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Plute to move to Eugene, leave city council

Twice elected city council to manage three downtown properties from afar
Antonio Sierra

East Oregonian

Published on April 4, 2016 12:01AM

Last changed on April 4, 2016 10:07PM

Pendleton City Councilor Al Plute has announced he will be resigning from the council and moving away from Pendleton. Plute has many properties in Pendleton, including the St. George Plaza, which he says he will hold onto and manage from his new place of residence.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Pendleton City Councilor Al Plute has announced he will be resigning from the council and moving away from Pendleton. Plute has many properties in Pendleton, including the St. George Plaza, which he says he will hold onto and manage from his new place of residence.

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Following seven years in Pendleton, Al Plute is leaving town.

Plute, a Pendleton city councilor and the owner of several downtown buildings, said Monday that he intends to resign from the council in May and move out of the city.

Plute said a recent spate of criticism and personal attacks contributed to his decision to leave Pendleton and move to the Eugene area.

Plute’s departure will mark an abrupt end to a rapidly ascendant political and civic career.

A native of Northern California, Plute bought the Brown Building in 2005 and later the Bowman Building and the Temple Hotel, renaming the latter the St. George Plaza in honor of its original moniker.

Plute estimated he invested $7 million into those buildings, which had fallen into deep disrepair before he bought them.

Plute made Pendleton his home in 2009 and was subsequently appointed to the city’s planning commission.

He beat a longtime incumbent to win an at-large seat on the city council in 2010 and ran unopposed for a second term in 2014.

Plute even briefly considered running for mayor, before a succession of local controversies soured him on Pendleton politics.

Pendleton Plumbing sued Plute’s development company in 2013 over a billing dispute, and the two sides battled in court for years before reaching a settlement agreement this winter.

To pay for his legal fees during his lawsuit, Plute fell behind on his property taxes, although he said he’s now mostly caught up.

Plute’s political career was no less contentious during that time.

Plute led a campaign to enact a 5-cent gas tax to help pay for road repairs across the city, but voters widely rejected the measure in November.

In December, Plute joined five other councilors in approving a $5 street utility fee, an additional funding mechanism the council had previously decided to enact whether the gas tax passed or not.

A group called Pendleton Citizens United used all of these events and more to launch a recall petition against Plute in January.

“When people started questioning my character, it was time to leave Pendleton,” he said.

Plute said one of the reasons he and his wife decided to move to Eugene is its city government already has funding measures like a gas tax in place.

Pendleton Citizens United treasurer Larry Anderson said he was unsure if the group would continue collecting signatures for a recall, but would be satisfied with a Plute resignation.

To trigger a recall election, Pendleton Citizens United needs to collect 705 signatures by April 25. Anderson said they have already collected 600 signatures.

A characteristically outspoken Plute was unsparing in his description of Pendleton Citizens United and their ilk, calling them the “village idiots.”

As for the three downtown buildings that have been a source of both praise and scrutiny, Plute said he will continue to manage them from afar and return to Pendleton once a month to take care of his tenants’ needs.

Mayor Phillip Houk said Plute should be proud of his time on the council and the investment he has made in the downtown area, while also noting his blunt demeanor.

“Al just said what he thought ... you always knew where he stood,” Houk said.

Plute plans to stay on the council through May, which would allow him to give input during the city’s budgeting process.

Plute said his work on the city council wasn’t for the title or prestige but for the betterment of Pendleton and he is confident that his ideas on finding new sources of revenue and sustainability will be vindicated.

“I’ve given (the city) a road map to success, and its up to them whether to follow it,” he said.

Plute’s last city council meeting is scheduled for May 17.

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Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.



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