Unmarried Officials’ Cohabitation Sparks Recall Vote
SHERIDAN, Ore. (AP) _ Residents of this small western Oregon town went to the polls today to decide whether two unmarried people who live together should continue to serve on the school board.
Church leaders, saying such a lifestyle is frowned upon in the town of 2,375, organized the recall election against Sandra Kay Lambert and Clinton Ogle.
″We just want people who are upright and moral to lead us,″ said the Rev. Jerry Warren of the Sheridan Nazarene Church.
But Ogle and Ms. Lambert, saying recalls should be based on job performance alone, contend that a successful recall could open any volunteer’s private life to public scrutiny.
″I don’t believe that my living with someone - whether on the school board or not - has any adverse effect on my performance as a school board member,″ Ogle said.
Both were elected to the board, but the positions are unpaid.
The ballot statement urging Ogle’s recall said he had ″failed to respond adequately to the needs of the Sheridan School District and violated accepted community standards for elected school district officials by leaving his wife and family and openly living in an adulterous relationship.′ ′
The statement added that Ogle’s conduct ″is detrimental to the school district and its children and contributes to a confusion of values in the minds of the children ... and to the demoralization of parents and teachers.″
The statement against Ms. Lambert was similar, but the word ″adulterous″ is omitted. Both statements were submitted by Warren.
Ogle and Ms. Lambert said they started living together before their divorces became official. Ogle, 38, has served on the board for nearly seven years and Ms. Lambert, 34, for less than two years.
″The implication that all backgrounds and private lives could be publicly scrutinized, causing people to hesitate to volunteer, should not be allowed,″ Ms. Lambert said in her ballot statement.
The weekly Sheridan Sun newspaper criticized the recall in recent editorials, saying recalls ″should be restricted to specific actions by elected officials that constitute malfeasance in office.″
Regardless of the outcome, the church leaders have made their point, said Pastor Larry Dill of the Assembly of God Church.
″We have brought to people’s attention that an adulterous lifestyle is still wrong,″ he said.