Speech to Grants Pass City Council, 10/7/09, posted on ILoveGrantsPass.com.
We have a City Council meeting tonight, but we are without a legal quorum, despite the efforts of Mayor Murphy to pretend that he can appoint councilors and the pliancy of Judge Baker. The clear language of ORS 221.160 gives the mayor no authority to appoint councilors to vacant seats. He has the sole authority, so long as he is in office, to call a special election to fill those seats, and to appoint officials necessary to running such election, if any such offices should also be vacant.
I wanted to talk about mulches tonight, but we citizens cannot bring you our business, because we don’t know that anything you do will stand when litigation is done. It matters little to me exactly who sits on this council; I’ll talk to anybody. It matters a lot to me that you be legally appointed or elected and that whatever action you take is legal and enforceable.
We have a way out of this pickle that can give us an undoubtedly legal council quorum right away. Section 2 of ORS 221.160 provides that, if all seats of a city’s governing body become vacant, the County Commissioners shall immediately appoint a quorum sufficient to conduct city business. The appointed councilors then appoint enough people to fill out the council, and everyone serves until people are elected to replace them in presumably regular elections; no special election in March would be needed.
At this point, the best way that the new councilors, old councilors, and the Mayor can serve the city and its citizens is to resign en masse, and allow the Commissioners to appoint a legal quorum. They can even present themselves to the Commissioners for immediate appointment, or to the councilors for subsequent appointments, as can the losing candidates in the last election, and anyone else who is eligible and interested in serving. There are not that many people interested in full-time jobs with no pay and a lot of grief; the Commissioners will need all the choices that they can get.
The Commissioners were not involved in the controversy that led to this situation; Mayor Murphy was in it up to his neck. It is not fitting that a single man, and a party to the controversy at that, appoint the replacements for the recalled councilors whom he opposed. State law does not allow it, despite the incompetence of attorneys on both sides of Monday’s hearing and a judge’s deliberate ignorance of the law, and his appointments will not stand.
Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener 541-955-9040 firstname.lastname@example.org