A petition was submitted Tuesday to recall Pendleton at-large City Councilor Al Plute.
Pendleton City Recorder Andrea Denton said the petition is currently under review. If approved, it will require the petitioner to collect the signatures of 15 percent of the local voters from the last gubernatorial election, which would be 705 signatures.
Pendleton resident Roesch Kishpaugh filed the petition and has until April 25 to collect the requisite signatures.
In his petition, Kishpaugh accused Plute of failing to pay Pendleton Plumbing in a longstanding lawsuit.
“How can Pendleton citizens assume Plute would be unbiased in city business decisions?” Kishpaugh wrote.
He also reasoned that Plute should be recalled because he voted to institute a $5 street utility fee after voters rejected a 5 cent gas tax.
Kishpaugh declined to comment Wednesday. He said he was driving and couldn’t talk.
Plute was characteristically blunt in his assessment of the petition, calling it a “cheap shot” that was backed by “cowards and a bully.”
“I do not apologize for the lawsuit and I don’t apologize for the utility fee to get our roads repaired,” he said.
Plute couldn’t remember having any interactions with Kishpaugh but suspected more were involved in the petition. He declined to name who else he thought was involved in the petition besides Kishpaugh.
Plute said Kishpaugh’s claim about the Pendleton Plumbing lawsuit was false.
While a judge did order Plute to pay more than $61,000 in the billing dispute and $218,423 in attorney fees to Pendleton Plumbing, Plute said he appealed the ruling and eventually settled with the company for an amount he couldn’t disclose because of a confidentiality agreement.
As for the street utility fee, Plute noted that he was one of six councilors who voted in favor of the fee and Kishpaugh and his associates did not voice their opposition to the fee when it was passed in December.
Kishpaugh faces a long road to recall Plute.
Denton said that if Kishpaugh is successful in gathering 705 signatures in 90 days and submits them, the Umatilla County Elections Division has 10 days to verify the signatures.
Successful signature verification will trigger a five-day period where Plute will be given the option to resign or submit a statement of justification.
If he submits a statement or takes no action during those five days, the city will be required to hold a recall election within the next 35 days.
If Pendleton voters then choose to vote Plute out of office in a recall election, the Pendleton City Council will appoint a replacement to fill out the remainder of Plute’s term, which runs through 2018.
The last local recall attempt that made it to the ballot was in 2013, when Weston voters decided to keep their mayor, Duane Thul. In 2012, four Hermiston city councilors and the mayor were the targets of a recall attempt but also kept their positions after a vote.
Plute said he was less concerned about his title as city councilor than helping to improve Pendleton, something he could do as a regular citizen.
In summarizing his thoughts about the petition, Plute quote former House Speaker Sam Rayburn.
“A jackass can kick a barn down, but it takes a carpenter to build one.”
Contact Antonio Sierra at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0836.