By JAYSON JACOBY
Of the Baker City Herald
By a margin of more than 2 to 1, Baker City voters have recalled Gary Dielman from the City Council.
Apparently he is the first Baker City councilor ever recalled, according to City Manager Gordon Zimmerman.
According to unofficial results from County Clerk Tami Green, 2,296 people 70.5 percent of the total votes cast voted to recall Dielman.
A total of 925 people 28.4 percent voted against the recall.
Voter turnout in the mail-in election was almost 57 percent 3,255 of the 5,711 ballots sent were returned, Green said.
The remaining six councilors will appoint a successor to Dielman, who was elected to a four-year term in November 1998.
Dielman, who received the most votes in that election, released a written statement this morning.
The voters have spoken emphatically. They no longer want me as city councilor, Dielman wrote.
Its less clear what other message the voters meant to send, since my opponents muddied the waters with libelous attacks on my patriotism rather than basing their campaign on prayer at city council.
What is crystal clear to me and my supporters is the fact that city councils prayer policy is divisive and illegal. The U.S. and Oregon constitutions reserve the making of religious decisions to the individual not to government. No majority, no matter how large, may take that right away.
John DeShiro, who filed the recall petition and is treasurer of Citizens for Responsible Government, the political committee supporting the recall effort, said this morning he was stunned by the margin by which the recall passed.
I thought it would be a pretty close call, DeShiro said.
DeShiro said he filed the recall petition because he believed Dielman was wasting the councils time by protesting the councils practice of starting its meetings with a Christian invocation.
DeShiro said he hopes voters who supported the recall did so not because they disagreed with Dielmans stance on the invocation, but with his performance as a councilor.
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The thing we tried to get across was it didnt really matter to us whether the council starts its meetings with prayer or it doesnt, DeShiro said. Our issue was just Gary Dielmans conduct as a result of how (the council) voted on the prayer issue.
Since Dielman first brought up the subject in January 1999, a majority of the council has twice voted to continue the invocations.
Mayor Nancy Shark said she intends to fill the vacancy created by Dielmans recall the same way the council replaced Lance Daniels, who resigned early this year after accepting a job in McCall, Idaho.
Then, the council advertised the opening and accepted applications from people interested in replacing Daniels.
Eight people applied, and the council, after interviewing applicants in April, appointed former councilor Peter Ellingson to serve the remainder of Daniels term.
I would like to get the vacancy filled and move on with business as soon as possible, Shark said this morning.
The councils next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 8.
Shark said she was surprised at the large margin by which voters approved the recall.
I couldnt tell which way it was going to go, Shark said. I expected it to be much closer.
Shark said that wide margin wont, however, change her intention to discuss during a future meeting the councils practice of starting its meetings with prayer.
She said last month that regardless of how the recall turned out, she would add the prayer issue to the agenda for a future meeting.
Based on Tuesdays election results, Shark said it appears a majority of city residents approve of the councils policy on prayer.
I dont think people want it to change, but I dont know that for sure because it was a recall on performance and not on prayer, she said.
Shark said that although she doesnt expect the controversy will end soon, she hopes the negative things will cease.
I just hope that now that (the recall) is over, the negative tones in the community will end and we can mend the bridges and move forward, she said. And I hope the entire community helps in that effort.
Dielman first questioned the citys inclusion of religious references in its official activities when he was sworn in as a councilor.
When he recited the oath of office, Dielman did not include the words so help me God.
The Oregon Constitution allows more than one version of the oath of office for a city councilor.
About the same time Dielman sent a memorandum to city councilors suggesting the council no longer start its meetings with the invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance.
I realize that dropping either or both of these practices may be strenuously opposed by some people, Dielman wrote in the Feb. 2, 1999 memo. But its my opinion that believers do not have a right to insist on prayer at government meetings.
Since then Dielman has remained seated during the invocation, or he has stayed outside council chambers
He has never made a motion to stop saying the Pledge of Allegiance, and has always stood and recited the Pledge, which follows the invocation.
The tallying of votes Tuesday concludes a campaign that has cost more than $27,000.
As of Dec. 13 Citizens for Responsible Government had spent $18,461 and received another $4,020 in the form of an in-kind contribution.
Dielman, who formed his own committee, had spent $3,980 and received a $471 in-kind contribution.
Richard Harris, who formed the Defeat the Conservation Christian Takeover Committee to oppose the recall, spent about $900 of his own money for newspaper advertisements.