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Petition to recall Columbia River PUD director Craig Melton yields more than 560 signatures

Signatures were submitted Monday afternoon to advance efforts to recall Craig Melton from the Columbia River People's Utility District Board of Directors.

COURTNEY VAUGHN - Don Clack, Columbia County's elections supervisor (left) reviews signatures sheets turned in Monday afternoon by Dave Ehrenkranz . Ehrenkraz is the chief petitioner in an effort to recall Craig Melton from the Columbia River People's Utility Distirct Board of Directors.Last month, Dave Ehrenkranz announced an organized effort for a recall election, citing “poor leadership” evidenced by Melton's votes to abruptly change leadership at the district twice in less than six months.

Ehrenkranz waited at the Columbia County Elections Office as Elections Supervisor Don Clack counted signature sheets Monday afternoon.

In all, 562 signatures were collected from voters in Subdivision 2, which Melton represents. Elections officials said 479 valid signatures are required to advance the petition.

Once the required number of signatures are collected, Melton will be notified and given the option to resign. If he chooses not to, a special recall election will be scheduled.

Clack said the elections office has up to 10 business days to verify the signatures. Ehrenkranz expects it could be done before the end of the week.

Ehrenkranz, the chief petitioner in the recall effort, said he hopes the process will cause Melton to resign from the board, rather than the election moving forward.

Melton said he has no intention of resigning.

Regardless of the mechanism, Ehrenkranz is confident in the outcome.

“The first signature was collected on December 11 and the last signature was collected yesterday, January 10,” Ehrenkranz said, noting he and a small group of fellow volunteers were able to garner more than 500 signatures by going door-to-door, despite the holidays and major storm events in the county.

One of the primary signature gatherers was CRPUD President Dave Baker. Signature sheets turned in Monday show Baker helped gather more than 15 pages of signatures on eight different days. Baker's son was also instrumental in gathering support for the recall.

Fellow CRPUD Director Richard Simpson also helped gather two pages of signatures.

"This recall is internal," Metlon said Tuesday. "It's being run by board members."

Melton said he's personally reached out to some of the people whose signatures were on the recall petition.

"My concern is what was told to people to sign this petition," Melton said, noting at least one person said he signed it but did not realize it was a petition to remove Melton from office.

Ehrenkranz has more than just Melton in mind with his recall petition. He'd like to see CRPUD Vice President Jake Carter step down as well, saying Carter, Melton and Director Harry Price are largely responsible for the recent changes that led Special Districts Association of Oregon's insurance services division to cancel the PUD's liability insurance in September.

Nearly as soon as Ehrenkranz's recall petition was announced, an opposition campaign had already been mounted.

A group naming itself Friends of Columbia River PUD has spent money on targeted campaigns to denounce the recall efforts and praise Melton's actions since taking office in January 2015. The group has spent money on political advertising and other efforts to showcase opposition, but it's unclear exactly how much. Oregon elections law requires the group to record all of its financial transactions once a recall election date is officially announced.

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