A recall effort is underway to unseat Coquille Councilor Matt Rowe
The Sawdust Theatre may be closed for the season due to COVID-19 but there is still plenty of melodrama emanating from Coquille City Hall to provide entertainment through the rest of the summer. We are talking about the recall effort to oust City Councilman Matt Rowe apparently driven by a handful of business owners on 1st Street, some of whom sit on the city council. Namely, City Councilwoman Ann Parker of River Cities Realty and Mayor Kathy Simonetti along with their ally, Jean Ivey Gurney who operates a weekly newspaper she still calls The Sentinel, even though she does not own that assumed business name.
Ivey Gurney handwrote and personally delivered the paperwork for the recall to the city clerk on June 1. The three chief petitioners Danette Foord, Jo Teel and Thomas Konomos continue to be unavailable for comment, however, the recall “committee” appear to have enlisted Simonetti as their spokesperson. They are alleging that Rowe has abused his office while Rowe denies this and has asserted that Parker, Simonetti who also had a business on 1st Street along with Councilwoman Julie Nighswonger, owner of Denny’s Pizza, have all had conflicts of interest when voting on city business.
“The only block in all of Coquille,” according to Rowe, “that got a special favor of sidewalk resurfacing, costing approximately $8,000…” was on East 1st Street benefiting the businesses of Nighswonger, Parker and Simonetti as well as Ivey Gurney.
“If they had recused themselves,” said Rowe in a text message, “the motion would have failed due to a lack of four votes in the affirmative.” Rowe was the only dissenting vote.
In other city council news, six people applied for a city council seat left vacant by Mike Layton. The applicants are Dave Chapelle, Tia DeMent, Paul Recanzone, Shanley Geddry, John Cooper and Maria Haskette. During the most recent regular city council meeting a vote was cast to try and choose an interim councilor. Parker, Simonetti and Nighswonger all cast their votes for Recanzone who, coincidentally happens to be the son of Ivey Gurney. No candidate was chosen however as the requisite four votes could not be reached.
It was noted by several witnesses that Parker, Simonetti and Nighswonger all appeared to be texting during the council meeting and possibly while the vote was going on. This paper has submitted a public records request for all text communications between the city councilors relating to city business and to the selection of the new interim counselor. Deleting any text messages relating to city business would be a violation of ORS 162.305.
Additionally, a special meeting was held for candidate interviews, however Shanley Geddry, a twenty-two-year-old college student, was not properly notified of the meeting and has requested proof of the notification and an interview prior to any vote.
To add even further to the drama on 1st Street previous employees of Ivey Gurney have recently filed complaints with the IRS and the State of Oregon for her alleged failure to properly file state and federal wage statements and pay payroll taxes withheld from paychecks.