DEPOE BAY — There were no Russian emails or delayed caucus counts Tuesday, but the vote to name a new city councilor skewed instead on the fine print of the town’s charter.
The effort to fill the empty seat on the seven-member Depoe Bay City Council failed despite the appearance of a winner in the three-way race between a retired corporate executive, a veteran charter skipper and a former teacher.
Left dangling like hanging chads after two rounds of voting by the Depoe Bay City Council were the three applicants, who made their cases for appointment during mostly-affable pre-ballot interviews.
Joyce King, who retired two years ago from corporate sales and hiring to Depoe Bay, earned three votes; four-year resident, Captain Roman Smolcic of the F/V Kadaho, received two; and Lindsy Johnson Bedingfield, a former teacher, city planner and park ranger, who has been a stay-at-home mom for about four years, secured one vote.
“It looks like we have a winner,” remarked Mayor Robert Gambino of the first 3-2-1 vote, until an objection by councilman Jerome Grant, who cited a clause in the city charter requiring “a majority of votes cast” to select the candidate to fill the office.
The plurality versus majority issue was settled by City Recorder Barbara Chestler, who read the determining paragraph from Resolution No. 322, “Council Rules.”
With neither applicants nor councilors willing to budge, Gambino called on the council to move the matter to another vote at the Tuesday, March 3, meeting. He later said he hopes the interlude will give people time to think and prepare for a more intense round of questioning.
“You know how democracy works: you can’t break an impasse, it has to break itself,” Gambino remarked after the meeting, saying he will direct each city councilor to ask three questions of candidates at the next caucus. “I think we have to dig a little deeper and satisfy our curiosity about these candidates. That may narrow it down a bit more.”
At the Feb. 18 meeting, councilors lobbed single-question softballs until Grant got into a strained discussion with Bedingfield over vacation rentals, the main revenue and only source of taxes for Depoe Bay.
Three years remain on the unexpired term of Charlie Bates, who said after quitting in January he was dismayed by the ongoing financial crisis at city hall. The city’s books fell into disarray in 2018 and have not yet recovered, resulting in fines and the loss of state revenue sharing.
As councilors were voting, the three applicants acknowledged to a reporter they had heard about Depoe Bay’s financial problems through newspaper reports.
“That’s exactly why I want to get involved,” said Bedingfield, contemplating her one-vote foothold. “I’m staying in the race.”