City: Text messages to recall organizers don't count as an official written resignation notice

Gladstone City Councilor Linda Neace, who wrote to recall campaigners in February that she would resign at the "end of March," is now saying she won't resign at all.

Linda Neace"I had been bullied, manipulated and emotionally challenged; I have backed myself into a situation where people are trying to control me; I am not resigning as city councilman; I am standing firm; I will not continue to be bullied," she said at the outset of the March 27 City Council meeting.

Gladstone citizens who had been planning to file a recall petition against Neace had delayed because she had told them, both in conversation and in writing, that she would resign to save the city the trouble and expense of a special election.

Bill Osburn, who ran against Neace in 2016 and was the chief petitioner for two successful recall campaigns in 2017, said that he was able to hold off the latest recall petition because he "took Linda at her word like many of us have." Neace contacted Osburn about her intention to resign, which Osburn called another apparent instance of Neace's "manipulation of the people."

On Feb. 13, Neace sent Osburn a series of texts indicating that she would be resigning.

"Few things coming up I would like to finish," Neace wrote. "I will make the announcement and [sic] the end of March[.] I am done[.]"

Gladstone Councilor Linda Neace's text messages in February that she would be resigning.After Osburn texted back for clarification about the timing of her formal letter of resignation, Neace wrote that "I will announce in March[;] it will be the end of March[.] I will leave begone [sic] by April[.]"

Neace sent her final text while she sat on the council dais during a public meeting, indicating she didn't want recall organizer Patrick Mathis to make any statements about her resignation:

"He will lol nor [sic] be doing my speaking for me[.] I will [be] talking for me and no other to [sic] speak for me or making statements that I have not authorized[.]"

After Neace's change of heart as announced at the March 27 meeting, Gladstone Administrator Jacque Betz concluded that Neace's text messages to Osburn, which he forwarded to the city, were not an official resignation. Official resignations of elected officials apparently must be in writing directly to the city in order to be legally binding.

"In general, the city attorney and I concur that in our experience a resignation from a council member is in the form of a letter to the governing body and city administrator," Betz wrote.

Neace said that she has paid the fines for not paying her business license fees and will dissolve her business within 45 days. She has been in violation of the state's rules regarding business licenses while at the same time she was serving as the City Council's liaison to the business community.

Neace's Peridot Devine Planning and Peridot Devine Consulting have been in business since 2014 according to her LinkedIn profile. Neace was paid a total of $1,650 by Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson's campaign in 2016 for one of these unlicensed businesses. Richardson's campaign also paid Neace personally $4,643.53, according to state records.

After an August 2017 voter-fraud complaint against Neace, Secretary of State officials came back with the determination in November that she wasn't violating election laws "at this time." Neace's current voter-registration address was never at issue, since Mathis' election-law complaint against her concerned her registration address between 2009 and 2014.

Deb Royal, Richardson's chief of staff, said that the investigation was in no way influenced by partisan politics. According to Royal, Richardson did not know that one of his former campaign workers was being investigated for voter fraud until after the investigation was complete.

"I discussed the complaint against Linda Neace with Secretary Richardson late this afternoon [Nov. 28]," Royal said. "Before this discussion, he was unaware of the complaint."

Neace voted at an address where she was not living for about five years, but Royal said this was a "very complicated" case that came down to the fact that the secretary of state's "responsibility is just to make sure that they're not voting in two different places for the same election, and she [Neace] didn't do that."

Royal described the state's letter to Neace as a "slap on the wrist."

"We notified her that her birthday was incorrect and she fixed it. We have no evidence of malicious intent to go after her for her birthday being incorrect," Royal said.

Royal said that Neace didn't get any benefit from her birthday being incorrect on her voter registration forms.

"If there's evidence, and someone can present evidence, then an investigation would be reopened," Royal said.

Neace said that she would stand firm against a recall because she is worried that if she resigns others on City Council will also be targeted.

"If you do this to me who else on council are you going to go after and find fault with again?" she asked.

"Apparently I'm a bully now because I've asked Linda questions and held her accountable to things like laws," Osburn said. "This was done not as an intimidation or as a bully but as a courtesy; I was acting as a go-between between her and the gentleman who was looking to launch a recall initiative, something that our city doesn't need another one of."

Mathis agreed that he and Osburn have only brought facts about Neace to the public's attention. Mathis said that he will soon be filling the official paperwork for collecting recall signatures.

Repeating a phrase she had used in text messages about being done, Neace targeted Osburn in addition to Mathis during her remarks at the City Council meeting: "You enjoy embarrassing me, but God says that 'He without sin casts the first stone;' maybe you should look that up and follow it; I'm done."

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