Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Friday, Nov. 17, 2023 @ 3:01 p.m. / Elections, Oregon
Brookings Recall Organizer Reaches Out to Oregon Governor, Questions Legality of Council's Actions on Monday
One of the organizers of the Brookings recall has reached out to Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek after the City Council took action Monday that he says is a “complete assault on democracy at the local level.”
Dennis Triglia, who led the successful effort to oust Ron Hedenskog as mayor, questions the legality of the City Council appointing Kristi Fulton to one of the now-vacant seats. Triglia said he wrote to Kotek because he wants clarity in the process and is wondering if he should file an ethics complaint.
Triglia also sent the same letter to Oregon Congresswoman Valerie Hoyle and U.S. senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden.
“The city is currently giving residents 2 weeks to fill out an application for consideration to be appointed at the December 11th Council meeting,” Triglia wrote. “They will then pretend to read them and select two more pre-determined cronies to fill the seats. This is a complete assault on democracy at the local level. We demand a special election and invalidation of the shenanigans they pulled at the November 13th City Council meeting.”
Hedenskog and Michelle Morosky resigned from the Brookings City Council nearly a week after unofficial election results showed that the recall effort against them and their colleague, Ed Schreiber, would be successful.
Out of the two remaining City Councilors, only Andy Martin was elected to his seat, Triglia told the Outpost.
On Monday, though he presided over the meeting as council president, Schreiber abstained from appointing Fulton to the seat Morosky vacated. Schreiber noted that he was a “lame duck,” and said that because the City Council still had a quorum, the assenting votes from Martin and his colleague, Isaac Hodges, constituted a majority.
Once Fulton took her seat, the City Council decided to leave the mayor position and second Council seat vacant and to start an application process to seek replacements. People can submit applications through 4:30 p.m. Nov. 28.
Hedenskog and Morosky’s resignations and the appointment of Fulton to the Council were added to Monday’s agenda the day before. One member of the public, Jennifer White, criticized the item’s vague wording, pointing out that “the consideration of potential elected official vacancies” did not state what its purpose was.
In his letter to Kotek, Triglia states that the “lame duck mayor and two councilors and the two remaining naive councilors” set aside Oregon’s open meeting law and the Brookings City Charter. Triglia cites a provision in the Charter stating that a special election will be held when the number of vacancies on the Council exceeds the number of members holding office.
“[That] meant to the voters of Brookings that within 60 days if all 3 recalls were successful (and they were!), it would result in a lack of quorum and the charter mandates that a special election be held,” Triglia wrote.
In an email to the Outpost on Friday, Schreiber said that under Oregon law, in the event of a recall, elected officials remain in office until the election is certified. The Curry County Elections Division had until Dec. 4 to certify the Brookings recall.
Schreiber also cited the Brookings Municipal Code, stating that if a vacancy was due to a resignation not a recall, the remaining Councilors can appoint a replacement to fill the vacancy.
“In this case, the vacancy (Council position 4) was due to a resignation, not a recall,” Schreiber said, referring to Morosky’s seat and adding that there were still three sitting City Councilors out of five. “If none of the Councilors had resigned and three seats were vacated by the recall, an election would have been required per the BMC since the majority of seats would have been vacant.”
Triglia pointed out that Brookings residents voted “by a 70-30 margin” to recall Schreiber, Hedenskog and Morosky, and were told that if all three were ousted, there would have to be a special election for their replacements. Now, he said, he wants as many people as possible to submit applications for the two vacant Council positions.
“Even if you know they’re not going to pick you, just apply,” Triglia said.
In response to a Nov. 1 question from the Outpost about what happens if all three officials were recalled, City Manager Janell Howard said the Brookings City Charter requires a special election.
Hedenskog, Morosky and Schreiber were recalled based on their votes earlier this year to re-enstate Howard as city manager after she pleaded no contest to a theft violation following a 2022 shoplifting incident from the Brookings Fred Meyer store.
On Monday, Hodges and Martin told the public that they had been discussing the issue with community members since the Nov. 7 recall deadline. They also reached out to City Attorney Lori Cooper to discuss the timeline for filling the City Council vacancies.
Martin pointed out that Hedenskog, Morosky and Schreiber would have kept their seats until the Curry County Elections Division certified the results. He said he wanted to maintain a quorum by filling one of the vacant seats and then moving forward on the remaining two.
“My biggest concern right now is leaving the city without a functioning government for our public safety agencies, for our public works department and all the city departments,” he said.