Councilors question viability of Walters' election as mayor
This story has been updated.
As the nation waits to see if there will be a peaceful transition of power at the White House in January, the city of West Linn may see itself in a similar situation.
At the most recent City Council meeting Monday, Nov. 9, Councilor Bill Relyea called into question the viability of Councilor Jules Walters' recent election as mayor.
Relyea, along with Councilors Teri Cummings and Rich Sakelik, who came in third in the race for mayor, asked the office of City Attorney Tim Ramis to look into city charter language and whether Walters should have resigned her council position before running for mayor.
During a pre-meeting work session, Mayor Russ Axelrod asked Relyea what the issue was with a current councilor running for mayor.
"I think we need to wait for the legal folks to dissect our charter and give us that advice and more than likely we're going to need to have an executive session to discuss it," Relyea responded.
Axelrod added that he became mayor in the middle of his term as councilor. He did not resign before making that run.
"The issue is around gaps in our charter language associated with what happens when a council member runs for office as mayor and how do we fill that vacancy," Relyea said.
Ramis was not present at the Nov. 9 meeting, but Bill Monahan from the Jordan-Ramis firm attended but did not provide his thoughts on the matter.
Axelrod said he was surprised when Monahan did not speak up to clarify what he saw as a simple issue during the meeting. The mayor also said he hopes the city attorney's office will clear up the matter quickly and not have to bill the city for extensive hours looking into the charter.
Chapter 31 of the charter states that if there is a vacancy of a position on council for which more than one year of the term is left, the seat shall be filled in the next May or November election.
A council majority can also appoint someone to fill the seat for an interim period before the special election, according to the charter.
"Our charter does not have specific language that allows a councilor to run for mayor," Relyea said. "A council member who has a term of four years is obligated to fulfill that term unless they resign and in this instance there was no resignation before running for mayor."
When speaking with the Tidings, Axelrod explained that he believed the charter and process were both clear.
"I don't understand why he's confused. We've used this recently. The process is very simple," Axelrod said. "If there is a councilor that still has an active position and they move to mayor in January, in January, when she is sworn in as mayor, that creates a vacancy on council,"
Beaverton mayor-elect Lacey Beaty was elected in the middle of her council term this year. Wilsonville City Councilor Ben West also ran for mayor in the middle of his term this year, though he lost. He did not resign before making his mayoral bid, nor did Beaty.
"Resigning the position is ridiculous. That was never a requirement. I don't know anyone that's required to do that anywhere," Axelrod said.
Walters did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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