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Tripped up in the Rivergrove election

Colleen Nyberg, wife of former Rivergrove Councilor Arne Nyberg, cries foul over election

RIVERGROVE - Even towns of less than 400 people take elections seriously.

Case in point - things got a little shaken up around election time in Rivergrove, the small incorporated city between Lake Oswego and Tualatin.

The short story is that six-year City Councilor Arne Nyberg - well known in the area for his pioneering family's name and input into the growth of nearby Tualatin - won't be a Rivergrove city councilor next year.

The long story includes a tale of an election petition, duplicate signatures and a tombstone erected in the Nyberg's front yard as an 'I know what you did' message.

But in true small-town fashion, everyone clammed up when the media got involved.

Colleen Nyberg, Arne's wife, wrote a letter to the Lake Oswego Review, which was published nine days after the election (titled, 'Halloween tombstone marks loss').

In the letter she wrote, 'Whether it's cleaning up garbage (remember the couch) or creating a vision and gathering the forces to make it happen, Arne has provided the city a better place to live. Why then was it necessary for a small group of citizens to deliberately trick him and see his name was not on the ballot?'

Asked for comment about the letter, Colleen declined to talk on the record, but suggested City Recorder Sherri Richards might be able to explain.

Rivergrove's council election started like most other elections. Council candidates got their packets and then started knocking on neighbors' doors to get the 20 signatures they needed in order to make the ballot.

The problem came on deadline day. According to Richards, a petition requirement was 'recently' brought to the city's attention.

'At the last minute we realized that Arne had signatures that were on another petition,' said Richards who added that by the time the violation was caught, 'there was no time to get more signatures.'

Richards declined to say who brought the petition signature violation to her attention.

'I'd rather not name names,' she said.

And Colleen Nyberg has refused to name names as well, though in her letter to the editor she noted, 'Why does a 'special interest' group have to scheme to take control of such a small city by manipulating (who) could run?'

She continued with, 'Once bumped off the ballot through the malicious scheme, the lies continued, telling citizens he wasn't interested or you couldn't write him in on the ballot … He wasn't not voted in; the citizens had their choice taken from them.'

A write-in candidate did receive 38 votes, or 9.13 percent of the vote on Nov. 4. But it wasn't enough to beat out the other three candidates on the ballot for the three council seats. Clackamas County is not required to categorize the write-in votes if the votes account for less than a winning percentage. So it's unknown if all the write-in votes were cast for Nyberg or not.

Terry Kelly and Bill Tuttle, both members of the city's planning commission, were the top vote getters, according to the election results posted in Clackamas County on Nov. 14. Kelly got 127 votes. Tuttle got 130 votes. And a third candidate, Mary D. Mann, got 121 votes.

Mann, a first-time councilor in Rivergrove, said as far as she knew, 'we're all very happy with the elections … and we're really glad Rivergrove is on the map so its elections get so much attention.'

Arne Nyberg declined to comment on the events around the election.

Instead he said, 'My feelings are a little hurt, but I've been around in politics enough to know you win some and you lose some.'

Arne did say that he would stay involved in Rivergrove and 'probably plan to run for council in the future.'