Metolius residents could be faced with a City Council recall question for the second time in as many years.
This time, the mayor and three of five councilors have been targeted for the way they handled a recent dustup involving the city’s use of a toy train built by a convicted child molester.
“(Mayor) Carl Elliott has brought shame and disgrace to the residents of the City of Metolius,” reads the recall application filed with the state by the group Friends of Metolius.
“He publicly disrespected the victim of child abuse and pushed forward his agenda against common decency and integrity.”
Last week, Friends of Metolius filed paperwork with the Oregon Secretary of State’s office to petition to hold recall elections for Elliott, Council President Patty Wyler and Councilors Dan Dulaney and Denise Keeton.
To trigger a special election to recall the four councilors, the Friends of Metolius must collect 43 signatures for each within 90 days. At the moment, the group has no specific date for the special election.
A representative of the group said it isn’t going after the remaining two councilors, Candi Canga and Ema Urieta, because their terms are up at the end of the year and both have said they will not run again.
A seventh seat on the council is vacant.
In early 2019, the city bought a four-car wooden train for $500, unaware it had a dark origin. The council spent $2,500 refurbishing it before learning it had been built by Richard Eugene Pickett, now serving a 36-year prison sentence for sexually abusing his stepdaughter over an 8-year period.
Pickett’s victim, Cassie Ruwaldt, now 29, attended a March council meeting and shared her story. She asked the council to get rid of the train. Despite this, the council voted unanimously on July 7 to display it outside city hall.
The Bulletin reported on the issue July 17, and councilors were inundated with angry calls and emails. That night, Elliott instructed a public works employee to destroy the train and haul it to a landfill.
The next week, an emergency meeting was held so the council could retroactively approve Elliott’s decision to destroy city property. The meeting lasted nearly four minutes, and no public comment was taken.
Friends of Metolius is led by former city Councilor Tryna Muilenberg, who helped organize the recall of John Chavez as mayor in 2019. Chavez was ousted after it was revealed he withheld information about two arrests. Following the recall election, Elliott, as council president, assumed the title of mayor.
If the required signatures are collected, the recall vote could be close. Chavez was elected by a margin of one vote in 2018 (edging Muilenberg), and the recall passed by 53 votes.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Muilenberg, who intends to run for mayor in November, asks that interested residents contact her by phone at 541-325-2269 to minimize door-to-door contact.