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Gladstone voters recall councilors Steve Johnson, Kim Sieckmann
Gladstone City Councilors Steve Johnson and Kim Sieckmann have been recalled by voters.
Unofficial results of the May 23 recall election showed more than 56 percent of voters favoring the removal of Johnson and Sieckmann from office, with approximately 20 percent turnout of registered voters in the special election. In Johnson's case, 57.2 percent of voters favored his recall, while 56.7 percent called for ousting Sieckmann.
Johnson said that he was disappointed to find out the extent that Councilor Neal Reisner was involved in the recalls and questioned whether it was an appropriate role for an elected official to be involved in a recall.
"I've been in good spirits," Johnson said. "I'm proud of the work that I've been able to do for the city of Gladstone and disappointed that I'm probably not going to be able to continue to do that as a city councilor."
The election could spell the end of the city's lawsuit for $1.5 million in Clackamas County library funding. Johnson and Sieckmann were part of the narrow 4-3 majority of Gladstone City Council that supported continuing the lawsuit in a May 9 vote. A 12-person jury trial has been tentatively scheduled for Sept. 5 and will probably be canceled.
Chief recall petitioner Bill Osburn says he will not be submitting his name for potential appointment to the two vacant seats on City Council. He hopes that the successful recall effort will inspire others to become politically involved and seek appointment by the remaining five city councilors. When not spending more time fishing, Osburn plans instead to work to advocate for a "better solution" on the 52-unit apartment complex being proposed for a vacant 1.5-acre parcel near Gladstone High School.
"I'm just glad that we'll all be able to move on to the next thing," Osburn said. "It would be an understatement to say that this recall election has been an ugly chapter in Gladstone history."
Gladstone's City Council has been divided by the recall, with signs favoring each side of the election posted at the residences of some of the remaining five city councilors.
Competing op-eds have been published in the Clackamas Review, including by city councilors. Four members of City Council were pictured by a recall petitioner meeting at a local bar in an apparent violation of state open-meetings law (if city business was discussed), but that petitioner was pictured by a now-recalled city councilor flipping off the elected officials soon after obtaining the supposedly incriminating photograph.
On their anti-recall website, Johnson and Sieckmann posted criminal records for two recall petitioners, including some charges that were dismissed and one incident showing a 5-foot-11 petitioner as 7-foot-1 tall.
Clackamas County Elections Clerk Sherry Hall, herself a Gladstone resident, on May 4 sent out recall-election ballots with Johnson's name misspelled.
In a May 3 letter, Clackamas County Republican Party Acting Chair Traci Hensley and the Democratic Party of Clackamas County Chair Peter Nordbye jointly condemned the recall. Johnson has been a registered Democrat since 2008; Sieckmann switched to the Republican Party in January. Osburn is now calling for the leaders of the major political parties in the county to apologize to the voters of Gladstone.
Oregon's secretary of state referred the chief petitioner for criminal prosecution for alleged willful lies on the petitions for recall. The Oregon Department of Justice hasn't announced an active investigation into the recall petitioners, and Osburn maintains the accuracy of his statements.
City officials on April 6 rejected Osburn's public-records requests for copies of complaints filed against Johnson, Sieckmann and City Administrator Eric Swanson, based upon an exemption in state law allowing public agencies to withhold records from disclosure if they involve a personnel disciplinary action.
On April 20, Osburn amended his request to exclude complaints against Swanson. City officials responded on April 27, indicating that the amended request would be denied for the same reason, meaning that the complaints against the elected city volunteers involve potential disciplinary action against paid Gladstone officials. Osburn referred the city's attempt to deny disclosure of the complaints to the Clackamas County District Attorney's Office.
In a May 12 letter to Osburn and Assistant City Administrator Jacque Betz, Clackamas County Deputy DA Michael R. Salvas found that disclosure of the complaints would be premature until a pending personnel disciplinary action is resolved.
"Having reviewed the records and materials provided by the city, I find that the records sought by petitioner are relevant to a disciplinary action against a city employee and could be materials or documents supporting that action," Salvas wrote. "The trouble is, it is too early to tell whether the records petitioner seeks will actually be subject to the Personnel Discipline Action exemption. The city has indicated that it is currently diligently investigating a disciplinary action to which the records requested are relevant. Because the disciplinary action is not yet resolved, neither the city nor I is in a position to determine whether the exemption applies. And in that situation, the city may delay responding to the request until the disciplinary action is resolved."