Committee seeks to remove mayor, councilors Bejarana, Tlustos-Arnold from office
Accusations of behind-the-scenes deal making and dishonesty are at the root of efforts to recall the election of Fairview Mayor Ted Tosterud and two city councilors, Ed Bejarana and Tamie Tlustos-Arnold, and remove them from their positions.
In an interview Monday morning at his Fairview home, Chief Petitioner Ted Kotsakis detailed the events he said led to his council resignation in 2015 and ultimately compelled him and others to file a recall petition against the trio on Friday, June 3.
Its sad that it has come to this, but it has become blatant the disregard these people have for the Fairview residents who make this a great place to live, Kotsakis said.
Kotsakis and Steve Owen, both former city councilors who resigned their positions midterm, are at the center of the three-member recall committee. They are joined by Fairview resident Anson Bie, a volunteer with the Fairview Police Department.
Kotsakis detailed his grievances against Tosterud, Bejarana and Tlustos-Arnold, much of it relating to their alleged affiliation with the group known as the Fairview Business Association (FBA).
Kotsakis described the group as attempting to seize control of the city government, by orchestrating council and committee appointments.
When I ran for City Council, the FBA was being vocal and loud that they were going to control the council, he said. With having worked in state government for years, that didnt sit right with me; that a special-interest group was going to try to control the city council.
By itself, there is nothing wrong with any special interest group attempting to promote an agenda within government at any level. But Kotsakis went on to explain how he suspects the group has manipulated the selection process for replacement councilors and committee members and undermined the interests of city residents in favor of land developers.
Problems for Kotsakis began shortly after taking his position on the council in January 2015. He described the councils process for selecting members to the City Budget Committee, with instructions from Mayor Tosterud that members of this group would need to be interviewed if they had hope of being chosen.
But Tosterud, who controls the interview process, allowed consideration of Tlustos-Arnold (at a time before she was appointed to the council), even though she was not present for an interview.
Kotsakis voiced his opposition to giving Tlustos-Arnold consideration, on the basis that she wouldnt be interviewed.
He then described how Councilor Dan Kreamier nearly jumped out of his chair and said Yes she is. Kreamier is one of the councilors Kotsakis describes as supportive of the FBA.
Tosterud allowed Tlustos-Arnolds inclusion as a candidate for the Budget Committee, even though she had not been interviewed. Kotsakis refused to vote on appointments, saying the FBA contingent of the council gave Tlustos-Arnold favorable treatment.
It was the fact that they werent honest they lied, Kotsakis said. They changed the rules mid-process.
Kotsakis said the corrupt selection process was among the reasons he later resigned his position on the council.
I dont want to be associated with that type of integrity, he said.
System development fees
Once he resigned his position on the council, Kotsakis continued to monitor the city government. He paid particular attention when the City Council waved fees on land developments, known as system development charges, or SDCs.
This is the biggest waving of fees in the state, Kotsakis said.
This comes at a time when the city faces costs associated with relining of a reservoir and work on the Interlachen sewage exchange. Kotsakis estimated those projects at a combined $5 million, which could have been partially funded through SDCs.
The city does not have the money to do those projects, Kotsakis said. They will pay for them by raising rates on Fairview residents.
He also said the fee waiver will extend to the developer of a large apartment complex, noting the complex will only increase city costs associated with police and fire services.
The waiver of the SDCs only benefits a few, Kotsakis said. Its unethical to do that.
When reached on Saturday for comment on the recall attempt, Tosterud sounded noticeably disappointed.
I wont have a comment for at least six days or so, Tosterud said, adding that he has hired an attorney to provide legal guidance as the recall process moves forward.
The recall effort went public Friday on the state of Oregons OreStar website, where political action groups are required to register.
Tosterud pointed out the irony of the recall effort, saying he was an advocate for Kotsakis candidacy for City Council. Earlier last weekend, Councilor Bejarana said he too was awaiting further explanation before deciding how to respond to the recall effort.
Bejarana used the situation to demonstrate his philosophical side.
When someone feels a politician has broken the trust of the people, they should step up and champion a recall effort it is a very public process and both sides get their chance to have their say, he said. Once I learn the cause that this trio is using to promote the effort, then Ill use all means of publication available to me to counter the effort.
Tlustos-Arnold said the recall effort caught her by surprise.
I have shared a few pleasantries at a forum during the 2015 election season (with Kotsakis), but other than that our paths havent crossed, she said. I have been an open-minded, hard-working councilor volunteering with the city of Fairview. I will continue to be involved in the community that Ive been a part of for 20-plus years.
In response to the recall coming from Chief Petitioner Kotsakis, Tlustos-Arnold said, During a time when others resigned and failed to uphold their commitment to voters, I stepped up to serve the community I love.
Tlustos-Arnolds future on the Fairview City Council is already somewhat cloudy. Her council seat is up for re-election in November, but she will already appear on that ballot in the race for Senate District 25. She has received the Republican nomination for the legislative race, and will face Democratic incumbent Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson in the November general election.
Kotsakis served a portion of one term in 2015 before resigning. In similar fashion, Owen also resigned, about two months after Kotsakis. Unlike Kotsakis, Owen was the most senior member of the council when he quit.
Kotsakis hoped to have formal recall petitions in hand by the end of the day Monday, beginning a 90-day process of gathering enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. The petitions need a minimum of 419 qualified signatures on each petition to recall an elected official from his or her position.
Bejarana and Tlustos-Arnold were appointed to the council in July 2015, replacing Kotsakis and Owen following their resignations.
Tosterud was first sworn in as mayor in January 2015. Prior to being elected mayor he served as an appointed city councilor from January to December 2014. Tosteruds current term ends Dec. 31, 2018.
For Bejarana and Tlustos-Arnold, depending on their decisions to pursue re-election, they would already appear on the November 2016 ballot five months from now.