City & Government, Cottage Grove

2nd city council recall attempt sticks

City Recorder: Cottage Grove special election scheduled July 30

COTTAGE GROVE – Chief petitioner Michael Borke has done what he was unable to last year: collect enough valid signatures to move forward with a special election in an attempt to recall three Cottage Grove City Councilors.

Councilors Mike Fleck, Chalice Savage, and Alex Dreher had until yesterday, June 26 to resign from their positions. As of The Chronicle’s Tuesday deadline, none of these councilors were expected to resign.

The trio of councilors are not necessarily bound to be recalled, though, since the county is a mixed bag when it comes to recent recall success rates.

For example, Eugene attempted to recall District 8 representative Paul Holvey last October, and 89.96% of voters were against that. In 2022, though, Eugene councilor Claire Syrett was successfully recalled after 59% of voters were in favor of removing her from the dais.

The only other recall attempt within the last decade was the City of Coburg’s attempt to recall mayor Jae Pudewell and councilors Jerry Behney and Brian Pech in 2014, none of whom were recalled.

Unlike Fleck and Savage, Dreher is already set to be on the November ballot. She said, “this reckless recall is not about anything we’ve actually done, rather it’s folks trying to thwart democracy.”

“It’s disappointing to think that the City may have to spend $15,000 on a reckless recall election three months before a regular election,” she said. “We just passed a really tough budget. That’s General Fund money the City won’t have to spend on our police department, which could really use that.”

The aforementioned $15,000 is an estimate to how much this special election will cost.

Dreher claimed that all councilors are “interchangeable” in Borke’s eyes, stating that first it was councilor Jon Stinnett, then it was councilor Dana Merryday, then it was Dreher that was targeted.

“They just want to disrupt and destroy, without coming to the table with any real solutions or work ethic,” Dreher said.

In light of the impending recall vote, Fleck has created a website to publicize his perspective and information about his history of volunteerism in local government and issues such as homelessness: councilorfleck.com.

“I would like to start by saying that I am worried for Cottage Grove and our country. Political divisiveness is running rampant, and it seems to be escalating out of control. Rather than work together to find solutions, we are at war with each other,” Fleck wrote. “Here in Cottage Grove, I, and two other Cottage Grove city councilors, are facing a recall effort. The recall process is supposed to be used to remove an elected official who has done something wrong. To my knowledge, we have all served our community with honor and integrity.”

Borke actually agreed with Dreher and Fleck’s points that the councilors have not acted in any egregious or dishonest ways that have resulted in this recall attempt.

“They have felt that they’ve done nothing wrong, and really, they really haven’t done anything wrong,” Borke said. “It’s just a difference of opinions for the City.

“We’re gonna run a campaign on three different things: City transparency, the unhoused situation, and the monetary or fiscal policy within the City.”

Savage said she is “discouraged that a group of folks wants to take the vote away from the people,” noting that Fleck and her were voted into their positions and Dreher, despite being unanimously appointed, is on the November ballot.

According to city election official Mindy Roberts, the county will put this issue on a ballot July 30.

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