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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Roger Coles might have to give up City Council seat

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Roger Coles might have to give up City Council seat


By TERRI HARBER

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Baker City Council member Roger Coles would have to resign the council position, which he's had for slightly more than a year, if he's elected this year as Justice of the Peace for the Baker Justice Court.

Coles is the latest candidate to seek the Justice of the Peace post. He filed his papers on Thursday.

The other candidates are Damien Yervasi, Mike Downing, Steve Bogart, Gail Duman and Robert Whitnah.

The deadline to file is March 6.

City voters elected Coles to the Council in November 2010. He took office in January 2011.

Oregon's Constitution — specifically, Article II, Section 10 — doesn't allow a person to hold more than one "lucrative office" at the same time.

The positions of city councilor and justice of peace both are considered lucrative offices.

The councilor job isn't especially lucrative, though — the Baker City charter limits councilors' pay to $150 per year.

Candidates are allowed to hold one lucrative office while running for another, so Coles wouldn't have resign as a councilor unless he's elected as Justice of the Peace.

The primary election is set for May 15.

If one candidate earns 50 percent plus at least one vote, that person will be elected.

If no candidate meets that threshold in the May primary, then the top two vote-getters will advance to the general election Nov. 6.

Coles said several local residents urged him to seek the Justice of the Peace position.

He'd like to see the job done from a different perspective than how it's done now because the Justice of the Peace has not been someone from the legal profession historically.

Along with the training one receives to carry out the justice of the peace duties — a law degree isn't required — his approach would be to "just use common sense."

Coles also highlighted such personal attributes as behaving ethically, working hard, taking responsibilities seriously and treating everyone with respect as important qualities for someone wanting to serve as a justice of the peace. 

"I also feel at 57 that I have a lot of experience behind me," Coles said.

The Haines native has worked mostly as a funeral director — a business with a large amount of government rules and regulations that professionals must learn. His post-high school education is in mortuary science. 

Coles believes the time he spends with grieving people in need of service and support has helped him learn to provide proper counsel and support — even in difficult situations. This also should provide some knowledge that would be applicable to the duties of the justice of the peace, Coles said. 

When the justice of the peace has a question about the law, they can seek an answer from the Circuit Court judge or the District Attorney, he said. 

Coles said he has enjoyed serving as a city councilor and will continue to do so if he isn't elected as justice of the peace.

Before election to the council, Coles was a member of the city's Budget Advisory Board.

The incumbent is Lise Yervasi. Her 6-year term ends Dec. 31.

Constraints on the Justice Court budget caused Baker County Commissioners to decide last week to substantially reduce the court's hours and case load. The Commissioners also reduced the number of hours — and compensation — by half that the new justice of the peace would receive.

The Justice Court handles a variety of matters — traffic, boating, wildlife, misdemeanors as well as small claims and civil cases where damages won't exceed $7,500. Misdemeanors cases soon are going to be decided in the Circuit Court because of the reduced Justice Court hours.

Were Coles to resign as a councilor, the remaining six councilors would have to appoint someone to complete his term, which ends Dec. 31, 2014.

The terms of four councilors — Aletha Bonebrake, Beverly Calder, Milo Pope and Sam Bass — expire Dec. 31, 2012.

Candidates for any of those openings can file starting May 30.

The Council election will take place Nov. 6. 

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