Overflowing city council chambers admidst calls for recall, councilor Brent Berry swiches sides to save Councilor Hoitink’s position on the Council.
A Depoe Bay City Council faced an overflow crowd of angry citizens Tuesday night, all demanding that no more attempts be made to remove Councilor Skip Hoitink from the City Council. They were also outraged that a long serving member of the Harbor Commission was not re-appointed for another term. In both instances, councilors trying to oust Hoitink and who did not reappoint Lars Robison to the Harbor Commission, were accused of trying to ignore the wellbeing of the town in favor of setting up a crony council.
Mayor AJ Mattila made the first move to again try to oust Hoitink from the council. Mattila said his reading of the city charter, reviewing the opinion given by the city attorney and his belief that Hoitink is no longer legally allowed to sit on the council due to his moving to Newport, entertained a motion to oust Hoitink. Motion made, seconded and that opened it up for discussion, including the public.
And the public really let ’em have it. One by one, citizens of Depoe Bay came forward to express their dismay and anger at what has been happening to their city. Resident Jim Hayes looking straight ahead at Mayor Mattila said “You campaigned for mayor claiming you wanted to return the city to the people. Well, the opposite has happened. There has been controversy over slip leases, Lars Robison and Dockside Charters, controversy over public restrooms on the harbor and spending way too much scarce city revenues to replace a park bridge that should have been limited to a foot bridge.
Others complained, including former city councilor Debbie Davilla, who said she was angry and embarrassed for the city of Depoe Bay for the behavior of the council majority. John O’Brien accused Mattila of acting without fully engaging the city attorney. He said it appeared that Mattila was acting out of revenge – attacking over petty differences.
Krista Robison fired a volley of charges against Mattila and the council majority saying she was deeply hurt because her family has given an enormous amount of time energy to Depoe Bay, and for it all to be ignored and then insulted was wrong. Pointing her finger at Mattila she said “If you don’t straighten up there will be a recall.” Others mentioned recall as well, including Larry Rupert who said those who defended Hoitink, all three voting against his dismissal from the council should be given apologies by the council majority.
Laird Brown noted letters sent by the city attorney that urged the council not to remove Hoitink because his move to Newport does not mean he’s no longer a legal resident of Depoe Bay. Others reminded the council that people join the military and live for a while in other places and other countries, but they’re still legal residents of Depoe Bay. In Hoitink’s case, he still owns and pays taxes on a home inside the city limits of Depoe Bay. He says his residency in Newport is temporary and depending on how things work out for him, he’ll reoccupy his house or find another residence to move in to, in Depoe Bay.
David Barkhurst reminded the council that Hoitink has been a long time resident and a tireless volunteer for the community. He noted that it wasn’t long ago that Hoitink received a plaque after being selected Depoe Bay’s Citizen of the Year award. Others said that Hoitink volunteers a lot of his time for various community projects and fundraisers. They say he doesn’t deserve what’s happened to him.
At that point Hoitink said he didn’t think he had to give up his seat on the council and that his legal residency is in Depoe Bay.
Councilor Dorinda Goddard confronted Mattila saying “You considered the residency issue somewhat theoretical and elusive. Not for us! It goes to the heart of the matter.”
At that point the tide turned. Councilor Brent Berry who had voted with Mayor Mattila and councilors Olsen and Gambino to oust Hoitink, threw in the towel. He apologized to the two councilors who supported Hoitink staying on the council. At that moment it looked like the vote was going against Mattila, Olsen and Gambino. And when the roll call vote was started it was Berry’s “NO”vote that made it 4 to 3 against any further action against Hoitink. Berry actually took a long pause before casting his vote. But after a few moments he voted “No” adding, “This is stupid.”
Mattila noted the vote and said in a defeated but accepting tone, “Democracy has found its way. Justice has been done.”
One particular unsettled issue is that Mayor Mattila has claimed several times, that his conversations with the city attorney and in reading the city attorney’s written opinion on the Hoitink matter led him to believe that he, Mattila, was on the right side of the law and the rules of the city charter. However, NewsLincolnCounty.com obtained a copy of those documents and the attorney is very clear. He said that establishing legal residency is very troublesome. He cited instances where there can be temporary interruptions to where someone sleeps at night, but it doesn’t mean it’s proof, as in Hoitink’s case, he is no longer a legal resident of Depoe Bay. The city attorney also used another example – a long deployment in the military to a foreign country. The courts have ruled that where one claims is his or her home is valid, especially when one owns property in that specific community. Hoitink owns his home in Depoe Bay jointly with his wife. The city attorney also added, that to continue pressing for Hoitink’s removal could cause an expensive lawsuit against the city.