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Severson, Councilors To Ride Out Recall Election In Hermiston

Hermiston Mayor Bob Severson and four city councilors targeted for recall will ride out a special election June 5.

Severson and councilors Frank Harkenrider, Jackie Myers, Rod Hardin and Joe Harn all submitted a rebuttal to allegations of “negligence, dishonesty and cronyism” made by the Hermiston Governmental Reform Committee.

Severson was adamant he would not step down from office.

“No way am I resigning,” Severson said Tuesday at City Hall.

When asked why he would not resign in light of a recall election, Severson said: “I don’t think they have a leg to stand on … I’m happy doing what I’m doing.”

Harkenrider called the allegations “incorrect” and “unjustified,” and said recalls should be reserved for officials who have committed crimes.

“I didn’t rape anybody, I didn’t murder anybody,” he said.

Harkenrider said petitioners who wish to recall him are exercising their American right, however.

“It’s great we live in America where people have this choice,” Harkenrider said. “I’ve never heard of this in Hermiston before and the worst part of it is, they’re using the taxpayer’s money.”  

City recorder and finance director Bob Irby said funding for the special election will come from the city’s operating budget, which means the election will cost taxpayers an unknown amount of money.

Harkenrider said he will not carry a grudge if recalled, however.

“I’m proud of this city and if I get recalled, that’s the way it is. I think it’s the best council and mayor I’ve ever worked under,” Harkenrider said.

Hardin said the council has recently taken steps to involve members of the community with local government through establishing advisory committees such as the Hispanic Advisory Committee.

“We’re trying to accommodate people and get people involved,” Hardin said.

Hardin said he believes his “motivational gift” is still to serve the community.

“I still feel I have the capability to serve the people,” he said.  

But Hardin said the decision is up to the people of Hermiston to decide whether councilors should remain in office.

“I was elected by the people, I can be unelected. (If) it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go.”

Harn also said the recall election is part of the democratic process.

“Whether I win, lose or draw, that’s up to the people,” Harn said.

Harn added one good thing about the recall has been more involvement from from citizens in city government.

“That’s what I’m glad about — that it’s gotten more people involved,” he said.

Elections manager for Umatilla County Patti Chapman said an election will be held June 5, but ballots will be delivered to the Post Office May 18.

Residents of Hermiston must register to vote for the election by May 15.

Irby said Umatilla County will bill the city for costs associated with the election.

If all five officials are recalled, county commissioners will appoint replacements, Chapman said.  

If four or less are recalled, a quorum of members will remain and councilors could appoint replacements.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Irby said.