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Welcoming the newly organized Portola City Council, with John Larrieu elected as mayor and Pat Morton elected as mayor pro tem. Newly elected member Thomas Cooley also took his place for the first time.

City council swears in the newly elected, Fire Chief resigns


The Portola City Council said goodbye to Phil Oels and Michelle Gault as new council members were sworn in, as well as accepted the resignation of Portola Volunteer Fire Department Chief Ron Jacobson on Wednesday, Dec. 14.

Opening the public comment period of the meeting, Jacobson formally requested to resign from his position as fire chief, effective Jan. 1.

“I accepted this opportunity a few months ago, and went into it with my whole heart, but things didn’t work out that way,” Jacobson said with emotion.

“Now, as I’ve experienced a health scare as well as watching my job at Long Valley Charter School suffer, it is with great regret and apology that I must resign this position to focus more on work and family.

“I would like to thank all of the citizens of this community for the opportunity to serve them in this capacity, and will be available in the interim between now and January 1 to work with the council for a long-term solution, as well as working with City Manager Robert Meacher towards a plan of action.”

Mayor Bill Powers commented after a pause, saying, “You have fulfilled many critical areas in your role, and we as a community will never forget how much you have done. With great solemnity, we accept your resignation.”

At this, council member Michelle Gault also spoke to the room, stating that she has moved outside of the city of Portola and will no longer be serving on the council.

“I want to say thanks to everyone,” Gault said. “This has been an amazing experience, and I truly appreciate the love and support I have received over the past few years.”

Surprise vacancy

As City Clerk Melissa Klundby announced the certified results of the Nov. 8 election for Portola City Council, there was a surprise announcement.

Stephen J. Clifton won the votes necessary for a seat on the council. However, Clifton submitted a letter to the council with his refusal of the council seat he just won.

The letter reads, “It is with deep regret that I will not accept the office to which I was elected on Nov. 8, 2016. I have health issues that I have failed to resolve since deciding to run for Council in July, after I underwent successful colon cancer surgery on May 31.

“Upon much heartfelt personal review, I find that it would be unwise to undergo the challenges and stresses of City Council work which may well prompt a return of said colon cancer. I would like to thank the citizens of Portola for their ballots in my favor. I would like to offer best wishes and Godspeed to the present Council members for success in guiding Portola in the challenging times ahead.”

City Attorney Steve Gross provided some clarification, stating, “This is an unusual situation, when the elected candidate does not take office. Government code states that 60 days from this meeting, the council has a choice — to either fill the vacancy by special election, or to make an appointment by February 2017 to fill the seat. This seat would be open to be filled as a two-year position, until 2018.”

The council elected to determine its course of action at the Jan. 11 meeting, leaving a seat vacancy until that point.

Swearing in new council, honoring outgoing

Mayor Powers gave certificates of recognition to outgoing council members Phil Oels and Michelle Gault, thanking them for their service and commitment to the community.

After the clapping slowed, incumbent John Larrieu, Pat Morton and newly elected council member Tom Cooley were sworn in by Klundby, promising to fulfill their duties to the best of their abilities.

Once the new council had been sworn in, there was a swift council reorganization, in which Mayor Pro Tem Larrieu became mayor and Pat Morton was elected as mayor pro tem.

Other business

The council next addressed the ongoing vacancy for city treasurer and voted unanimously to give City Clerk Klundby the additional responsibilities of treasurer.

Meacher commented on the status of the ongoing Portola Highlands project stating that city staff have been hard at work on the project and are looking forward to it moving forward as soon as possible.

“I have had a meeting with John McMorrow, owner’s agent of the Schomac Group, and thus far we seem to have about 90 percent of the issues that arose resolved. The talks are amiable, with communication flowing and I am very pleased,” Meacher reported.

A major issue that has been discussed lately is the emergency response tax. This agenda item was commented on by attendee Cal Patterson, who stated that this is a tax that “we need to have.”

Morton made the motion to approve Fire Tax Ordinance 345, and the motion carried across the board.

Council members also made the decision to send new council member Cooley as well as Meacher to the New Mayors and Council Members Academy in Sacramento, for a conference sponsored by the League of California Cities. At approximately $1,750 per person, the council approved the decision with all in favor.

Community Service Officer Chuck Brashears noted that currently he is at 80 percent compliance; however there were “another 28 or so new cases this week.”

Finance Officer Susan Scarlett wrapped up the meeting with a brief financial update, stating that despite some “timing issues” with the budget, and the fact that it is still very early in the fiscal year, things are looking good.

Scarlett said, “A lot of expenses will come in later in the year, but we are financially out of the hole, especially compared to the state of finances in 2014.” The next financial update will occur at the Feb. 1 meeting of the city council.

The mayor presides over the council meetings, which are held on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month. Council meetings begin at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chamber, 35 Third Avenue. For more information, contact City Hall at 832-6803.

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