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First council meeting of 2021 includes swearing-in ceremony, virtual shouting match

After much discussion and charter-language debate over the past two weeks, the West Linn City Council swore in its new members and decided at its first meeting of 2021 — on Monday, Jan. 4 — to fill a vacancy on the panel by taking applications from residents.

PMG SCREENSHOT: VIRTUAL MEETING OF WEST LINN CITY COUNCIL - Municipal Judge Rhett Bernstein swore Mary Baumgardner, Rory Bialostosky and Jules Walters into their new council positions at a West Linn City Council meeting Jan. 4. The council is currently made up of Mayor Jules Walters and councilors Mary Baumgardner, Rory Bialostosky and Bill Relyea. The new council decided at Monday's meeting to take applications for an interim councilor to step into the fifth seat until an election can be held in May. The city will hold a 15-day application period and the council will decide on its appointment at its first meeting in February.

When Walters was sworn in as mayor at the meeting, she officially left her council seat with two years left in that term. Since the week after November's election, the City Council and broader West Linn community have pondered how to fill the crucial fifth council position. Those discussions culminated at Monday's meeting, when outgoing councilors attempted to shout over one another during the first hour.

Despite repeated attempts from outgoing Councilor Teri Cummings to derail the meeting and alter the agenda, councilors-elect Baumgardner and Bialostosky were successfully sworn into office — though not without interruption as Cummings repeatedly stated "point of order" while the oaths were administered by Municipal Judge Rhett Bernstein — and Walters officially took office as mayor.

In the weeks since outgoing Mayor Russ Axelrod and outgoing councilors Rich Sakelik and Cummings said their official goodbyes on Dec. 21, Cummings and Relyea have appeared to make multiple attempts at manipulating meeting agendas so that the 2020 council, rather than the 2021 council, would vote on filling the vacancy — despite the already-expired terms of Cummings, Sakelik and Axelrod.

Monday's meeting, held virtually, reached such a degree of disarray that Axelrod asked city staff to mute Cummings. Once each person was sworn in, Axelrod, Cummings and Sakelik signed off, allowing the new panel to carry on with council business.


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