city in the things the come before us,” Dorrah said.
Calder said she was saddened to learn that Pope had collected signatures for the recall petition.
“He is a colleague who I’ve considered a friend for many years,” Calder said. “I think it has affected our working relationship.
“We have work to do, and it makes it difficult when we divert attention from what’s supposed to be our focus.”
Pope alleges Calder has a conflict of interest regarding the city’s proposed new property maintenance ordinance because she owns a building which he contends would be in violation of that ordinance.
“She is the only councilor that would have to make serious reparations to a derelict building in order to meet requirements of the new code,” Pope wrote in the complaint, filed on July 17. “All the other councilors have very minor or no potential issues. I believe that Councilor Calder should recuse herself from all discussion and voting on the ordinance, whether in a public meeting or otherwise.”
The Council passed the first two readings of that ordinance during its July 28 meeting; Calder voted yes on both readings.
The third and final required reading, after which the ordinance would take effect, is scheduled for the Council’s meeting Tuesday night.
Calder disagrees with Pope’s contention that her building, a former church which is on Valley Avenue just east of the Powder River, is “derelict” and that it would be in violation of the new ordinance.
But even if Pope’s claim was true, Calder said, the only way she could use her position to benefit herself — which is illegal in Oregon — would be to try to defeat the new ordinance so that she wouldn’t have to comply with it.
Yet, Calder pointed out, she voted for the ordinance twice on July 28.
“That shows I’m not trying to kill it,” Calder said.
Pope contends that Calder advocated for making changes to the original version of the ordinance that the city staff presented to the Council this spring, changes he believes made it easier for Calder’s building to comply with the rules.
Calder said she did oppose parts of that original version — in particular the words “untidy” and “unkempt,” which Calder thinks are appropriate for privately enforced covenants but not for public ordinances administered by the city.
Calder said she believes the deletion of those words, along with other changes the City Council made to the proposed ordinance during a pair of work sessions, greatly improved the ordinance, which is why she voted for it on July 28.
In his complaint Pope acknowledged that he, too, would potentially be in violation of the ordinance.
“My offense is/will be a stack of firewood in the alley,” he wrote. “I intend to remove it.”
The Ethics Commission’s executive director, Ronald Bersin, wrote Calder a letter, dated Aug. 3, notifying her that Pope had filed the complaint.
“The information provided in the complaint is insufficient for the Commission to take action at this time,” Bersin wrote. “Additional information has been requested from the complainant to enable Commission staff to determine if official action can be taken.”
Pope said the Commission asked for more details about Calder’s votes on the ordinance.
He said he has not decided whether to pursue the complaint further by giving those details to the Commission.
The Ethics Commission enforces state laws that prohibit elected officials such as city councilors from using their office for personal gain.