Adam Nilsson should step down as a Baker City Council member.
We don’t question Nilsson’s sincere commitment to serve as an active and dedicated councilor.
Indeed, he has done so since Aug. 1, when he was cited for trespassing and criminal mischief at the abandoned lime plant near Huntington.
We wrote in this space on Sept. 1 that we believed Nilsson should resign if he was convicted on either charge. In November he pleaded guilty to criminal mischief. The trespassing charge was dropped.
The situation has changed substantially since then. Earlier this month Nilsson gave written notice that he intends to file civil lawsuits against the Baker City Police Department, as well as against Baker County and Sheriff’s Office deputy Gabe Maldonado and Lt. Jef Van Arsdall. Nilsson contends both city and county police officers violated his Fourth Amendment protection against illegal searches and seizures in connection with the Aug. 1 incident.
We’re concerned that Nilsson, no matter how well-intentioned he is, will not be able to effectively represent residents while he is pursuing a legal case against the city police department.
There are too many potential conflicts, both inside and outside City Hall.
We wonder, for instance, whether Nilsson can be completely objective when the Council decides on the budget for the police department.
And it’s hardly farfetched to imagine that his dual position, as both a councilor and a plaintiff, could sow discord among his fellow councilors and the city staff.
Moreover there is the question of how citizens perceive Nilsson’s ability to do his job. We’ve received comments from several residents who believe Nilsson should resign before his term concludes at the end of 2018. Considering Nilsson was appointed to his position in February 2017, rather than elected, it’s difficult to conceive that he would be elected if he chose to run this November. He told the Herald last week that he intends to seek election.
Baker City had a superficially similar situation in 2015 when Mayor Richard Langrell demanded the city repay him for utility bills from his motel.
We didn’t call for Langrell to resign (although we urged him to relinquish his mainly ceremonial title as mayor) largely because his claim was relatively straightforward. The city had failed to properly document its agreement with Langrell for utility charges, and he was entitled to the reimbursement.
Nilsson’s complaint is both more complicated and more serious — he’s alleging the city police department violated one of his constitutional rights.
He is of course entitled to pursue that accusation.
But although seeking legal redress is a right afforded citizens, serving as a city councilor is a privilege.
We think Nilsson would better serve his constituents — and perhaps himself as well — by focusing on his legal case rather than, in effect, trying to serve two masters.
From the Baker City Herald editorial board. The board consists of editor Jayson Jacoby and reporter Chris Collins.