Council to seek applications from public to fill seat vacated by recall

The Ontario City Council chambers are pictured in this photo from 2020, shortly after COVID-19 safety measures, including Plexiglass panels, were put into place at City Hall.

ONTARIO

Petition circulators working on a recall for Ontario City Councilor Freddy Rodriguez are still working on gathering more signatures, as they are 61 short of the needed amount to trigger a recall election.

Only 82% of the 529 signatures processed in the initial batch were valid. Malheur County Clerk Gayle Trotter provided this information to Ontario City Recorder Tori Barnett on a Petition Processing Statistics Report on Wednesday afternoon.

For those initial 529 signatures, Trotter had until the end of day today to verify them. She rejected 96 for various reasons. A breakdown of those rejections puts the top two reasons as a tie between 26 signers who were not registered to vote and 26 who live outside the district; immediately following is another tie between 14 printed signatures and 14 that do not have signatures on file.

Circulators have until 5 p.m. June 7 to collect signatures, and the benefit of turning some in early, is finding out how many were rejected then trying to gather those numbers.

If they would have waited until June 7 and ended up not having enough due to challenges, there would be no time left for them to gather more, Trotter explained.

As of early Thursday, 30 more signatures had been turned in, with more expected to come in by the end of day. Barnett was going to deliver those to Trotter today. Trotter will have another 10 days (counting weekends) to verify that group of signatures, and each subsequent group, if any more are needed, that is delivered by deadline.

When Trotter can’t make a match on signatures in her system against those on a petition, there is no process to challenge those signatures as there is in an election. Those rejections that were for inactive challenged signatures are for signatures on file that have been coded as inactive because during an election the signature on the ballot didn’t match that on file. As such, a challenge letter is issued by the County Clerk asking for a new signature.

“We understand, signatures change as we get older, break an arm, etc.,” Trotter said. “But if there is no response, it gets coded as inactive.”

If petitioners are successful in gathering the needed number of verified signatures, Trotter would prepare for a special election and subsequently bill the city.

As to how much it may cost, she did not have an exact figure.

“It will be around $10,000,” Trotter said. “I can’t say for sure, it could be more or less. We haven’t had to do an individual city election in a long time.”

Petitioner Cydney Cooke, of Ontario, filed paperwork on March 9 to recall Rodriguez.

This is the second petition recently filed to recall the city councilor. The first filed by Vernon Dennisson in July of 2020 resulted in no action as the required documentation was not returned to Barnett by the deadline.

Rodriguez was elected by voters to his current position on the Ontario City Council in 2018, and was sworn into office Jan. 3, 2019.

Rodriguez took over the role as council president in January, after being nominated by Councilor Ken Hart.

While the public has continued to press the council to do something about stripping the presidency from Rodriguez, the city’s charter is written in such a way that the council can not do that.

The city’s charter also prevents the council from stripping presidency from a sitting member. However, it is noteworthy that a committee reviewing the city’s charter is gearing up to propose changes to several subsections of what is essentially the city’s constitution. Among these, is giving the council authority to revoke presidency by majority vote.

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