The proposed $1.75 million purchase of Underhill Plaza in Manzanita is the reason for the recent recall petition.
By Brian Cameron
Someone in Manzanita isn’t happy with their elected officials.
A recall petition has been filed for Mayor Mike Scott and the three current sitting city councilors as well: Hans Tonjes, Linda Kozlowski and Scott Galvin.
“This isn’t about a specific purchase or usage of city monies,” Manzanita resident Richard Mastenik, who has issued the recall petitions, said. “The recall is about the usage of $1.75 million for a purchase by the city without a public referendum process.”
Mastenik feels the amount that is necessary to purchase the Underhill Plaza for the proposed move of City Hall is too much and needs to be brought to the voters. The price tag for the project that will be responsible for the City to purchase will be the same $1.75 million Mastenik cites as reason for the petition. In an interview, Mastenik said the Underhill Plaza proposal is the reason for the recall but has not made the statement official in documentation.
Issued to all the sitting councilors and the mayor, the four separate recall petitions list similar reasons in the statement area of the form. Suggesting the city and the individuals on the council themselves acted maliciously by not referring the usage of large funds to a voting referendum process, Mastenik describes the tactic as “big city” and suggests that type of behavior in the community of Manzanita is unacceptable.
Officially filing the SEL 350 forms with the City of Manzanita, Mastenik has started a recall process which has numerous steps that need to be followed in order for the recall to come to fruition.
According to the official recall manual from the Secretary of State with the State of Oregon the first step has been done already, the Chief Petitioner (Mastenik) must fill out an SEL 350 form for whomever they are wishing to petition for recall. From there the Chief Petitioner is required to establish a Petition Committee and file it through the Elections Division. They then have to submit a cover and signature sheets for approval, which are required to have a copy of the SEL 350 on the back. Signature gathering can then commence. Shortly after the signatures are submitted for verification, this can happen no later than the 90th day after the filed petition.
In addition to the Chief Petitioner’s role in the process, the public officer who is being targeted with a recall has two options, offer a written resignation, or file a SEL 352 Statement of Justification.
Finally the third role in the process rests on the shoulders of the Election Official, in this case it’s City Manager Jerry Taylor.
Once the Chief Petitioner forms a Petition Committee it is the Election Officer’s job to review the formation of the committee, reviews the cover and signature sheets, verifies collected signatures, notifies the Chief Petitioner and the Public Officer of the signature gathering results, and finally if the Public Officer does not resign in the event no response is given within 35 days of the original petition then a special election will take place.
“I would like to be clear that the recall is the least attractive of the reactive direct democracy options,” said Mastenik. “My first choice would be to have had the council refer their action directly to the ballot, a second more desirable option for my community, a referendum petition, was also denied.”
Mastenik claims that in the past his wants for more public involvement with city processes have been denied, he lists three separate actions, once in 2000 and twice in 2008. Mastenik says this fourth time was the last time he felt he could let it happen without doing something about it, he mentions that after inquiring with the Secretary of State that the City of Manzanita is within their purview to deny referendum, though Mastenik did say that they are also not legally forced to deny them either, making it essentially the choice of the City Council to put large expenditures up to the voters or not.
According Taylor, there have been discussions with the city attorney and they advise that the purchase of Underhill Plaza is not subject to the referendum process. Referencing Article IV, section 1(5), of the Oregon Constitution, which permits initiative or referendum involving “municipal legislation.” Taylor made the comparison of how an election can determine something like a city burn ban, but not the purchase of something like a police vehicle, but ultimately suggests that the City Council is aware that an election is not required and currently have no plans to refer their decision to buy Underhill Plaza to the voters.
“City council members and staff have received many positive comments from citizens on the decision to acquire the property,” said Taylor. “The Council will continue to ask for public comments on the best ways to utilize this property and move City services outside of the tsunami inundation zone.”
At this point Mastenik has only filed the initial petition forms and has yet to perform the further duties required of the Chief Petitioner, he intends to write a letter to the electors of Manzanita in the coming weeks that explain his actions and ask for their involvement in signing the petitions. The Headlight-Herald and North Coast Citizen reached out to the mayor and city councilors who chose not to comment.