King City City Council recall petitions pick up speed after legal delays

Two King City residents sign six recall petitions (one for each city councilor) under the watchful eye of petitioner Karl Swanson in front of the KCCA Clubhouse. Barbara Sherman/Tigard Life
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The effort to gather signatures to recall six King City city councilors, including the mayor, is on track to be completed by the deadlines set by the Secretary of State, with a potential election occurring by late-February, according to Randall Olsen, the King City Recall Committee’s chief petitioner.

However, there already have been some delays, so the timing is by no means certain.

On the other hand, if the recall election is successful and a new council votes to rescind the Kingston Terrace Master Plan and the Kingston Terrace Transportation System Plan, City Manager Mike Weston said that the city may have to repay $1 million in grants, which would be “catastrophic” to a small city.

The process started on Sept. 13, when Olsen filed six prospective petitions to remove Councilors Kate Mohr, Micah Paulsen, Smart Ocholi, Laurie Petrie and Marc Manelis plus Mayor Jaimie Fender from office. The reasons given were that the councilors and mayor voted against their King City constituency for the extension of Fischer Road in the Kingston Terrace Master Plan, which would increase traffic through existing neighborhoods and harm the environment, including the Tualatin River, wildlife habitat and the Bankston conservation easement.

No recall petition was filed against Councilor Shawna Thompson, who abstained from voting on the Kingston Terrace Master Plan and voted against the Kingston Terrace Transportation System Plan.

Kingston Terrace, 528 acres of rural properties, farms and natural areas, is located between the western boundary of the city, the Tualatin River, and Beef Bend and Roy Rogers roads. King City added the area to its urban growth boundary in 2018 after getting approval from the Metro Council. For 4 ½ years, city officials and planning consultants worked to come up with a plan to deal with the area’s natural topography while planning for transportation routes, a town center, 3,300 to 3,600 housing units of different types, and park and recreation opportunities within about 318 acres.

After the petitions were filed, the King City elections official revoked the petitions and signature sheets due to errors; the petitions were resubmitted to the city Oct. 5 and again revoked due to errors; on Oct. 11 the city elections official received a letter from the Secretary of State’s office asserting that he had no authority to revoke or amend a recall petition based on false information and ordering him to “promptly rescind” the revocation.

The city issued a statement Oct. 19 that stated the revocation “was made in good faith in an effort to prevent election fraud and ensure a fair and honest election,” in compliance with the Secretary of State’s Recall Manual and advice from the city attorney.

On Oct. 27, Washington County Circuit Court Judge Sims called for an order to be drafted requiring the city elections official to comply with the Secretary of State’s instructions and proceed to verify signatures turned in within 90 days of the filing of the petitions. That same day the King City elections official sent a letter to the chief petitioner stating that per the order of Judge Sims, the City of King City was rescinding its Oct. 5 letter that revoked the petitions.

The petitioners started collecting signatures again, according to Olsen. “We paused when we received the October 5th letter which rescinded the approved petition and signature sheets,” he said. “The deadline to file signatures did not change. The due dates for submitting the petitions are December 12 for four of the councilors and December 18 for two of the councilors.

“Since our 90 day-deadline remains the same, the City Recorder revocation/reversal has reduced our time for signature gathering by about three weeks. We have regained our momentum, however, and are on track to get the required number of signatures – 442 (for each petition) by the deadlines. I’m confident it will be successful.”

Karl Swanson, one of the people gathering signatures, added, “The citizens will work to recall six of seven councilors and then to find new councilors that actually value and listen to their constituents’ interests.”

The recall election was a hot topic at the Nov. 15 King City City Council meeting, which was attended by about two dozen people and two dogs. About a dozen people signed up to speak between the audience members and online participants, with more than half speaking in favor of the recall.

A statement was read for Gary Woods who was flying back from Africa. He stated that his house on Fischer Road had been for sale and he had a buyer, but when the buyer was notified that the Kingston Terrace Master Plan was approved, the buyer withdrew his offer. “Since then, there have been no showings and no interest, so I took my house off the market until after the recall election,” Woods stated.

Then it was the councilors’ turn, with Thompson saying, “I’m against the recall. An election will cost a lot of money and disrupt operations. I will be the only one left. How do we fill all their seats? This is a lot to put on me. I don’t want to be put in this position.”

Fender asked, “If the recall is a success and a new board appointed to fulfill the wishes of the petitioners, what happens to the King City Master Plan? Would the new board abandon the Transportation System Plan or parts of it?”

Weston answered, “A whole new board could rescind or take back the plan or parts of it. Each of the pieces is an important element of the whole plan. A new road would need new traffic studies and going through the public process. We’ve invested $1 million and change in this. We would have to go back to the beginning.”

He added that these plans are usually reviewed after seven years, at which time the plan could be amended. He also explained that the city used three sets of consultants to plan for the city 20 to 30 to 50 years out and adopted their recommendations.

Fender said, “My decisions are based on doing the most good for the most people. Some of you will be impacted more than others. My duty is to the city… Your personal interest is not my primary concern. I took an oath to serve the entire city.”

She added, “We spent $150,000 to look at alternatives but came up with the best route presented by neutral experts. I’m concerned about the fiscal impact if a new board abandons Kingston Terrace Master Plan and the Kingston Terrace Transportation System Plan.”

She asked Weston about potential funding for future studies, and he replied that Metro and the Oregon Department of Transportation have given King City $1 million over the last seven years. “If the City Council throws away this investment by them, I think it will burn some bridges,” he said.

Weston added that it might be more difficult to get future grants, and the city may even have to repay the grant money, “There is a lot of uncertainty,” he said. “For a small city, it could potentially be catastrophic. We don’t have the budget to repay $1 million.”

Thompson said, “I would like to stop the petition process and work together on a solution.”

After the City Council meeting, Weston emailed Tigard Life in response to a question and said in part, “Whatever side of the argument you find yourself, there is really no easy solution… Personally, I would like to focus on the positive aspects the Council and Staff have accomplished along with those ahead of us.”

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