Oregon Cities

Group submits signatures to recall John Day mayor

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A group of current and former John Day city employees is looking to oust their city’s mayor — and they are one step closer to triggering a recall election.

The group announced Friday that it submitted 139 signatures from voters who supported the recall of Mayor Heather Rookstool — nearly 50 more signatures than was required. According to a press release, the committee was able to gather those signatures within two days.

“It was easy,” the press release says. “Many more residents were willing to sign, but we stopped circulating because we had more than enough to bring the recall election forward to John Day’s voters.”

The Grant County Clerk’s Office confirmed it had received the signatures but wouldn’t be able to start verifying signatures until next week.

Rookstool did not respond to a request for comment.

If the petition passes the verification process, Rookstool could either resign or wait for the results of a recall election. The recall group encouraged her to resign in the press release.

Rookstool has been in office since January. The recall committee claims she has violated state laws and city rules several times in less than a year.

“It is time for the electors to vote for a mayor who reflects our community’s values and can lead us in a positive direction, restore dignity to the city, and create a healthy, functioning government,” the release says.

Some people behind the recall effort backed a criminal complaint made against Rookstool in September. The complaint alleges Rookstool falsified documents, violated public meeting laws and interfered with public records requests. It characterizes these actions as her effort to assume the day-to-day responsibilities of the city manager while the position was vacant.

For instance, the complaint alleges Rookstool revised a resolution after it passed to give her sole authority in supervising city employees, enforcing contracts, and developing city laws.

In October, the mayor’s critics pursued a recall campaign because they didn’t think the state would take action on the criminal complaint.

Oren Wyss, a recall committee member and a worker at the city’s wastewater treatment plant, said he was feeling good about the recall process so far, but he was concerned that the potential recall would be attached to a special election instead of a primary election, when there’s a higher voter turnout.

“I think we’re going to get shot at it, as long as people want to take the effort to go out and vote,” he said. “I know this will be a special election and that’s my only concern: That a lot of people won’t turn out to vote on this issue.”

Wyss said a recall election could happen as soon as mid-January.

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