Brookings voters had anticipated there would be a special election to fill the vacated seats after the triple recall.
In the Nov. 7 special election, Brookings City Councilors Ed Schreiber and Michelle Morosky, along with Mayor Ron Hedenskog, were overwhelmingly recalled, with about 70% of residents voting in favor of recalling each official.
The coastal city’s charter says if the number of vacancies on the council exceeds the number of members, those vacancies shall be filled by a special election. With three of the council’s five members recalled, Brookings voters had expected there would be a special election to fill the vacated seats, and they would get to choose the council’s new members.
However, city councilors found an alternative.
In mid-November, before the election results were certified, Morosky and Hedenskog resigned.
With three members remaining, that allowed the council to appoint a new member, Kristi Fulton, last week. As “a lame duck”, Schreiber abstained from the vote appointing Fulton.
Once the election results are certified, which must occur no later than 27 days after the election, Schreiber will leave, and the council says they will then appoint councilors to the remaining two seats.
Dennis Triglia, one of the chief petitioners from the recall campaigns, wrote in an email that the councilors “subverted the will of the people by not allowing us to vote for their replacements.”
“This enraged the voters since they expected that a special election would be held according to the Brookings City Charter due to a lack of quorum,” Triglia wrote in the email, which he sent to Governor Tina Kotek, State Representative Val Hoyle and U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden. “This is a complete assault on the democracy at the local level. We demand a special election and invalidation of the shenanigans they pulled at the November 13th City Council meeting.”
All of the recalled members as well as the following people did not respond to a request for comment: Deputy City Recorder Brooklyn Osterhage, City Councilor Isaac Hodges, Fulton and chief recall petitioners Hank Cunningham and Debra Worth. City attorney Lori Cooper also declined to comment.
“The number of vacancies [on the council] would NOT exceed the number of members holding office,” City Manager Janell Howard wrote in an email, defending the city’s decision to appoint new councilors. She did not respond to a request for an interview.
City councilors argue the seats had to be filled this way so a quorum could be maintained and city business could continue as usual.
In a statement, city councilor Andy Martin said, “The decision last night [on Nov. 13] to appoint a council member to preserve a quorum and ability for the city to continue to conduct business and function was absolutely necessary.”
If a special election were held, there would have been a period of time in which some city functions could not have occurred.
“Without a quorum (less than three council members) the council ceases to function until a new quorum is appointed or elected. However, during that time, the city staff works without oversight of a council (less than three council members cannot direct city staff),” Martin’s statement continues. “No major purchases can be approved. No contracts, grants, agreements, policy can be approved. No union negotiations. A basic liquor license cannot be approved. The lack of a quorum has major impacts on public safety (police and fire), public works, and planning and development departments at the city.”
The recall effort was inspired by Howard’s reinstatement in January 2023. She had been caught shoplifting from a Fred Meyer last year and was placed on paid administrative leave.
The city is now soliciting applications from citizens to fill the remaining two seats on the city council. Applications are available at city hall and on the city website. The three-member council will review those applications in a public council meeting and appoint replacements. Applications must be given to the deputy city recorder at City Hall by Nov. 28.
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