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Gold Hill recall ballots are mailed out today

GOLD HILL — Ballots to recall Councilwoman Kathleen Price in a special May 1 election will be mailed out today.

Because of the recent library closures and the nature of the election, there will be no drop site for ballots in Gold Hill.

"We thought it was a little too close to home to have City Hall be the drop site for this particular election," said Jackson County Clerk Kathy Beckett.

Gold Hill resident Deborah Davis is spearheading the recall effort, alleging that Price interfered in a city audit, filed false reports with state agencies, harassed public employees and tossed out public meeting rules — all in the name of supporting the city's police department.

Price said she is being singled out for recall because she has been vocal in her support of embattled Police Chief Dean Muchow. She believes Gold Hill must maintain local police protection because homeowners and businesses have suffered from recent burglaries.

Davis said the city's insurance company has increased the town's deductible from $1,000 to $10,000 per incident and Gold Hill remains on probation because of ongoing disputes about the police department. She believes Gold Hill should contract with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department and get better service for less money and virtually no liability.

"It's just so obvious to me that the city of Gold Hill really can't afford its own police department," said Davis. "I think it would be a great big headache off the council if the county came in and handled all the police business."

In March the council voted to loan the police department more than $6,000 from the sewer reserve fund. There is discussion of placing a new police levy on the fall ballot, and initiating a $5 monthly public safety surcharge fee on water bills, Davis said. Now there is a request by Muchow to have the public works department pay for 15 percent of both his and Sgt. Hank Hobart's salary. All this demonstrates a budget run amok, Davis said.

Price said contracting with the sheriff may save the city money, but it will not give Gold Hill the control it needs to effectively police the town.

"The city does not have control of the deputy assigned (to Gold Hill) or the work flow," said Price, adding that code enforcement would have to be done by the public works department.

"They're not educated. They're not empowered. And they don't have time to handle that responsibility," Price said.

This is the fourth recall effort in Gold Hill in the past year. The political challenges have added tension to an already divided council.

The recall effort against Price is being supported by council members Gus Wolf and Jan Fish and former council member Donna Silva.

Price said the attempt is being "fueled by gossip" and will cost Gold Hill money.

"These recalls cost the city between $600 and $1,000," said Price.

Davis said Price didn't worry about the cost last spring when she signed petitions to oust Wolf, Fish and Silva in a failed recall attempt.

"It's bizarre she's griping about being recalled when she tried to recall others last year," said Davis.

Ballots must be returned by mail or delivered to the county elections center no later than 8 p.m. May 1, Beckett said. Voters are reminded not to try and save a stamp by returning the recall ballots with the May 15 primary election ballots, Beckett said.

"If they send both ballots in a single envelope, the recall ballot will not be processed," said Beckett.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.