COQUILLE — A political action committee, known as the “Committee to Recall Rowe,” filed paperwork earlier this month in Coquille. This action begins a petition process to try to recall Coquille City Councilman Matt Rowe.
In its paperwork, which was filed on Monday, June 1, the committee accuses Rowe of “abuse of office” and “disruption of public meetings.” According to the documents, the committee organizing the recall effort is being led by its chief petitioner Danette Foord.
The World attempted numerous times this month to reach Foord for comment as well as other co-petitioners listed in the paperwork which includes fellow Coquille residents Daniece Day, Jo Teel, Thomas Konomos and Deb Main, who is listed as the committee’s treasurer, to no success.
On Tuesday, another attempt was made to contact Foord, whose contact information on the petition is listed as the office number to The Sentinel, a weekly newspaper located on East First Street in Coquille.
A statement from the committee, which was read by Coquille Mayor Kathryn Simonetti via a telephone interview, was issued to The World on Tuesday. The statement reads:
“The Committee to Recall City Councilman Matt Rowe met on Tuesday for a progress report. It will take 250 signatures from registered voters who live within the city limits to put the recall on the November ballot. The committee has half of the needed signatures at this point and is confident of gaining the other half by September 1st which is the deadline.
"Among other violations Rowe has consistently disrupted council meetings to the point the public has become reluctant to volunteer for city projects and has councilors threatening to resign. We would like to return to the small town atmosphere of cooperation where a difference of opinion is not met with shouting and rudeness. Please stop by The Sentinel office or River Cities Reality to sign to petition to recall Matt Rowe.”
When asked what Simonetti’s involvement with the committee was and why she was reading the statement, she initially answered that she was part of the committee and that the group asked her to read the statement to the press.
Simonetti denied having any sort of involvement with filing the petition and repeatedly said she did not take part in the drafting of the statement and that she was only there to read the committee’s statement.
“Please understand that these are not my words,” said Simonetti. “Okay, this statement was put together by the committee. I’m only reading it to you ... I’m not voicing my opinion one way or the other on this I am only reading you the statement.”
Simonetti later said she would help the committee collect signatures, but then as the interview went on she changed her earlier comments and said that because she didn’t write the statement that she guessed she was not a part of the committee. She also changed her position on helping collect signatures on behalf on the committee and said she hadn’t decided yet if that is something she is going to do.
An additional request for follow-up comments from any of the co-petitioners or members of the committee on Tuesday was rejected as Simonetti said “no one is available for comment.”
Rowe denied the allegations brought forth in the petition and said he believes the claims are completely baseless and without merit.
“Really these folks have weaponized the recall process for petty political reasons without providing any evidence or facts,” said Rowe. “They expect the citizens of Coquille to pay the tab for their petty grievances which is not what the intent of the recall process is.”
According to Rowe, three of the four petitioners, who he did not identify, are associated with The Sentinel, a publication he claims has a long history of political opposition toward him. On the charge of abuse of office, Rowe said he finds the accusation particularly dishonest because he prides himself on being very ethical.
“I fill out an ethics report for the state every year and it’s a public record that anyone can look up online and it’s free,” said Rowe. “You’ll see there are no conflict of interests that I have in any way shape or form even though we had three council members vote to spend $8,000 in taxpayers’ dollars to have their sidewalks resurfaced in front of their businesses last year even though it went into direct opposition to our municipal code.
“I would think that’s unethical and abuse of office, but those people aren’t being recalled. I wonder if it’s because they’re supported politically by The Sentinel.”
Rowe did not identify the councilmembers. As for the charge of disrupting public meetings, Rowe also denied any wrongdoing and said none of the petitioners have been at a single council meeting that he can recall since he was elected to the council in November 2018.
According to the Oregon Secretary of State’s website, the chief petitioner may begin collecting signatures right after receiving written approval to circulate and after reviewing with circulators the legal requirements and guidelines associated with circulating the petition.
Signatures are due to the Coos County Elections Office no later than 90 days after the recall petition was filed. As part of the process, if the petition contains the required number of valid signatures,
Rowe will be given the opportunity to submit his resignation or file a statement of justification (SEL 352), which will outline why he declines to step down from office, no later than the fifth day after the petition qualifies to the ballot. A special recall election will then be held in November for voters to decide.
“I will never resign and I proudly stand by record,” said Rowe. “… I will run a vigorous campaign to retain my office, but no I will not resign under any circumstance whatsoever. The recall election will have to be paid by the citizens of Coquille and it will costs several thousand dollars… “
The required number of valid signatures needed to move along with the recall process for the City of Coquille would be approximately 258 signatures, according to Debbie Heller, the Coos County Clerk.