The voters of Depoe Bay on May 19th will weigh in on the issue of when someone on the council is no longer eligible to stay on the council. The issue arose last year when former councilor Skip Hoitink started staying temporarily in an apartment in Newport while he tried to smooth out his relationship with his wife who remained in the home they jointly owned in Depoe Bay. Hoitink said his permanent residence remained with his Depoe Bay home and refused to remove himself from the council. A majority of the council voted him off anyway. By the next meeting, the city attorney had counseled the majority that their decision might not hold up in court, and so the majority backed off and allowed Hoitink to resume his seat on the council.
In the meantime the issue obviously was bubbling among the council majority as they sought to devise a way to dismiss someone from the council even if they’re only temporarily staying outside the city. So they came up with a new phrasing for grounds to kick someone off the council – “Anyone ceasing to reside in the city.”
Such phrasing has been roundly criticized in legal circles due to the vagaries of modern life. People own more than one home. They spend extended periods of time with family living far away or they go on extended vacations or business trips. Therefore, when does someone actually “cease to reside” in a particular location? Legal experts routinely call such a determination as being “very difficult.” Other factors weigh in, as in “where do you get your mail, where do you bring your groceries ‘home,’ where are you registered to vote? Even if the voters of Depoe Bay approve this “clarifying” change to their city charter May 19th, the issue will likely be far from settled.
The city of Bend recently was confronted with a dilemma of whether to swear in a winner in a city council race even though he hadn’t lived within the city limits of Bend for over a year. But because he was building a new home within the city limits, a majority of the council allowed him to be sworn in as a new city councilor. The Secretary of State (now our governor) said the Bend City Council had wide latitude to determine whether Casey Roats was qualified to take his seat on the council, and so by approving his “win,” the council was within the law.
By the way, the charter language on qualifications for city council in the Bend City Charter is much tighter than the language in the Depoe Bay City Charter, even with the so-called “clearer language” approved by the Depoe Bay council this week.
The Bend City Charter states:
CHAPTER IV COUNCIL
Section 12. Qualifications.
(1) A councilor shall be a qualified elector (voter) under the state constitution and shall have resided in the city during the 12 months immediately before being elected or appointed to the office. In this subsection, “city” means area inside the city limits at the time of the election or appointment.
Again, even though he didn’t live inside the city limits for over a year before the election, and even though he filed his voter registration at his business address (which is inside the city limits), Casey Roats was none the less seated on the Bend City Council because he convinced (a majority of) the council that he intended to live inside the city limits and declared that Bend is his city of domicile – of permanent residency. And the Secretary of State backed him up, acknowledging that where one claims is his/her residence is usually upheld by the courts. Mr. Coats is registered to vote in Bend via his business address. Where was Mr. Hoitink registered to vote? At his residence in Depoe Bay. No wonder the city attorney was rather adamant about the need for “an abundance of caution” at removing Mr. Hoitink. One may therefore expect that the new Depoe Bay charter change may NOT prove effective in the future no matter which way townspeople vote on it, due to the law’s wide interpretation of where one “lives.”
Whither speed bumps?
In other action, the city council decided that something needs to be done about pedestrian safety on Shell Avenue that connects Highway 101 with the harbor boat launch ramp. A suggestion that speed bumps be installed was determined to be illegal without elaborate signage and road paint as set in state regulations for road construction. So the council settled for signs saying “Caution – Children.”
Still waiting on Medical Marijuana
And the council postponed final action as to where medical marijuana can or cannot be sold within the city limits of Depoe Bay. The council must have those rules in place prior to May 1st, the day when the city’s moratorium on medical marijuana outlets is repealed by state law. Otherwise the city is left with only the regulations stated in state law which are looser than regulations proposed by the city council.