Sharon Forster

Forster

The Oregon Secretary of State’s office approved a petition last week filed by a group of Lake County citizens to recall their elected District Attorney Sharon Forster.

The document, filed by chief-petitioner Barbara Simpson, includes two main reasons for the potential recall.

It alleges that Forster spends an “inordinate” amount of time away from her office, which causes her to appear unprepared in court.

Forster told the Herald and News that she recently took a 15-day vacation, and a spring break vacation earlier this year, but said she is on call 24/7.

”I am entitled to a vacation just like any other elected official and anyone that works,” Forster said.

The petition also claims that her recent practice of blocking Lake County’s only elected judge Robert Nichols from presiding over all criminal cases is unjustified.

In their statement of demand for the recall, the group claims her practice of blocking Nichols’ cases has caused unnecessary inconvenience for victims, witnesses and attorneys affected by the practice.

Forster previously declined to give justification for filing the affidavits of prejudice against Nichols. In an interview with the Herald and News Thursday, she said that Nichols is currently under investigation by the Oregon Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability, and that the ongoing investigation played a role in her decision.

The CJFD committee investigates complaints of misconduct filed by community members and legal officials against judges.

“I was contacted by an officer from the judicial fitness commission and he is under investigation by the committee for violations,” she said. “So when somebody asks me about these affidavits, they should know he’s under investigation.”

Forster declined to comment further on her reasoning for filing the affidavits.

The CJFD could not be reached for comment by press time.

Forster also said that earlier this year, she had made personal plans to resign from her office by the end of this year. She said she shared her plans to resign with Nichols.

Forster declined to comment on whether she still planned to resign, but she did say she felt the recall effort was a waste of time and resources.

Amanda O’Bryan, a member of the petition group, told the H&N they need 480 signatures within 90 days for the recall to be eligible for a vote. O’Bryan said they have around 300 now, and plan to collect at least 600. Then, the signatures need to be verified within 10 days.

After that, Forster would have five days to decide whether to resign immediately or fight the recall. If Forster fights it, there would be a 35-day window before a special election.

Forster declined to comment on whether or not she would oppose the recall.

O’Bryan said the whole process would cost about $6,000 for signature verification, ballot printing, mailing and counting. She said they have collected signatures at three stations around Lakeview and received around 60 calls to their designated recall hotline since the effort began.

“In my opinion, because I’ve been listening to all the phone calls, the straw that broke the camel’s back for the general public is they’re pretty upset about her removing Judge Nichols,” O’Bryan said. “He’s a very well respected judge in the community, so that’s part of it. They also believe that he’s a very fair judge.”

If the recall were validated by voters in a special election, Forster would be immediately out of her job. The governor would appoint a new DA to serve through the end of Forster’s term until the next general election — about two years.

There are about eight people working on the recall, O’Bryan said, including herself and Simpson. She said they are confident they will get the signatures they need before the 90-day deadline.