Plans to recall commissioners underway
Written by Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer   
July 02, 2013 09:28 pm

Ophir resident Paul Mohlin plans to file a petition on Monday to have county commissioners David Brock Smith and David Itzen recalled.

 Smith has been on the board since Jan. 7; Itzen, since January 2011.

Mohlin said he also has the support of Brookings City Councilman Brent Hodges; Bob Pieper of Brookings, who has been vocal about his disappointment in the board; and David Darnell of Gold Beach, who was instrumental in getting Sheriff Mark Metcalf recalled in 2007.

The men are among the dozen or so residents pursuing the recall because of their dissatisfaction with the county commission for trying to implement taxes, their alleged treatment of citizens at meetings and the “flip-flopping” — notably pre-campaign promises not to tax people — on issues.

“I’m tired of people getting pushed around by the government,” Mohlin said. “But it’s mostly stemming from the tax issue.”

County commissioners last week backed off a second reading of a proposal that would have placed on a fall ballot a question asking to implement a 3 percent sales tax. That idea came on the heels of a May 21 election asking for a property tax increase, which failed 56 to 44 percent.

Mohlin said he distributed flyers before the planned second reading June 26 and managed to fill the county commissioner meeting room with citizens against the tax.

“We had enough people at that meeting it scared him,” Darnell said. 

State law requires a six-month waiting period from the date the commissioners were sworn into office — Jan. 7 — before recall papers can be filed.

After he files his request July 8, Mohlin and his group will begin to collect the 1,542 valid signatures – 10 percent of those who voted in the last November general election – needed to get it to a vote.

After the signatures are collected and verified, the two named county commissioners have 10 days to respond to allegations. Then, the county clerk has 45 days to set an election.

Darnell said he thinks it will take two to three weeks to get the needed signatures.

“His main concern is that they don’t have the best interests of the people of Curry County at heart, or they wouldn’t try to force these taxes down our throats,” Darnell said. “(Commissioner) Susan Brown has good ideas, but they are just shutting her down. They won’t listen to her.”

“We’ve got the signatures, and we’re not going to stop,” Darnell said. “I know damn well he’s (Smith) is going to turn around and walk all over the people again. He does not respect the people of Curry County at all.”

The two think they have good chances in getting the two recalled from office.

“I don’t know how many people in Brookings want to go door-to-door,” Darnell said. “This thing just blew. From Langlois to the California border. When I recalled Metcalf, if was nothing like this. They want petitions.”

Itzen isn’t so sure.

“This is the perfect example of what I’ve asked people to be aware of as we try to find a solution to our revenue shortage in Curry County,” he said. “There will be constant diversion. I’ve heard lottery – there’s an example of a diversion. Further attempts to downsize county government; that is a diversion. This is just the latest. Every day is interesting in Curry County government.

“We have to find a Curry County solution because there isn’t any other one out there. I’m confident our citizens will concentrate on the task at hand, which is to replace lost timber revenue. We haven’t quite crafted what they will support, but I think they’ll be there in the next election.” 

Smith indicated his surprise at the news.

He said when he was elected, he learned the county had a “serious and immediate revenue problem.” In crafting a $2.1 million budget – the amount of revenue the general fund will see this fiscal year (beginning July 1) – he realized his economic development plans would not begin to reap the immediate financial benefits needed to address the shortfall.

County commissioners have been working on a forest collaborative to clear material left from the 2002 Biscuit Fire – providing logging jobs and reducing wildfire danger – a wind energy project, and a manufactured-home rehabilitation program hoped to be a prototype for the state.

“This first six months in office working for (the citizens) has not been easy,” Smith wrote in an email, “but I took on the challenge to help solve our problems and make Curry County a better place to live, work and do business.”

Mohlin said he hasn’t thought about what would follow should either or both of the commissioners be recalled, except to say there are other citizens willing to step up – and that he has no ideas how to solve Curry County’s fiscal crisis.

“I’ve heard ‘Lottery, lottery, lottery,’” he said. “You can’t even do that; it’s against the law. This is just a start. Somebody had to do something, so we are.”

Smith said, “It would be easy for me to sit on the fence regarding the serious public safety funding issues. But I believe that would be irresponsible of me and a blatant disservice to (everyone). The responsible path, in my opinion, is to listen to our citizens, give the facts, create a fair funding proposal and let the citizens have their voice through their right to vote.”