Bend resident Foster Fell has filed a lawsuit against City Recorder Robyn Christie, the City of Bend, and councilor-elect Casey Roats asking the Deschutes County Circuit Court to declare that Roats is not entitled to receive a certificate of election.
The initial complaint, filed yesterday, alleges that Roats does not meet the qualifications set out in the City Charter, which requires candidates to be both a qualified elector and to have resided within the city limits for the 12 months preceding his election.
A complaint has already been filed with the Secretary of State regarding concerns Roats may have knowingly provided false residency information when he registered to vote at two addresses where did admits he did not physically reside—his business address and the address of his under-construction home—and when he gave the unfinished home's address on his candidacy filing form. Roats previously admitted he did not physically reside in the city limits from Oct. 2013 to Oct. 2014.
Roats, who was not immediately available for comment, has previously argued that he meets definitions of residency set out by state election law and that, because he was residing outside the city "temporarily" while building a home in Bend to which he intended to return, he has not violated any laws by claiming addresses where he could reasonably be found during that transitional period.
Additionally, Charlie Ringo—who is represented Fell in the case—served Roats with a subpoena this morning requiring his attendance at a deposition on Wednesday, Nov. 12 at the offices of Bryant Lovlien & Jarvis. Neil Bryant is Roats' attorney. (Full disclosure: the Source has used this law firm's services.)
"I think the most important thing about all this is to get the facts on Casey Roats' residency," Ringo told the Source. "That’s why I filed a subpoena."
Fell, who is also the partner of councilor-elect Barb Campbell, said he agreed to serve as the lawsuit's plaintiff because he wants to clarify the residency questions that overshadowed the race for City Council Position 6.
"It seems there’s a lot of clarification that needs to be made. We shouldn’t have to go through this emotional upheaval again," Fell said. "My main interest is that, just to help make things a little clearer."
Though the City Charter designates City Council as the "final judge of the election and qualifications of electors," the lawsuit says that the court should rule on the matter because City Council has so far declined to take it up and because:
1) Given the undisputed facts before the court, it would be an impermissible abuse of discretion for the Bend City Council to find that Roats was a qualified elector; and
2) Under ORS 254.565(2), Defendant Christie is statutorily required to comply with state requirements concerning electors and candidate qualifications, notwithstanding determinations made by the City Council.
City Attorney Mary Winters told the Source she has not yet discussed the lawsuit with City Council and that she plans to do so during the executive session preceding the Council's Nov. 19 meeting. She added that she believes a declaratory relief action is "completely premature."
The Source will provide updates as we receive them and include the full story in next week's issue. In the meantime, read our previous coverage of this ongoing issue. Read the full text of the complaint here:
"A Question of Semantics: City Council undecided on approach to residency questions" (11/5)
"To Reside or Not to Reside: Casey Roats' attorney claims opponent is the one with residency issues" (10/29)
"Secretary of State Receives Complaint Alleging Casey Roats Committed Voter Registration Fraud" (10/27)
"Voting Local: Council candidate Casey Roats faces questions over residency" (10/22)