By editorial board • 

Case can be made for recall, but voters hold sway in end

Ballots are going out in Yamhill County this weekend for something that has historically been very rare — a recall election. It will decide if County Commissioner Lindsay Berschauer is removed from office mid-term.

The right to recall public officials is a vestige of direct democracy dating back to the Greek city-state of Athens, created around 600 B.C., or more than 25 centuries ago. It was first adopted in the New World by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1631, just 11 years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.

Oregon and Michigan pioneered adoption at the state level in the early 1900s, with Oregonians voting almost two-to-one in favor. Some 38 other states have since followed suit.

Oregon enforces signature requirements, but does not limit grounds in any way. Determination of the sufficiency of stated grievances is left solely to voters.

We sometimes urge editorially that voters make a particular decision or take a particular action, but are not doing so here. We are only urging that they set aside partisanship, ideology, political bias and policy preference, conduct a clear-eyed analysis of potentially credible allegations, and decide on their own volition whether Berschauer is guilty of transgressions warranting her early removal from office.

Our take on key allegations follows:

Dereliction of duty

We elect commissioners, on a non-partisan basis, to provide facilities and services supporting county residents in vital areas like law enforcement and public health. However, in consort with mentor Mary Starrett, Berschauer seems to devote most of her attention to ideological and partisan hot-button issues like guns, masking and vaccination, over which the county holds no legal sway.

Conduct unbecoming a public official

During her first month in office, Berschauer publicly berated members of the county staff, to the point of suggesting they may have colluded in illegal conduct. But that conduct appeared to us as no more than carrying out the direction of a previous board majority with differing policy aims. She has also directed intemperate language at political opponents through her county web page and facilitated exposure of their street and e-mail addresses.

Abuse of power or authority

Berschauer pressured the district attorney to criminally prosecute a party engaged in litigation with her husband. When he referred the matter to another county to avoid potential conflict of interest, she badgered the outside prosecutor about the matter.

She has attempted to get individual county staff members to bend to her personal will. But the commissioners only have one direct report, the county administrator, and he is only answerable to them collectively, acting as a full board.

In addition, she joined Starrett in voting to subject a Newberg urban renewal plan to a very costly election for which there was no provision in law. They also attempted to impose constitutionally dubious firearm enforcement limitations on the independently elected sheriff and district attorney. And Berschauer tried to coerce Newberg’s aquatic center into dropping a vaccine requirement, citing a county resolution having no legal standing.

Violation of the public trust

The gun law action subjected the county to state litigation requiring the retention of costly outside counsel. Constitutionally dubious actions on immigration, masking and vaccination have like potential, and for no good reason, because the county lacks jurisdiction in such matters.

Use of public office for private gain

Berschauer’s aggressive pursuit of criminal prosecution against a person in litigation with her husband certainly carries at least the appearance of such violation. And appearance itself undermines public confidence.

Pursuit of private agenda through public office

Berschauer’s pursuit of partisan ideological issues associated with conservative elements of the Republican Party seems an almost direct extension of her previous employment — and likely future employment — as a paid political consultant. The leading difference seems to be the taxpayers picking up the tab by putting her on the payroll in a supposedly non-partisan post.

Those are our findings, and we believe them sufficient to support recall. If our editorial board were registered to vote, it would cast a yes ballot.

However, those may not be your findings. And even if so, you may not find them sufficient to support such a drastic, last-resort action.

We urge only that you weigh the evidence carefully and dispassionately before deciding how to proceed. This is a serious matter that deserves that kind of attention.



Very thoughtful and well written. Thank you editorial board. My hope is that the next county commissioner does not become a household name. Hopefully a commissioner who holds the majority, politically middle Yamhill County residents above their own fringe ideologies.


Excellent thoughts and opinions, backed up by facts. Unfortunately, Yamhill County seems to be a bastion of low information voters. When a candidate cannot rely on their leadership abilities to be elected, they can fall back on populist issues and get funding from special interest groups for billboard style signs and manage to get elected. We seem to have a long history of that over the past 20 years or so. IMO, corruption walked in the door at the County in about 2001 and unfortunately it hasn't left. There are many examples of important things at the County that are a mess. For example, this paper reported 6 - 7 years ago that the County had one of the best public safety radio systems in the state. Now, just in the past few months a study was published (and reported on) that says the system is obsolete, broken, non-functional, and will need $$$$ to get it fixed. So while the "ideological and partisan hot-button issues" were being focused on, important county infrastructure was falling apart. Berschauer and Starrett need to be gone, and we need some true leadership to step up to the plate and DO THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB, which is to actually run the County. Obviously Berschauer and Starrett are not up to that task as shown by the lack of results. Meaningless resolutions that waste time and money while effectively doing nothing is not leadership.

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