Oberg resigns from Ephrata council

Move will mean less tension in chambers, says mayor

Columbia Basin Herald/May 30, 2003
By Erik Olson

Ephrata City Councilman James Oberg, who has been in the headlines for a recent lawsuit against the city involving improper executive sessions and the harassment of city employees, resigned his seat at the Council meeting Wednesday night.

After a recent trip to Jerusalem, Oberg said he was going to Washington, D.C. to work on the American Clergy Leadership Council with his church, the Unification Church led by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

"When the gavel hits the block tonight, that will officially end my time with the Council," Oberg said at the meeting. Oberg added that he would be working to improve relations between Christians and Jews. He told the Grant County Journal that he would be gone to Washington for a few weeks and would probably relocate there.

Oberg works as an engineer for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. Council member Bob Dimmitt then made a motion to accept Oberg's resignation, but city attorney Katherine Kenison said a verbal announcement was all that was legally required for the resignation.

City Administrator Jim Cherf said an announcement will be published in the Grant County Journal advertising for the position. Anyone living within Ephrata city limits may apply, and the deadline is June 2.

One applicant will be chosen by a three-member committee -- Mayor Chris Jacobson, Councilman Wes Crago and Councilman Brian Johnson -- and the whole Council will vote on that choice at its June 4 meeting, Cherf said.

The announcement stunned most at the meeting, as Oberg had stepped up his criticism of city government in recent months. He won a lawsuit against the city in February stating that the Council had not allowed him the right to a public hearing in 2002, and he called for the resignations of all six of his fellow Council members for not allowing him the public hearing.

The public hearing stemmed from a 2002 incident where Oberg allegedly threatened Cherf in Cherf's office regarding the site of a debate for the Ephrata mayoral race

Oberg was also not allowed to have personal contact with any city staff members after allegations were made that he harassed city employees.

Oberg could not be reached for comment after the meeting.

Jacobson congratulated Oberg and wished him the best of luck in his new position.

When asked whether Oberg's departure will mean less tension at Council meetings, Jacobson said the meetings were getting better, but Oberg's exit will change the atmosphere even more.

"There will definitely be less stress felt in Council chambers," he said. Cherf said he suspected something unique might happen as Oberg began describing his trip to Jerusalem, but he didn't expect the final announcement.

"I was very surprised," he said.

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