Non-Rajneeshee Government Takes Office
ANTELOPE, Ore. (AP) _ A new administration has taken over to replace the all-Rajneeshee town government whose members resigned when the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh left the country after pleading guilty to immigration charges.
The City Council positions became vacant about two weeks ago when the Rajneeshees who held them, after being voted in by fellow sect members who swelled the town’s voter rolls, resigned after the guru’s departure.
″All of us here have extremely mixed emotions about what has gone on in the last three years and what has caused us to be here at this time,″ Wasco County Judge William Hulse said Friday at the swearing-in of a new mayor and city council.
″I am sure that several years ago we would never have dreamed that anything could happen to a little community such as this that has happened, but we can’t live in the past,″ Hulse said.
The sect’s nearby ranch-commune of Rajneeshpuram is being disbanded since the departure of Rajneesh, 54, to his native India. He left after pleading guilty Nov. 14 to two immigration-fraud charges. He was fined $400,000.
In 1982, the Antelope City Council approved a ballot measure to disincorporate the city to avoid a takeover by Rajneesh’s followers.
The disincorporation effort failed when the long-time residents were outvoted by newly arrived Rajneeshees.
Within a year sect members had taken over the government. They changed street names to the names of religious leaders, renamed the town fire station Jesus Fire Hall, and raised the property tax rate to a maximum of about $20 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, one of the highest in the state.
They also renamed the town City of Rajneesh, but the town was renamed again last month after the guru said Antelope should be restored.
In Portland, five followers of Rajneesh pleaded guilty Friday to federal charges that they arranged up to 400 sham marriages at Rajneeshpuram to help alien disciples gain U.S. citizenship.
U.S. District Judge Edward Leavy placed the five women, three of whom held top positions in the Rajneesh sect, on probation for five years. He ordered two of them to leave the country.
One of the five, Ma Prem Padma, 36, also pleaded guilty to felony illegal interception of wire communications, admitting that she took part in a commune ″listening post″ in which incoming and outgoing calls to Rajneeshpuram were monitored in May and June 1984.
″I listened to conversations without the consent of other people and I knew they were being tape recorded,″ she told Leavy. She is to be sentenced Feb. 3 and faces up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Still facing charges in a 35-count immigration indictment is Ma Anand Sheela, 35, the guru’s former personal secretary. She is in a West German jail awaiting extradition to the United States.