According to Section 23 of the Bay City Charter, under Elector Qualifications, it states “An elective City Officer shall be a qualified elector under the State Constitution and shall have resided in this City during the 12 months immediately before being elected or appointed to the office. In this subsection “City” means area inside the City limits at the time of the election or appointment.”
Take note of the fact that it doesn’t use the word “resident” or “residence” – it uses the word “reside.”
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “Reside” as: To dwell permanently or continuously: occupy a place as one’s legal domicile: to be present as an element or quality.”
So “reside” is an action verb. It means the physical presence of someone, as does the word “occupy.”
If a person wanting to run for office had spent five or six of those 12 months in another state, I say they were not residing in that city – in this case, Bay City – for the 12 months prior to the election, and therefore were not eligible to even be on the ballot.
Oregon State Law, Tillamook County District Attorney Bill Porter, and Tassi O’Neill, Tillamook County Clerk, do not agree. According to them, if a person owns a home in Bay City, is registered to vote in Tillamook County, pay their taxes in Oregon, and has a valid Oregon Driver’s License, then they have been here for those previous 12 months right up to election time – even if they have been physically residing in Arizona for six, eight, or eleven months of that time!
So if you look at it one way, Helen Wright, who was just elected to the Bay City Council this last November, actually didn’t even have to physically be here at all prior to election day. All she had to do was meet the aforementioned criteria and she was eligible. Even after she submitted a change of address form to the U.S. Postal Service stating she would be physically gone and residing at her residence in Arizona for five or six months, which she did indeed do.
But if you, like me, believe that “reside” – which means “occupy” – which means the physical presence of someone – then she was indeed not eligible to be on the ballot in the first place.
When the Germans “occupied” France during World War II, they were physically there, trust me on this one if you happen to be a bit rusty on your history. That’s pretty much etched in as to what it means. Occupy a country and you are physically there! No way around that one.
Now it certainly makes perfect sense that in the case of Oregon State Officials (i.e. senators and congressional members) that they may very well and actually do often spend more time in Washington, D.C. than here in Oregon. But there is nothing I can find that says any part of a Tillamook County or Bay City Official’s job requires them to go outside of their state to perform any scope of their duties.
Now let’s examine just how much a member of the Bay City Council is expected to attend meetings – by the way their own city law is written.
Under Bay City Ordinance 380 – An Ordinance Compelling Attendance of Council Members – under Section 2 – Vacancies – it states “In the event that any Council member fails, neglects, or refuses to attend the meetings of the Council for two consecutive meetings or four meetings in six months without excuse, the member’s office shall be declared vacant by the council and filled in the manner provided by the City Charter.
The founders of the Bay City Charter were so adamant about making sure their Council members attended these monthly meetings that it also states, under Section 1 (also Ordinance 380), that “The Council, when in session or when any three members are present at the appointed hour for a meeting, may compel attendance of the absent members in the following manner: a) call the absent member by telephone and requesting their attendance or explanation, and b) direct that a deputy sheriff or some other peace officer bring the ABSENT Council member before the council. Such direction shall be a written order signed by the Mayor.
When this was passed and adopted by the City Council on May 3, 1979 and approved by the Mayor Virgil “Bub” Simmons, I think what they were referring to was the physical presence of the absent Council member, otherwise the section (B) directing a deputy to bring them before the Council would never have been included, and Section (A) therefore must also mean the physical attendance of that absent member.
Helen Wright has missed every City Council Meeting since last October. January will be month four she has consecutively missed. She has been allowed to call by phone from her residence in Arizona. Was that approved by the City Council for each of those meetings? It seems I can’t find it anywhere in the minutes. But I can tell you this: It has at least been allowed (or maybe ignored?) by the Council for four months and Shaena Peterson, the former Mayor of 15 years, is one of Helen Wright’s best friends!
Crystal Killion, Bay City Council President, said in an interview on Dec. 22 “Helen was excused from being physically present at one of the workshops in the past four months but she was never excused from being physically absent at any of the Council meetings or told that she could call in rather then being here.”
If they are allowing Wright to physically be gone for half the meetings each year, would they not have to allow the same of the other five members if they requested it? And if that happened how would you feel to know you had no city government for half the year? I see nothing in the Rules of Order for Bay City that makes an exception for snowbirds that are physically gone for 5 to 6 months of each year. Would the people of Bay City really want a Councilor in their city government who is gone for half the year? How effective would that person be for the welfare of their community?
Wright isn’t expected back from her residence in Arizona until March or April, which will be six months she will have been gone. I wonder if the City Council have compelled her to attend? I’m betting not.
Under Chapter V of the Bay City Rules of Order (Powers and Duties of Officers) – Vacancies – it states under Section 17: “The office of a member of the Council becomes vacant (2)(b) if the council member is “absent from the City for 30 days without the Council consent or from all meetings of the Council within a 60-day period.”
Under Section 18 Vacancies: Filling, it states “A vacancy of the Council shall be filled by appointment of the Mayor with approval of the Councilors.”
Will Mayor Kruebbe declare this vacancy at the Bay City Council meeting on Tuesday, January 8th?
The public is invited to attend the Bay City Workshop on Monday, January 7th at 5:30 p.m. and the Bay City Council meeting on Tuesday, January 8th at 6:00 pm.
It should be interesting.