Recall petitioners say they hope the special election on Tuesday will be a wake-up call for Ashland and its city officials “that people are watching.”
Ashland registered voters have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to drop off their ballots for an recall election of three parks commissioners. Jackson County Clerk’s Office said the voter turnout for Ashland recall as of Friday is 30.4 percent.
Commissioners Mike Gardiner, Jim Lewis and Rick Landt are being recalled after the commission unanimously approved in August a reorganization at the Senior Center and dismissed the manager of 10 years.
The petitions, filed by Mary Sundberg, Avram Chetron and Mary Canfield, claim parks commissioners mismanaged funds and personnel, violated public meetings law and disregarded public input and audit recommendations.
“I, for one, hope that this recall will wake Ashland up to what is important here,” Sundberg wrote in an email, “It's not that these guys are 'nice volunteers who have given of their time.’ … They are to work for us, the public, and be stewards of (our) money and (our) concerns.”
The recall petitions also referenced a projected deficit of $5.9 million in parks’ budget in 2021-23, which has been determined by the city to be “incorrect.”
Parks commissioners have denied the allegations in the petitions; Lewis also filed a complaint with Oregon Secretary of State alleging the petitions knowingly make false statement to solicit signatures.
Chetron said the recall is to show that city officials who ignore citizens’ needs are “not going to be tolerated any longer.”
“If the recall fails, I hope that the (Support Our Seniors’) efforts has raised some issues that needed to be raised and that the city's budgeting process will benefit from a closer scrutiny in the future,” Chetron said.
City Attorney David Lohman said the commission needs at least three commissioners to have a quorum — to meet as a body and to vote.
If all three commissioners are voted out of their seats, Lohman explained, the parks commission won’t be able to hold a meeting or vote on any matters until the City Council appoints replacements.
“There’s no set requirement process,” Lohman said of a potential appointment procedure.
That means the council could “choose who they want to appoint, have an open application process like what they’re doing with the council seats, or ask parks commission to recommend a replacement,” Lohman said.
Sundberg and Chetron both said they are not interested in replacing the commissioners if the recall succeeds. Canfield didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
— Reach reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.