Voters in Banks Fire District 13 will soon receive a ballot asking if Banks Fire District board members Mark Schmidlin and Ed Ewing should be removed from their positions, the Washington County Elections Division said.
On Tuesday, April 12, a recall election will be held to determine if Board Chair Mark Schmidlin and Ewing will keep their seats following allegations that Banks Fire Chief Rodney Linz sexually harassed a minor, among a number of other allegations against the chief.
The news was first reported by the Washington County News-Times, who reported that chief petitioner and Banks resident Jacoba Kemper said that Schmidlin and Ewing failed to follow the fire board’s policies by refusing to initiate investigations into complaints of harassment in a timely manner.
The Banks Post has sought additional documents related to the recall election from Washington County, but did not receive them by this story’s publication time.
In a special statement authorized by the board and dated March 16, the board outlined an investigation, which included an outside investigator and a workplace investigator hired by the district, among others, conducted regarding the allegations.
“Having considered the reports, the information learned during the investigation, and all other necessary factors, the Board is confident that the reports and concerns have been addressed appropriately,” the statement read.
The finer details of the investigation were not publicly released by the district.
“The Banks Fire District takes all allegations and complaints of harassment seriously and creating and ensuring a safe and respectful workplace for our employees and volunteers remains a primary focus for the department,” a previous statement released by the board in December began.
The board said at the time that an independent investigation, still ongoing, was launched to address new allegations of racist and sexist remarks by Chief Rodney Linz levied during a Nov. 10 meeting by current and former volunteers with the Banks Fire District.
In a phone call with the Banks Post, Washington County elections supervisor Lisa Power said that the signatures were submitted March 8, and the 449-signature requirement for each of the two board members now facing a recall were met with 513 signatures confirmed for Ewing’s recall, and 536 signatures for Schmidlin.
The Banks Fire District covers the city of Banks and the unincorporated communities of Buxton, Timber, and Manning.
For the election, the ballot drop site at the Banks Public Library will be opened, and voters can also visit county offices to drop off a ballot at a drop box and inside the office, or mail a ballot through Oregon’s vote-by-mail system. A new Oregon law that went into effect January 1 allows mail-in ballots to be counted on Election Day as long as they are in the mail and postmarked by 8:00 p.m.
House Bill 3291 changed Oregon mail-in voting laws, which the legislature has debated since the state became the first to allow mail-in ballots for all voters more than 20 years ago, to allow ballots to become official simply by being postmarked by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.
As long as the postmarked ballot is received by the county clerk no later than seven days after the date of the election, it will be counted.
The new law also allows county clerks to begin counting mail-in ballots upon receipt rather than requiring them to wait to begin counting until one week prior to the election.
Ballots will soon be sent by the county, Power said, with a target date of March 23 to get ballots in the mail to prospective registered voters.
The Banks Fire District’s statement in December was passed with two board members, Rae Weaver and Ed Ewing, voting to approve it, one board member, John Wren, opposing the statement’s authorization, and an abstention from board member Kevin Henning. Board Chair Mark Schmidlin also did not vote.