Morrow County commissioners face recall

By Antonio Sierra (OPB)
Oct. 23, 2022 1 p.m.

Two commissioners have until Wednesday to either resign or become the subject of a recall election

Morrow County Commissioner Jim Doherty is showing Silvia Hernandez her well water test results for nitrates which exceeded the federal safe drinking water limits by nearly five times on April 15, 2022.

Morrow County Commissioner Jim Doherty, left, is shown in this file photo from April 15, 2022. At right is resident Silvia Hernandez.

Monica Samayoa / OPB

Morrow County could have two more elections before the year is over.


Morrow County Clerk Bobbi Childers confirmed Friday that petitioners had submitted enough signatures to trigger recall elections for county commissioners Jim Doherty and Melissa Lindsay.

Childers said the commissioners will have until Wednesday to either resign or submit a letter of justification explaining why they should remain in office. The latter route will forward the issue to Morrow County voters, who will then decide whether to keep the commissioners in office.


Childers said she needs the commissioners’ official responses, input from the county’s election vendors and guidance from the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office before she sets an election date. She added that it was too late to add the recalls to the November general election ballot, but that a potential recall election would take place before the end of the year.

The East Oregonian reported that the county received petitions and signatures earlier this month. Petitioners needed 564 signatures to trigger the recall, the equivalent of 15% of the total votes for the 2018 governor’s election. After verification, Childers determined that there were 657 valid signatures for Lindsay’s recall and 648 for Doherty.

“This is hard on communities,” Childers said, “but those 657 people say they want it. Or 648 people say they want it. They’re taxpayers too.”

The petitions to recall Lindsay and Doherty accuse them of unprofessional behavior, a lack of transparency and acting against the interests of Morrow County. One of the sticking points for the petitioners seems to be the unexplained firing of county administrator Darrell Green in June. The county now faces a wrongful termination lawsuit from Green.

In interviews with the East Oregonian, both Lindsay and Doherty expressed disappointment in the recall attempt. Doherty suspected “powerful interests” were behind the recall effort.

A number of factors complicate the recall elections. While Doherty still has more than two years left on his term, the recall will only shave a few months off of Lindsay’s term. Lindsay represents Position 3 on the board, but she filed for Position 2 when running for re-election, a seat held by the retiring Don Russell.

Lindsay narrowly lost the Position 2 race and her last day as commissioner is Jan. 3, meaning Russell could be the only commissioner left standing if both Lindsay and Doherty leave office before the end of the year. Childers said she would rely on the advice of the county counsel, Morrow County District Attorney Justin Nelson, to determine how those seats would be filled in that scenario.