Complexity in the resignation

oregon
RANDY STAPILUS / Oregon

There’s something about Multnomah County’s process of replacing members of its commission that, it would seem, could use some work.

The county’s top office holder is its commission chair, a position specifically elected by the public and not chosen from among the commission members or rotated around. (In that, there’s some similarity with Portland’s mayoral job.) But what happens when that person leaves?
For most elective positions, the idea would be that other elective office holders would make the decision about filling it until the voters do. In many instances, in many states, governors do a lot of that sort of thing, and Oregon does it in some cases (most often, judges). But not in this case.

In the case of Jeff Cogen, the chair leaving under heavily embattled conditions (people in Portland know about the infamous affair with a county employee), the replacement will be – his chief of staff, a person unknown to most people in the county and not named by anyone external.

Then the job will be filled in two steps. An elected replacement will be picked after the primary election next May (yes, that’s the better part of a year away). But that will be for a temporary term. Coinciding with that, campaigns and elections will go on to fill the job for a regular four-year term; the election to settle that will be held in November 2014. So there could be four county chairs (starting with Cogen) over the next year and four months.

You’d think there’d be a more logical system than this. But then, Portland Multnomah County do like their peculiar systems in governmental organization.

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