A Rainier resident has begun collecting signatures to recall City Councilmen Dave Langford and Russ Moon, accusing them of making "back-door agreements" and publicly insulting city employees and council members.
Don Puckett only began attending council meetings this month and admits he hasn't witnessed the problems his petition alleges. He said Thursday taking steps other prominent members of the community are afraid take.
"I'm being the pawn for someone else, because there are prominent citizens that want a recall but are afraid of retaliation," Puckett said, declining to name who he called his "reliable" sources. "If somebody has to do it, I'll do it. ... Most people don't know what's going on, I'll make sure most people do know what's going on."
Langford said he was surprised by Puckett's allegations, calling them "hearsay," but he declined to speculate on who is putting Puckett up to the recall effort.
To get the measure on the ballot, Puckett has 90 days to get signatures from 110 of the city's 1,050 registered voters. His recall petition, filed Monday, says Langford "is rude in public meetings; for example, calling people ignorant, telling them to ‘shut up', accusing city employees of misconduct, thereby opening up the city, as well as himself to liability issues. He does not follow policies and procedures and makes back-door agreements with various agencies without council support."
"Mr. Moon has run off the (previous) city manager and cost the city compensation due to acting on his own. As a councilman, he must work as part of a team, not a rogue individual," according to the petition, referring to the 2007 ouster of City Administrator Brad Olson.
Puckett hasn't spoken with either Moon or Langford about his allegations and says he doesn't plan to.
"I don't see any reason to," he said. "From what I hear from prominent people, these guys are bullies pushing their weight around."
Moon and Langford have served on the council since 2006.
Moon declined comment on the allegations. Langford, though, said Puckett "says he wasn't there, he's just saying stuff. ... He's lacking information, and he's just going by what other people are telling him. There's no merit to anything he has to say."
Recall petitions are nothing new in Rainier or Columbia County. A 2008 effort to recall the entire Rainier School Board failed. Three Clatskanie PUD directors were ousted through a successful recall campaign in 2007.
Both councilors have the opportunity to resign during the petition process, but Langford said he hasn't had time to think about how he will respond.
The recall attempt comes at a time of increased friction on the council. Council members have at times been short with one another, and Mayor Jerry Cole had to admonish the seven members to be civil and polite to one another earlier this month.
"It's not exactly healthy for the council," Cole said about the petition. "But I respect the process. If a citizen wants to try a recall, it's allowed."
He said he thinks relations have improved since his lecture to the council. "It is OK to disagree, but we have to be professional," Cole said.
Puckett readily admits he doesn't know all the details about his allegations, and if he's wrong about them voters simply will spurn his recall effort.
"I look at it this way, if this recall is unjust, they don't have anything to worry about."