Loran Joseph received five of the seven votes, not four votes as City Recorder Julie Smith announced, when the Baker City Council chose a mayor from among its ranks Tuesday night.
The City Council violated Oregon’s Public Meetings Law because Smith did not announce how each individual councilor had voted.
Councilors filled out paper ballots — which state law allows — but after Smith collected the ballots she announced only how many votes the two candidates, Joseph and Mike Downing, had received.
The Public Meetings Law requires that each councilor’s vote be announced.
Smith told the Herald Thursday afternoon that five councilors voted for Joseph — Doni Bruland, Lynette Perry, Randy Schiewe, Arvid Andersen and Joseph himself.
Two councilors voted for Downing — Ken Gross, and Downing himself.
Downing had served the past two years as mayor, having been elected in January 2017.
Smith said the failure to announce how each councilor had voted was inadvertent. She said she was trying to move the meeting along.
The city’s attorney recommends that the city read the results aloud at the next meeting for the sake of transparency. Smith said minutes for Tuesday’s meeting will also include each councilor’s vote.
In January 2007 the City Council also used secret ballots to elect Jeff Petry as mayor.
The interim city manager at that time, David Fine, later admitted he had misread the Public Meetings Law.
Because Fine had torn up the paper ballots on which councilors voted, there was no official record of the mayoral election.
The Council voted again at its next meeting, and again elected Petry.
As for the discrepancy in the vote totals, Smith said she initially tallied the wrong ballot from Andersen.
Each councilor was given two ballots. One had both the mayor and acting mayor positions, and the other ballot had only the acting mayor.
Andersen inadvertently handed Smith both of his ballots, though councilors were only voting for mayor. She misread the ballot that included only acting mayor and mistakenly counted Andersen’s mayoral vote for Downing. On the other ballot Andersen had voted for Joseph for mayor.
The Council didn’t use ballots to choose acting mayor because Downing was the only candidate.
Councilors raised their hands to indicate their unanimous selection of Downing as acting mayor.