Grant County certifies John Day mayoral recall petition

By Antonio Sierra (OPB)
Dec. 16, 2023 12:58 a.m.

The eastern Oregon county has rescheduled the recall election for mid-January

FILE - A ballot drop box outside the Grant County Sheriff's Department, August 29, 2019.

FILE - A ballot drop box outside the Grant County Sheriff's Department, August 29, 2019.

Emily Cureton Cook / OPB

A little more than a year after she became the mayor of John Day, Heather Rookstool will face voters again, this time with her job on the line.


Grant County Clerk Brenda Percy said she certified the petition to recall Rookstool on Tuesday after verifying all of the collected signatures. It was a close call.

“They were required to get 126 valid registered signatures and they had 128,” Percy said. “They (got it) by two. That’s all it takes.”

Under state law, Rookstool has the option of resigning once the petition was certified rather than undergoing a recall election. But Percy said the mayor immediately filed a statement of justification, the last step needed to trigger a recall election. Ballots will go out Dec. 27 for the Jan. 16 special election, Percy said.

A group of current and former city officials sent a criminal complaint concerning Rookstool in September, and the subsequent recall petition revolves around many of the same accusations.


Related: Former John Day employees file criminal complaint against mayor

The criminal complaint alleges that Rookstool violated state law and the city charter repeatedly since she took over as mayor in January. The group alleges that Rookstool falsified documents, violated public meeting laws and interfered with public records requests as a part of a wider effort to gather power at a time when John Day had no city manager.

The group contends that Rookstool’s actions have created instability in the city government, spurring resignations on the city council and among city staff. Current and former staff argued that Rookstool is a threat to vital city services and funding by trying to take over city manager duties.

When the group didn’t hear back from state law enforcement, they formed a recall committee and took just two days to finish collecting signatures.

In her justification statement, Rookstool hits back at the recall committee, writing that its accusations didn’t have evidence to support them and were false.

“I took the oath of office with honesty, seriousness, and sincerity,” she wrote.

Related: Group submits signatures to recall John Day mayor

Rookstool did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Oren Wyss, a John Day city employee and a recall committee leader, also didn’t immediately return a request for comment. Previously, he had expressed confidence in the recall process but expressed concern that voter turnout would be low in a special election.