State looks in to Cascade Locks recall complaint

October 1, 2011

Recall the recall, says Cody Steelman of Cascade Locks.

Steelman has filed a complaint with the Oregon Secretary of State's office citing what he believes are election law violations by the Five Alarm Recall political action committee.

The complaint by Steelman will have no effect on the Sept. 20 election certification, according to Kim Kean, elections supervisor, who consulted with the Secretary of State's office.

Five Alarm organized the Sept. 20 recall of Mayor George Fischer and council members Kevin Benson, Don Haight and Tiffany Pruit. Voters approved the recall of all four officials, by a general 53-47 percent margin.

(Haight resigned Sept. 23; however, the other officials technically remain in office until certification of the election by the county, scheduled for Oct. 10. The Cascade Locks Council, with Fischer, Benson and Pruit in place, met Monday for what is likely the final time.)

Steelman asks the Secretary of State to recall the recall vote against Fischer, Haight, Benson and Pruit, and asks for a new election in the attempted recall against council member Lance Masters. That petition, filed by Michael Blakley of Cascade Locks, failed in the ballot with Masters retaining his council seat by a 60-40 percent margin.

Kean has until Oct. 10 to complete the certification. However, she said Thursday that she expects to certify the vote by Oct. 3, given that her office would be ready by Sept. 30 to tabulate the 13 challenge ballots that were pulled from the main count on Sept. 20. Challenge ballots include nine which the county needs to verify for correct signatures and addresses associated with the ballots.

The list of challenge ballots also includes four ballots that had been challenged before the election by a citizen who questioned whether those four voters lived in Cascade Locks and could legally cast ballots. Kean said the citizen requested a total of 16 names be examined, but there were only four ballots submitted out of that list.

Steelman said, "The Five Alarm Recall Committee (ran) around saying 'Do not let your vote be taken away from you,' when the fact is they downright stole the votes with untruths and an unlawful campaign. Therefore it is only fitting for me to challenge the unlawful injustices this Five Alarm Recall Committee has committed."

Steelman claims that the PAC failed to give its name and address on its mailers, which is required by law.

Investigators are looking into Steelman's charge that the group exceeded the $2,000 in expenditures allowed by law, as well as "undue influence" in campaign materials, and whether some materials were properly labeled, according to Communications Manager Andrea Cantu.

Undue influence charges include serving refreshments at a community meeting sponsored by Five Alarm and distribution of emails by former interim city administrator Rich Carson.

Cantu could not comment on the investigation until after its completion, which she said would likely be a month or more. Investigators are still determining the timeline, according to Cantu.

Some of Steelman's allegations, including tampering with public records, are outside the Secretary of State's purview, Cantu said.

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