Petition filed demanding recall of three Pocatello City Council members
Published at | Updated at
POCATELLO — A Pocatello woman has officially filed a petition demanding a recall vote for three members of the Pocatello City Council.
Joan Reed filed the petition after racially insensitive comments were made at recent council meetings by council member Roger Bray. The petition requests the Bannock County Elections Office hold a recall vote for Bray and two fellow members of the council — Claudia Ortega and Chris Stevens.
In a statement provided to EastIdahoNews.com, Reed says that the petition was filed on behalf of concerned citizens who feel a change is needed.
“The recall is a result of (an) accumulation of belligerent behavior on the part of the three councilors,” the statement reads. “Things such as a (hostile) work environment for employees, Bray’s and Ortega’s decision to break quorum on May 19, Ortega’s famous ‘hit list,’ Bray’s attracting fellow council members and Stevens bullying of city staff has caused a dysfunctional city council. The citizens of Pocatello are sick and tired of this situation. Changes need to be made.”
The recall petition, filed with the Bannock County Elections Office and obtained by EastIdahoNews.com, names all three council members and lists why those signees “respectfully demand” recall votes.
In its reasoning for recalling Bray, the petition points to the councilman’s decision to break quorum at a May 19 meeting came after he lost a “routine vote.” It further states that Bray “shows a clear preference for his personal agenda over the needs of the city.”
The petition also references a comment Bray made during a July 14 council meeting in which he accused other council members of “dishonoring previous councils.”
“His concern with legacy instead of the needs of the citizens of this city is an inexcusable preference and means that his position on the council undermines the city of Pocatello,” the petition says.
The petition also accuses Ortega of displaying a “pattern of actions that have proved to be a detriment to the city of Pocatello and its citizens.”
It states that Ortega is hostile toward current city staff and has driven away past city staff members.
“Council member Ortega has abdicated her responsibility to the city as part of the entire council in favor of her rogue agenda,” the petition says.
Finally, the petition accuses Stevens of harming Pocatello’s citizens’ best interest in the “pursuit of her personal agenda.” The petition alleges Stevens has gone against her campaign promises and promises as a council member to reduce city budget, pointing to her stating the environmental department “ought to request up to $800,000 on an annual basis for the Portneuf River Project.”
Stevens, the petitions alleges, attacks city staff for “reckless spending” while telling other staff to “take as much money as they want” for projects.
“The contradictory nature of her statements and votes misleads the public and fails to uphold both her public promises as well as the best interest of the citizens of Pocatello in favor of projects she favors,” the petition reads.
Disputes amongst council members have been present for years. In fact, in a conversation with EastIdahoNews.com last year, Ortega likened the work environment at City Hall to North Korea.
However, recent comments by Bray have ignited frustrations from many, inside and outside of City Hall.
During a July 7 meeting, Bray, in a conversation with Police Chief Roger Schei, said that Pocatello does not need as many officers as other cities of its size due to its lack of diversity.
Many interpreted that comment to be Bray claiming a predominantly white population did not have as many criminals.
Two National Association for the Advancement of Colored People members spoke against the comments at the July 21 meeting. Their remarks were followed by calls from the city’s fire and police unions for Bray’s resignation.
Recently, a well-known Pocatello doctor and co-founder of the Idaho Kidney Institute posted an “Open letter to councilman Bray” on Facebook.
He writes, “So how should a father, a Muslim-American immigrant, a person of color respond to this city councilman with clearly racist views?”
“Councilman Bray, I graciously pray for your soul that may God forgive you and show you the light of compassion, kindness and your heart be open to the love for diversity and inclusion towards your fellow human beings,” the post concludes. “Sir, you may have made peace with your racist comments, but the rest of us have not. Our community definitely deserves better.”
Among the agenda items listed for Thursday’s Pocatello City Council meeting is the city’s reassertion of itself as a welcoming and inclusive city. Also included in that agenda item is the public reprimand of Bray over his comments.
“Council may wish to consider adopting a Resolution that affirms the city of Pocatello as a welcoming and inclusive city and censuring City Council member Roger Bray for comments made during the July 7, 2022, Budget Development meeting and after the July 21, 2022, City Council meeting,” the agenda reads.
As for the recall vote, petitioners will have 75 days to collect signatures representing 20% of the city’s registered voters — nearly 6,000 signatures in total.