Medford City Councilor Kim Wallan’s delay in offering a written resignation before taking on her new role as a state representative in the Oregon House in January has added a strange twist to the city’s search for her replacement.
“It’s just a matter that I have a real hard time advertising for a vacancy on the council when we technically don’t have a vacancy, nor do we know for sure whether we will ever get one,” Councilor Dick Gordon said at a council study session last week.
Councilor Mike Zarosinski said at the same meeting, “I’m assuming Kim does not hold both offices simultaneously.”
Wallan responded to Zarosinski by saying it would be legal for her to hold both offices at the same time, though that isn’t her intention.
Wallan won the House District 6 position in November and has vowed to step down as councilor, prompting the city to seek citizens for a committee that will select a candidate to replace Wallan in Ward 4, which represents southeast Medford.
The trouble is Wallan said the council refused to take her resignation at the meeting because of confusion over her last day in the position, and she’s unsure when to submit it because she wants to avoid a gap in representation for the position.
“I fully intend to resign,” she said Tuesday.
Wallan said she did consider staying on the council as well as assuming her new role at the Legislature, noting that she is on solid legal ground if she did so.
“I was advised by House staff that because of the distance it would be untenable for me to hold both seats,” she said.
The almost four-hour drive from Salem to Medford would have made it difficult to attend meetings down here, she said.
A succession plan had been devised by the council after it became apparent Wallan won the election Nov. 6, but now the process has been put on hold pending her written resignation.
Wallan said part of the delay in tendering her resignation was that she was waiting for the election results to be certified.
She said she hopes to get more clarity in spelling out what day she should resign at Thursday’s council meeting.
“I can’t write it until I know what day to put on it,” she said.
Gordon said he could support the idea of Wallan serving on two legislative bodies.
“It doesn’t bother me,” he said. “She is perfectly in her rights to continue working on the City Council and at the statehouse.”
According to the Oregon Secretary of State, a person can generally hold multiple offices as long as one of the offices is not considered “lucrative,” or providing a salary or compensation beyond normal expenses. The council is a volunteer, unpaid position, and a legislator makes $23,568 a year plus $142 in expenses while in session.
Wallan had alarmed some councilors when she said she wanted Ward 4 councilors to pick the committee that would help select the candidate. Wallan and Zarosinski are the two Ward 4 councilors.
Councilor Clay Bearnson objected to that idea, saying he wanted the entire council to have a say in picking the committee.
Bearnson said he agreed with Gordon’s assessment that the city needs to wait until it has an official resignation in hand before conducting a search for a replacement.
“It is kind of bizarre to look for a candidate to fill a seat that is not vacant,” Bearnson said. “I feel like we’re respecting the process a lot more if we have a vacancy.”
Councilor Kevin Stine said state Rep. Diego Hernandez serves also on the Reynolds School Board in Troutdale.
“But he’s not 3.5 hours from Salem,” Stine said.
Personally, Stine doesn’t think it’s a good idea to serve the Legislature and the city of Medford.
“If you try to do two jobs, you do none of them well,” he said.
He said he thinks Wallan has every intention of resigning.
But he doesn’t want to form a selection committee of Ward 4 citizens until he has her resignation letter in hand.
Stine expects the appointment of someone to replace Wallan likely will be decided at the Jan. 17 meeting.
While some councilors think Wallan’s word is enough to allow them to continue with the process of selecting a new councilor, Stine said he feels it’s more prudent to wait for the resignation letter.