Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Wednesday, July 12 @ 3:17 p.m.
Recalls Filed Against Brookings Mayor, Councilors Schreiber and Morosky In Connection With Janell Howard's Continued Employment
Three Brookings residents are trying to recall Mayor Ron Hedenskog and councilors Ed Schreiber and Michelle Morosky who, they say, continue to “kowtow” to City Manager Janell Howard.
The recall petitions come about seven months after the City Council reinstated Howard’s employment despite her plea of no contest to theft charges in connection with a July 4, 2022 shoplifting incident at the Brookings Fred Meyer store.
Hedenskog, Schreiber and Morosky continue to block efforts to terminate Howard’s employment with the city. As a result, a Brookings Police officer and several other city staff members have left their jobs, according to former city councilor Dennis Triglia, who filed the recall petition against the mayor on Monday.
“So many people spoke in opposition from the first time they considered hiring her back,” Triglia told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Tuesday. “The meeting halls were packed, and as a result of that, several people said, ‘We’re going to file a recall.’ We’re hoping we get support throughout the city.”
In his petition, Triglia, who was Hedenskog’s colleague until his term ended in January 2019, says the mayor has had a long-standing relationship with Howard. Triglia and another Brookings resident, Debra Worth, whose recall petition targets Morosky, say money has been spent to keep Howard in her position, though there’s been no transparency.
A third resident, Henry Cunningham, filed a recall petition against Schreiber, citing two occasions where the councilor voted to allow Howard to keep her job.
“The mayor and City Councilors are the sole appointing authority of this ‘at will’ position,” Cunningham writes in his petition. “Howard’s arrest has caused extreme division within Brookings. Police officers have resigned and public confidence has suffered. Schreiber persuaded other Councilors to vote for permanent reinstatement of Howard, (which was) approved by a narrow 3-2 majority.”
On Tuesday, Howard, who is the also the city recorder, acknowledged receipt of the recall petitions against Schreiber and Hedenskog. In emails to Triglia and Cunningham, Howard states that the next step in the recall effort is to establish a petition committee with the Oregon Secretary of State’s office.
The Brookings City Council voted 4-1 on Jan. 30 to reinstate Howard as city manager about a month after she pleaded no contest to a violation of theft in the third degree for shoplifting from Fred Meyer.
Howard had been charged with a Class C misdemeanor, Curry County District Attorney Josh Spansail told the Outpost on Dec. 30. Spansail cited Howard’s lack of previous criminal convictions as the reason he agreed to the reduced charge to a Class A violation, which is one step below a Class C misdemeanor. Howard was fined $500 and ordered to pay $15.98 in restitution to Fred Meyer.
In a Jan. 31 news release, councilors stated their 4-1 vote to bring Howard back was in Brookings’ best interest. Under her new contract, Howard’s annual salary is $151,320 as of Feb. 1, 2023. She also gets a monthly $350 automobile stipend.
In March, Howard offered a soft-spoken apology to the public singling out the officer who responded to the shoplifting call, though she didn’t name him.
On May 8, Councilor Andy Martin called for Howard’s termination effective immediately. When Hedenskog, Shreiber and Morosky voted his motion down, Martin asked the city attorney to draft a separation agreement between the city and Howard to take effect June 16.
On Wednesday, Martin told the Outpost that his plan was to vote to fire Howard or give her the option to resign. Howard chose not to accept the separation agreement, Martin said, and his motion to fire her failed.
Martin said he made a motion to fire Howard four times and each time it failed. He said he’s not going to keep making the same motion at future meetings only for it to continue to fail.
“It’s hard enough to try to get anything done, and I don’t want to make that worse if a vote is not going to pass,” Martin said, adding that the controversy over Howard’s employment continues to be a distraction. “It’s obvious to me that those two council members and the mayor aren’t going to change their minds so I didn’t bring it up at the last meeting.”
According to Triglia, who has lived in Brookings for about 10 years, this is the first time that he can think of that anyone has filed a recall petition with the city. Triglia said he, Cunningham and Worth have about 90 days to collect the required number of signatures, which is 15 percent of the number of Brookings residents who voted in the November 2022 election.
“We’re not looking for hostility,” Triglia said. “I’m just doing this by the book. I don’t want to be accused of doing it inappropriately.”
Trigilia, Worth and Cunningham were initially scheduled to meet with Howard to submit their petitions, but Worth said since the city manager sent an email there was no need.
Worth said she doesn’t know Morosky personally, but she feels that Morosky isn’t up for the City Council job. When Triglia asked if people would be interested in working with him on a recall effort, Worth said yes.
“We are working together so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel three times,” she said. “It just seems like Brookings has become infamous not famous. I think a lot of people are very upset with what’s been happening with the city.”