City & Government, Cottage Grove

Round 2 of recall attempt afoot in Grove

Councilor fed up, files elections law violation against petitioner 

COTTAGE GROVE – In what may feel like a time warp back to last August, some Cottage Grove City councilors may face a recall vote this summer, after a citizen gathered enough signatures to garner consideration from the Elections Office. Again.

What’s more, in response to these recall attempts, one city councilor has reported an election law violation to the Oregon Secretary of State against the chief petitioner, citing inaccurate statements having been made on the petitioning form. 

Community members may recall that chief petitioner, Michael Borke, last year attempted to recall councilors Mike Fleck, Chalice Savage, and Jon Stinnett. 

That attempt failed due to insufficient verifiable signatures. Not long after, he reset his sights on Fleck and Savage — only this time, he’s attempting to oust councilor Alex Dreher, too. 

Borke turned in the petition signatures for the three to city recorder Mindy Roberts on May 23. Should he be successful, a special election would be held in the summer. A special election like this could cost taxpayers at least $15,000. As Savage recalled last August, Cottage Grove’s special election in 2012 cost the taxpayers $12,000, not including the cost of printing and mailing out ballots. Inflation over the last 12 years would result in a few thousand dollars being tacked onto 2012’s total.

Borke said he is focusing on this set of councilors because, “they are staunch supporters in increasing the unhoused population in Cottage Grove.”

Last time he attempted this recall, he said it was because city council had not acted on any issue he had discussed during public forums last year. Borke was specifically concerned with how the City was managing its unhoused community.

While he again targeted Fleck and Chalice this time around, Borke has shifted his energy from Stinnett to Dreher.

Borke said Dreher “was never elected by anybody within the City.” Dreher was unanimously appointed to council in January 2023 by the mayor and councilors to fill the vacant at-large position left vacant by Ken Roberts. 

Borke also speculates that Stinnett will have opponents running against him this fall — one of which may be Borke himself, who said he has “not yet decided” if he will throw his hat in the ring.

Dreher’s seat is also up for election this fall, though, meaning, should Borke be successful, she’d be going up for a recall vote just months before her seat is on the ballot. 

Borke needed to collect 15% of the votes from the last gubernatorial election — so at least 654 verifiable signatures for each of the three councilors. He said he collected 850-875 signatures for each councilor.

“Even with a 20% kickback, we’ll have over the number we’ll need for all of them,” Borke said.

Roberts said she completed her review and delivered the paperwork to the County Elections office on May 28. The County now has 30 days to verify signatures, making its deadline June 27.

Having twice now been Borke’s recall target, Fleck’s had enough. 

Last weekend, he reported an election law violation to the Oregon Secretary of State against Borke.

Fleck said that the recall form Borke submitted to the City on Feb. 14 includes false information. He said he warned Borke on April 8 that he may either file a complaint with the Secretary of State or file a suit in Circuit Court. 

He has chosen the former.

Fleck said that the first fallacy on the form states that he voted for a resolution that “allows free camping in more than 30 of our parks and public spaces for homeless (people). This has resulted in an influx of homeless people into our community, and with it, more concerns for rampant drug use, personal safety, sanitation issues, and crime.” 

Fleck said he and the rest of the council followed the process outlined by the ordinance. 

“Ordinance 2086 outlines the process that was used evaluating the City of Cottage Grove’s public spaces, ALL public spaces. It involved setting three levels of use. Level 1 sites are the only sites currently designated to allow camping… There are currently two level 1 sites designated for camping,” Fleck wrote to Borke in an email on April 8. “You know this and have presented false information to the public in this filing.”

Borke also claimed that Fleck was “unnecessarily spending” taxpayer money, and that, “in 2022, he voted to spend $100,000 on an already funded project.”

Fleck rejected this statement in an April 8 email to Borke, saying, “This funding was the use of $100,000 of ARPA funds to support building a Federally Qualified Health Clinic in Cottage Grove. The clinic, in fact, did not have all the funds needed for completion at the time we approved this expenditure.”

After outlining his issues with the information on the form, Fleck had offered Borke to “stop this recall nonsense,” instead asking him to “sit down and work toward solutions.”

“I said, ‘If that’s where you want to go, let the courts decide. We’ll go from there,’” Borke told The Chronicle. “We were very careful to make sure the things said (on the form) were actually true. (What) he’s bringing up depends on your point of view, but I doubt he’s gonna wanna take me to court on that.”

Fleck has not yet heard back from the Secretary of State regarding his complaint.

Dreher declined to comment, and Savage could not be reached before The Chronicle’s deadline.

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