Lexington budget meeting

Lexington city councilors study the budget in July at city hall while mayor Marcia Kemp, left, explains portions of it to the public.

LEXINGTON — Marcia Kemp is resigning from her position as mayor of Lexington, less than two weeks before an Oct. 22 recall election against her.

Lexington Mayor Marcia Kemp is resigning from her position as mayor of Lexington, less than two weeks before an Oct. 22 recall election agains…

Kemp said the council had refused to work with her, had stopped letting her sign checks and she suspected they were discussing city business together outside of council chambers to circumvent her. She said she had come to the conclusion that wouldn’t change even if she survived the recall effort.

“They have tied my hands,” she said. “My time is done here.”

She said she would consider the resignation effective as soon as the letter she wrote announcing her resignation appeared in the East Oregonian.

On July 1, the city’s government was shut down for nine days after three of the four councilors did not show up for a budget hearing held two days before the end of the fiscal year. At the time, the three councilors and their supporters claimed Kemp had not sent them reminders in order to make them look bad, while Kemp and her supporters said they purposely skipped the meeting to make her look bad.

The back-and-forth has continued. In phone calls with the East Oregonian on Wednesday, Kemp stated the council had undermined her by refusing to work with her, while councilor Bill Beard said it was Kemp who refused to work with the council, making as many decisions as she could without their input.

“She excluded the council,” he said. “We never had information about what was going on. We need to work as a team, and there is no team.”

Kemp said she wanted to work with the council to make Lexington a better place, but when she came in she found they weren’t following some procedures they should have been. In her letter to the EO where she first announced her resignation, she stated that she contacted Morrow County officials, the League of Oregon Cities, the city of Lexington’s legal council and state agencies and “was advised to correct the violations.”

“When I started to change the council way of doing business, the personal attacks against me started at council meetings, on social media and in the newspaper,” she continued.

Lexington resident Will Lemmon was one of those who was outspoken against Kemp at council meetings and elsewhere since she became mayor in January. He was the one who initiated the recall effort against her, stating that she put her personal agenda above the city’s well-being, failed to communicate with city councilors and was exceeding her authority.

After the EO informed him of Kemp’s resignation, he said in an email he was glad that the city would be able to leave behind all the “drama” Kemp had caused, but he was shocked by the news.

“Marcia was adamant that she would not resign, she responded to the recall and ballots have been mailed costing the town hundreds of dollars, and now she resigns?” he wrote.

After the subject of a recall has been notified, they have five days to choose whether to resign or to respond with a formal statement about why they should not be recalled. Since Kemp initially issued a statement, and did not change her mind until after ballots were mailed, Morrow County clerk Bobbi Childers said the election process must run its course with ballots accepted through Oct. 22, even if the results are now moot.

The election is Lexington’s second this month — Beard survived a recall effort on Oct. 1, with 54 residents voting to keep him in office and 43 in favor of removing him.

That recall was filed by former city maintenance worker Eddie Dickenson, who quit his job with the city after Beard was not recalled. The city’s other employee, recorder Dawn Greisen, also resigned recently. Beard said the council will discuss in its next meeting how to replace them.

Dickenson said he resigned because he was tired of being caught in the middle between the two sides, even after he repeatedly asked them to talk directly to each other instead of complaining to him. He also said it was difficult to do his job after Beard — who had been supervising him — stopped returning his phone calls following a disagreement between them about whether to turn a resident’s water back on after it was shut off due to two months of nonpayment.

He said he filed the recall petition against Beard because Beard had not “fulfilled his obligation as a councilor” when he didn’t attend the budget hearing in June. Dickenson considered councilor Bobbi Gordon and Curtis Thompson responsible too, but said he was only allowed to file one recall petition at a time. After Beard was not recalled, he said he didn’t plan to try again with the others.

He said he felt Kemp’s heart was in the right place in trying to improve the city, but she couldn’t get things done with a majority of the council opposing her “every step of the way.”

When asked about the recall against him, Beard said it was filed by a “disgruntled employee.”

He said he thought all of the controversy of the past year had actually brought the residents of Lexington closer together and spurred them to be more active in the community. Kemp resigning, he said, should “smooth things out” and let them get back to the business of improving the city.

“This is not normal for Lexington,” he said. “It’s a good town, with good people.”

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.