Metolius votes to recall mayor
By a wide margin — 124 yes to 73 no — Metolius has voted to recall Mayor John Chavez.
The Oct. 8 recall vote was spurred by the arrest of Chavez July 12, when he was taken into custody for failing to complete the last eight days of a 10-day jail sentence for fourth-degree assault.
When she learned that the mayor was in jail, Tryna Muilenburg, a former city councilor, initiated the recall effort, for which petitioners needed to collect at least 43 valid signatures from Metolius voters. The petitioners ended up submitting 52 signatures, 45 of which were valid, in late August.
In September, a total of 570 ballots were mailed out for the recall election of Chavez, who had been formally asked to resign by the Metolius City Council at its Aug. 5 meeting. Ballots were due at the Jefferson County Clerk's Office by Oct. 8.
According to Jefferson County Clerk Kate Zemke, a total of 198 ballots — about 35% of those sent out — were returned. Approximately 63% voted to recall Chavez, with 37% voting no on the recall.
In addition to one undervote — a ballot returned without a vote, Zemke said, "We had two challenged signatures; they will have 14 days after the election to come in and prove up their signatures."
By law, Zemke has 20 days to certify the election and deliver the abstract of the votes to the city. "It's at that point that the office is vacated," she said.
The assault which triggered the sentence and later, the recall, occurred on May 13, 2018, when deputies were called to Chavez's residence in Metolius on the report of a fight between two brothers. Chavez was arrested, charged with fourth-degree assault constituting domestic violence and harassment, both misdemeanors, and lodged in the Jefferson County Correctional Facility.
Before he was sentenced on those charges, Chavez was again arrested Feb. 24, for driving under the influence of intoxicants, recklessly endangering another person, and reckless driving.
On April 25, a judge sentenced Chavez to 10 days in jail for the assault charge, and dropped the harassment charge. The sentence had to be completed by July 1. Also on April 25, he pleaded guilty to the DUII charge, and entered the DUII diversion program, with numerous conditions.
Chavez served two of the 10 days, but did not complete the sentence, which meant that he violated the terms of both his assault sentence and his diversion agreement.
A warrant was issued for his arrest July 9, and he was taken into custody three days later — without bail — to serve out the remainder of his 10-day sentence.
When the recall petitions were verified in late August, Chavez then had a five-day period in which to either resign or write a "Statement of Justification" for remaining in office. He chose the latter.
"I am determined to make things right with the courts and adhere to all the court orders ... I don't want my personal affairs to impede my judgment while serving our great city," Chavez wrote in his letter of justification.
"Please accept my apologies, overlook my imperfections, and grant me the time to prove that we can all work together and build a great community," he added. "We have been so successful in the past, now we should stay the course."
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