A group calling itself the Hermiston Government Reform Committee met Thursday night to explore the process of instituting a recall of Hermiston’s mayor and its city council members.
The group has retained the services of an attorney, Dan Van Thiel, to help guide them through the process. Van Thiel is a veteran of Oregon governmental affairs, having served as the city attorney for a variety of municipalities. He still represents Baker City and Seaside as well as a number of school districts and other entities around the state.
“I’ve been on both sides of recalls,” Van Thiel said Thursday afternoon. “It’s not a difficult process.”
More than 20 Hermiston residents and Hermiston business owners attended Thursday night’s meeting.
A statement from Cindy Littlefield, one of the group’s organizers, said, “There are many concerned citizens in Hermiston, who come from a wide variety of occupations and backgrounds, including business persons and other professionals, who have become outraged at the dishonesty, lack of accountability, lack of transparency, ‘cronyism’ and incompetence of the Hermiston City Council. These citizens have consulted with legal counsel and with enough public support, are ready to move forward.”
Many of the people in attendance simply listened or asked questions. The discussion covered a variety of topics, ranging from how and when recall petitions are filed to how many signatures would be necessary to put the recall issue on a ballot. The possibility of forming neighborhood associations was also discussed, as was the possible cost of a recall election.
They also discussed whether to target all eight council members and the mayor or whether to limit their efforts to a certain number.
“I came to find out what information was available to start the reform of our city government,” said Hermiston resident Larry Storment. “Let’s get government out in the open again.”
Hermiston mayor Bob Severson’s term expires at the end of 2012. The mayoral primary election will be held in May, and so far, only one person — John Kirwan — has formally declared his candidacy. Severson has not yet said whether he will run again. If only two people run in the May primary, the winner will take the seat without a November run-off.
The four at-large council members — Rod Hardin, Brian Misner, Joe Harn and Michael Calame — also see their terms expire at the end of 2012. The election for at-large positions is held in November, with the four candidates receiving the most votes winning a spot on the council.
Hermiston’s other four council members — Jackie Myers, Lori Davis, Harmon Springer and Frank Harkenrider — were elected in 2010 and will see their terms expire in 2014.
After a couple hours of discussion, several in attendance agreed to gather more information to help answer questions at their next meeting. They plan to hold a public meeting sometime within the next month.
“This is not a witch hunt,” Storment stressed. “People need to know this is about the future of Hermiston.”