Petitioners making progress with signatures, still have a ways to go

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - The petitioners believe that the mayor and three city councilors did not represent their best interests in the LOT decision. With the deadline to submit petitions fast approaching, leaders of the effort to recall Mayor John Kovash and City Councilors Jody Carson, Mike Jones and Jenni Tan say that they are “approaching” the required 1,844 signatures needed to trigger an election, but still have “a ways to go.”

The four petitioners — residents Karie Oakes, Reena Heijdeman, E. Marie Horvath and Curt Sommer — began the recall effort back in December, alleging that the city councilors broke their oaths of office by violating public meetings laws, “failing to represent the best interests of West Linn citizens,” “ignoring recommendations from city advisory boards and commissions” and “failing to assert proper control and direction over the city manager and city attorney.”

With their paperwork officially approved by the city and Secretary of State Elections division, the petitioners were given 90 days to gather the 1,844 signatures for each elected official — 15 percent of the total votes cast in the last governor’s race — required to prompt an election.

Oakes, Heijdeman and Horvath have until 5 p.m. Tuesday to turn those signatures over to the city, while Sommer — who omitted three pieces of information in his original paperwork and was forced to refile — was given a deadline of next Thursday.

“We are approaching our target of the number of signatures needed,” Oakes said. “But we still have a ways to go. Our volunteers are scrambling to get out to the many people who have contacted us to sign.”

Oakes said recent news coverage, as well as a YouTube video created by the petitioners, has helped spread the word. As members of the West Linn First group, the petitioners have also held a number of public signing sessions in the months since the recall effort began, including one outside the Kovash “State of the City” address in February.

In the process, Oakes said some misconceptions have emerged.

“We are finding that people do not fully understand this process,” Oakes said. “There is a petition for the mayor and three councilors, so registered voters may choose to sign any or all of them.”

Further, Oakes noted that if the petitions are sucessful and certified for the ballot, public officials have the option of stepping down or filing a statement of justification for their actions in office.

“So an election could be avoided,” Oakes said. “Especially if there is overwhelming support for a recall.”

Since the recall effort began a number of residents have voiced concerns about the cost of a special election, which has been estimated to be about $10,000. by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Much of the recall effort centers around the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership project, which has caused controversy in the city.

By law, the petitioners were required to file paperwork with the Secretary of State office to create individual campaign committees for each of the four councilors. Those committees were formed in December as “limited expenditure” groups — not to receive or spend more than $3,000 in 2013 or $3,500 in 2014.

Many of the petitioners’ claims center around the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership project, which was approved by the city council in February 2013. That decision was remanded by the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals, but ultimately upheld in a Jan. 13 hearing.

“I am disappointed that some West Linn residents continue with the recall campaign,” said City Councilor Thomas Frank, who was a planning commissioner during the LOT hearing and thus not named in the petitions. “I urge West Linn residents not to sign the recall petitions.”

Last week, LOT officials called the West Linn police about a disturbance at the site, but according to resident Lamont King, “There was no demonstration other than a couple signs on cars and a total of four people.”

Only registered voters in West Linn can sign the recall petitions. If obtained, the 1,844 signatures per petition would be sent on to the Clackamas County Elections Department. The county would then have to certify the signatures as legitimate before holding an election.

The petitioners have not scheduled any more signing sessions, but Oakes said those interested can visit to find out how to sign.

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