‘Chaos’ in the community: Part II

The politicization of Florence’s city council election

Oct. 27, 2018 — “This is an opportunity for members of the audience to bring to the council’s attention any item otherwise not listed on the agenda,” City of Florence Mayor Joe Henry said during a public meeting held last Tuesday. The audience at the meeting was large, filled mostly with supporters of council candidate Geraldine Lucio. Lucio, accompanied by an entourage of supporters, watched as three speakers from the public spoke on her behalf.

“As an active volunteer in the community, and a small business owner, I rarely feel the need to address the council, but I think this is important tonight,” said Terry Tomeny. “I, like many other, in our friendly community, was very encouraged to see a smart young woman like Geraldine Lucio step up to serve on the council. She brings exactly what the council needs. Most importantly, she brings a non-partisan approach. She’s not pushing either a conservative or a liberal agenda. She’s not an officer in a local partisan or political organization. Her only goal is to fairly do what’s important to the people of this community. And if you want to know what’s important to the community, just go down on Bay Street and cut hair for a couple of days.”

Lucio is the owner of Old Town Barbershop, located in Old Town Florence. 

“After declining to participate in a totally uncoordinated forum, that she and many others did not consider non-partisan, she has been subjected to ongoing harassment or bullying, whatever you want to call it,” Tomeny continued. “Much of it being done, unbelievably, by sitting members of the city council in an attempt to convince her to withdraw her name. She was harassed verbally by a sitting city council member. She was then sent an extremely inappropriate email by another city council member.”

The second incident involved Councilor Joshua Greene, who went to Lucio’s place of business to inquire about her readiness for the time and commitment involved in becoming a sitting councilor. 

Tomeny was referring to two incidents that occurred the following week. One, when Councilor Susy Lacer sent an email from her personal email account to Lucio, questioning her unwillingness to speak in a public forum debate with other candidates and suggesting that she should drop out of the race.

While Greene characterized the meeting as cordial, ending in a friendly embrace, Tomeny is the person on record to characterize the visit as verbal harassment. 

Lucio, who was in attendance at the meeting, did not give her account of the incident.

“I ask,” asked Tomeny, “were any candidates harassed when they declined to participant at the recent events at the Elks Club?”

This was in reference to a candidate forum recently held at the Elks Lodge, which council candidate Maureen Miltenberger declined to attend. (This will be covered more fully later in this article.)

“I’m not going to mention names, you know who are, you should be ashamed of yourselves,” Tomeny added. “You owe both Geraldine and the community a public apology and you should seriously consider resigning.”

After the audience applauded Tomeny’s statement, Carmela West addressed the council.

“I am an Hispanic female, proud citizen here in Florence. I’ve been for the last year and a half. … I am also very proud to see that we do have a qualified non-partisan female, Hispanic female, running for city council. Our country has truly turned and advanced in many ways for women entrepreneurs, and I was very disheartened by some of the events that happened,” she said.

When describing the interactions between Lucio, Greene and Lacer, West said, “This kind of passive-aggressive, hostile and incredulous behavior, I feel, is very unethical and immoral to any candidate, much less a female candidate of ethnicity. And this type of bullying behavior truly sets us back by decades if this is who we want to be.”

West described the city as thriving and ever-changing, asking the council members not to take their seats for granted.

“We expect grace to keep you grounded; humility, so you don’t forget who put you in those positions; and the grit so you always remember to keep ‘Florence First,’” West finished.

“Florence First” is Lucio’s campaign slogan.

After the audience applauded West, Lucio supporter Jacquie Beveridge addressed the council, and was the first speaker to name Greene and Lacer specifically.

“Intimidating a candidate in their place of business and sending an email to that candidate encouraging them to withdraw from the race is not ethical or acceptable behavior. Your actions have violated your oath of office, and the ethics you have sworn to uphold,” Beveridge read from her statement. “As elected public officials, you’ve sworn to observe the requirements of state ethics laws. … You are required to adhere to the laws of Oregon statutes, especially 260.665, which applies to undue influence to affect candidacy, and states in part ‘… a person either acting alone, with or through, or any other person, may not directly or indirectly subject any person to undue influence with the intent to induce the person to be, or refrain from or cease being, a candidate.”

While the state statute Beveridge referenced does prohibit such behavior, it defines “undue influence” as “force, violence, restraint or the threat of it, inflicting injury, damage, harm, loss of employment or other loss or the threat of it, or giving or promising to give money, employment or other thing of value.”

None of these threats occurred in the Lacer email, and the only on-record account of Greene’s meeting with Lucio, from Greene himself, does not support the state standard. City of Florence staff looked into legal concerns regarding the email and found that no laws were broken.

[UPDATE: A complaint was registered to the Oregon Office of the Secretary of State against Greene and Lacer regarding the incident, but per a letter addressed to Lacer from Michelle Teed of the Office of the Secretary of State received by Lacer on Oct. 27:

“This is to notify you that a written complaint has been received by the Secretary of State, Elections Division, alleging possible violations of Oregon election Law. The complaint relates to actions by you and others regarding a candidate for the position of City Councilor for the City of Florence. The Secretary of State, Elections Division, is required to notify the subject of a complaint (See ORS 260.345(3).) The complaint was received on October 22, 2018. Our office has reviewed and closed the matter." 

The Siuslaw News does not know the identity of the individual who lodged the complaint, but in an official statement to the Siuslaw News, Henry said that it was not from him, addressing rumors over the weekend suggesting that he had been involved.]

However, Beveridge stated in the meeting, “Your actions do not represent me or any others in this community, and I hope that you will answer to the proper authorities.”

The audience applauded, and Greene and Lacer, having been specifically named in the public accusations, were allotted time to speak by Henry.

“This is always going to seem like a ‘he said, she said’ thing, so I will apologize first and foremost in front of all of you if I have caused any undue pain or sorrow for you Geraldine,” said Greene, who went on to share his account of the event, and his explanation for it (found in Part I, published Oct. 24). “I am excited in having young people in politics. So please understand, in no way was it my purpose to scare you or intimidate you. And as you remember, I said, ‘Be honest about your position,’ and I gave you a hug. We were happy. That was never the intention, and it was never what my words were. But I do feel, from the other side of the coin, that you should be more prepared for position. There’s truth in that, because of what it requires.”

One person applauded, followed by loud groans and jeers from the audience. 

Then Lacer spoke, thanking the speakers.

“I know that it’s not easy to come speak to our body, so I appreciate you taking the time to do that,” she said. “I’ve already apologized to Geraldine, and I will do so publicly again, and to the rest of the community. I, in no way, intended to harass or intimidate her. As I’ve said before–”

“Oh, come on, we read your email!” someone yelled in interruption.

Lacer continued, “I have also indicated to Geraldine, I, 100 percent, supported her when she chose to run. I went and collected signatures on her behalf and was thrilled she was running for council.”

Public comment ended at the point and the usual city business resumed. Towards the end of the meeting, however, Councilor Ron Preisler discussed his view of the public comments.

“I found the audience participation extremely politicized,” he said. “The group of people were on one side of the fence, and it was an organized activity in my mind. And the attack on my fellow councilors I think was totally inappropriate.”

The Siuslaw News cannot confirm if the public speakers were organized,  though Tomeny, who spoke with the Siuslaw News, stated that his participation wasn’t — he was just furious about Lacer’s email and offered to speak up. However, he can’t speak to the other commentators, and saw how the night could be seen as orchestrated.

“Actually when I left, the speakers come up to me and said, ‘Well that worked great,’” Tomeny recalled.

It wouldn’t be the first time that politics for this election have entered the arena. That would be January, when Henry first met current council candidate Miltenberger.

“I’m not political”

“When Maureen was first up for the board, the mayor actively disliked her, and expressed it and attacked her during the process,” Preisler said in an interview with the Siuslaw News.

It was Jan. 18. Miltenberger was applying for an open position on the city council, left vacated by George Lyddon, who relocated out of Florence. Henry began the meeting cordially. The field had been whittled down to four, all of whom were interviewed that day: Dan Lofy, Woody Woodbury, Joel Marks and Miltenberger. The recorded interviews are part of public record and were sourced for the following recounting.

“I’ll kick this off, and ask the first one: What unique skills, experience, or qualifications can you bring to the City Council position?” asked Henry.

Miltenberger listed a number of jobs she had done over her life; teacher, tutor and “doing social work kinds of things.” 

Greene asked if there were any other questions on the topic, before moving on to his own question for Miltenberger.

“I do have a couple,” Henry said. “I was particularly interested in your service on the Canby City Council.”

Miltenberger replied, “Yes, I was going to mention that later but, sure.”

“Well, I didn’t know quite what question that would fit into, but it seems to fit into this as far as qualifications, so you can tell us a bit about that?” Henry asked.

On her application for the Florence City Council, Miltenberger wrote under prior governmental experience, “Canby, Oregon: City Council Appointed in 1991. Elected 1992 to 1994.

Miltenberger said that she was a single mother with a full-time job, saw an ad in the paper for the Canby City Council position and then applied. 

It’s at that point she began speaking matter-of-factly about being recalled from her position because of her opposition to Measure 3-2, a charter amendment that sought to prohibit special rights for homosexuals, according to a December 1993 article in the Canby Herald.

“I said, ‘I don’t discriminate against people, … I don’t do that.’ I refuse to follow that and discriminate against people. I said I wouldn’t do it, and another guy on the council said the same,” Miltenberger said.

Because of their opposition to the measure, the electorate held a vote to remove Miltenberger and fellow councilor Joe Driggers. Only half the city voted, and the approval to remove Miltenberger had a margin of 62 votes, according to the Canby Herald.

“Even though it may seem like a negative that I was recalled, it was something I was proud of,” she said. “I stood up for something that I believed in and felt good about.”

“Okay,” said Henry, and the questioning continued; what she thought of the issues facing Florence, her involvement in community activities. Miltenberger spoke in length about her work with EMAC.

“You mentioned that you are a part of the EMAC committee, are you actually a member?” Henry asked. “You mentioned a number of other organizations. Are you on any other committees or boards or non-profit boards?”

“Not actually, no,” Miltenberger replied.

However, on her application, she listed EMAC, Siuslaw Vision and other organizations. But she neglected to mention that she was the vice-chair of the Florence Area Democratic Club.

“So, have you served on other entities?” asked Henry.

“No, no actual boards,” she said. “Several different committees. But no, no boards or civic kinds of things.”

The question period moved on, and everything seemed normal until the very end, after Miltenberger’s final statements.

“I do have one follow up question,” Henry said. “When I asked you specifically if you were on, or have been on since you’ve been in Florence, any other boards, committees, 501(3)c’s, you said, ‘No.’”

Miltenberger answered, “I’m a member of the Democratic Party, I just didn’t want to bring that up. Yes, I’m the vice chair of the Democratic Party. I just didn’t want to get political. … There’s also some committees that I’m a chair of. Actually, two that I’m the chair of.”

“Why didn’t you mention that on your application?” Henry asked.

“Because I didn’t want to be political,” Miltenberger repeated.

“Did you read the part on there that says, ‘That all information that is provided on this form is true, to the best of my knowledge?’” Henry asked.

“Everything that was on that form is true,” Miltenberger answered. “And I would be very happy to bring that up. I don’t have any problem discussing it all. I’ve been a member of the Democratic Party, but I was a part of the committee of this group. And six months into it I became vice-chair. I’m very proud of it, and very happy, but I just didn’t want this to be a political discussion.”

Preisler agreed, saying, “And I would take that attitude as being correct, too. This is not a political application.”

 “Oh really?” Henry said. “Well, gee.”

“Yes, I don’t think it is a political issue,” Preisler said.

“You don’t think omission is an issue?” Henry continued. “You also spent a whole paragraph talking about your time on the city council, but you didn’t mention the fact that you were recalled until I specifically brought up your service on the council.”

The application for the position did not specifically state that candidates needed to list if they had ever been recalled, and Miltenberger was open about the issue when asked.

“She did mention it during her presentation,” Preisler said.

“She did, though not until I brought it up,” Henry said. “We were ready to go onto the next subject, so I came back with a follow-up question. … I’m just curious as to why, especially since you have limited experience on committees, why you would not list that on the application?”

There was a long pause, then Miltenberger said, “I’m not political. I’m really running as a citizen of this community, and I’m not running as a Democrat or a Republican.”

“Okay,” Henry said. “If nobody has anything else, thank you very much.”

As the council went to break, Preisler said, “Really?

At a city council meeting four days after the interview, Miltenberger stated in public comments that she believed she was verbally attacked by Henry, saying she hadn’t disclosed being in the Democratic Club because she felt the council was supposed to be non-partisan. She stated that she didn’t appreciate the insinuation that she was a liar, and told Henry, “You made me feel there was something I should confess to, and not something to be proud of.”

Finally, she said the mayor should “listen to the things that people have to say. Don’t just turn them away and make them feel bad because they don’t believe the same things you do.”

As she walked back to her seat, multiple members of the audience applauded.

How one views these events largely depends on one’s feelings toward the two. For those who dislike Miltenberger, Henry could be viewed as a shrewd tactician, perceiving her to be untrustworthy and caught in a lie.

“She was not as forthcoming as she should have been,” Preisler said. “But she didn’t want to wave the flag in front of the bull, basically. With Maureen’s background, it’s as far as I’m concerned excellent. Is she a perfect person? No, she’s not. None of us are.”

Greene said, “What everybody wants to do is catch you in a lie. Once you do that, then you’re not trusted. Why was it necessary to out Maureen? They tried to use a gimmick to tarnish her name and make it look like she’s a liar.”

With Miltenberger claiming she was attempting to keep politics out of the discussion, and Henry outing her political ties, it appeared both sides believed the same thing: Partisanship doesn’t belong in the council election.

Unfortunately, it became a factor anyway — as well as harassment from both sides.

Florence First

Wednesday afternoon, Katie Prosser, who volunteers on Lucio’s campaign, quietly came into the Siuslaw News with a stack of hundreds of fliers that had been left on the doorstep of Lucio’s business.

The photo on the flier appeared to be taken from a political ad posted on the website for Patriot Place, which had Lucio cutting a local man’s hair.

Except on the flier, the picture had been altered: Instead of a local, it was President Donald Trump. The flier was labeled “Welcome to Old Town Trumpershop, Florence Oregon.” The flier also pictured a speech bubble with Lucio saying, “Oh Donald, I love your HAIR! And we really need more affordable assault weapons in every home for the safety of children: I know you get that!”

Two pictures of rifles were placed above Lucio’s head.

On the right bottom corner of the flier, the Florence Liberty Alliance logo was placed, with the phrase “And all ‘Sovereign’ Nationalists invite you to VOTE TRUMP: MAKE FLORENCE ‘GREAT’ because ‘We love everybody, ‘even you!’”

The fliers had been disseminated across Old Town Florence sometime during the previous night. It is unknown who created and distributed the flyer, but the reasons were clear — to administer public ridicule and shame.

It was after this incident that Tomeny came to speak with the Siuslaw News, providing new information about the Lucio campaign and the issues he felt her supporters are facing.

“The reason I’m here is there’s a lot of stuff going on in the community that’s uglier than people have seen in a long time,” Tomeny said. “It’s been escalating. You don’t hear it, but it comes to her by text or email or anonymous letter, or real vile crap.”

According to Tomeny, Lucio is constantly afraid that her business, property or residence will be vandalized. When her candidacy was first announced, the Siuslaw News received several anonymous phone calls accusing Lucio of child abuse and neglect, which were found to be untrue.

“How things started to turn ugly is beyond me, but I’m almost at the point now where I’m going to tell her, ‘I’m sorry for ever have gotten you involved in this.’”

Tomeny echoes this phrasing in a letter to the editor included in today’s Opinion page.

This was not how the campaign was supposed to go.

When Lacer announced that she was going to retire, members of the community began looking to encourage people to run for her replacement. For Lacer, it was someone more diverse than the current remaining council.

“I did advocate and encourage younger people, both in person and in social media, and at council meetings, to consider running in hopes that our council would become a little more diverse and be more representative of our citizens,” Lacer said.

As for age, Lacer is the youngest on the council at 53, and doesn’t remember the last time someone younger was on the council.

At the same time, Tomeny, the mayor and others were looking for a replacement.

“Everybody wanted a woman,” Tomeny said. “A lot of the older people wanted an established older woman, but none of them wanted to run. Now I see why.”

Henry had known Lucio personally and liked her. So did Tomeny, who states that he leans conservative, but is generally non-partisan.

“I was getting a haircut once,” recalled Tomeny, “and I said to Geraldine, ‘Why don’t you consider running for Florence City Council?’”

But there was also another reason that Lucio had been asked: Miltenberger.

“I’ll be honest, I don’t like partisanship, and I look at Maureen as a very left-leaning person as the vice chair of the Democratic Club,” Tomeny said. “If Geraldine was the vice president of Patriot Place, I wouldn’t want her in there either.”

From all accounts, Lucio is independent in her politics, with no party affiliation. She has supported LGBTQ rights, allowing her business to host the first show of local performer Jason Wood’s drag queen character “Fanny Rugburn.” 

She has also been a vocal proponent of gun rights, with Lucio being an avid hunter and fisher.

So, she was convinced to run a completely non-partisan race.

“She gets along with both sides, so I thought this was a really great thing,” Tomeny said.

A non-partisan campaign was formed. Henry helped out at the beginning of the campaign, but has since backed off, according to Tomeny.

But in the vitriolic political climate of 2018, presuming an air of non-partisanship appears to be almost impossible. And it didn’t help that the campaign made some missteps, beginning with its slogan “Florence First,” which has partisan echoes of Trump’s foreign policy “America First.” To many, it suggested Lucio’s campaign had a Republican focus.

“I have no idea how she chose that,” Tomeny said. “I did tell her, if she gets into questions on things, she should look at it. ‘Florence First’ should mean ‘Let me do what’s best for Florence first,’ ahead of politics.”

Another optics problem was who is volunteering with, or being paid by, the campaign.

For its treasurer, the campaign hired Carol Russell, who is considered a prominent Republican. They also hired Pelroy and Associates, a campaign communications manager based in Eugene, whose body of work is heavily tilted toward conservative candidates and issues — though the agency has been known to work with Democrats as well.

After Part I of this story was released, Siuslaw News discovered that Pelroy’s involvement was minimal — the majority of the $1,241 paid to the association was for printing costs for campaign literature.

But the person that many liberals found suspect in the campaign was Prosser, who has stated that she expressly liked Lucio because she was non-partisan. After Part I of this story was released, the Siuslaw News received comments that the mere fact Prosser was volunteering with the campaign made Lucio suspect of hyper-partisanship. Prosser is one of the founding members of Patriot Place, which is supported by the conservative Florence Liberty Alliance — the group printed on the bogus flier.

Prosser, along with Sherry Harvey, have donated $1,000 each to the campaign, more than any other individual donor. Tomeny and has wife donated $250 each, as did Henry. However, little more than half — 52 percent — of the donations behind Lucio’s campaign are from Republicans. The remaining 48 percent of donors are from Democrats, Independents and non-affiliated voters. The campaign did not say how much of that percentage was straight Democrats, nor did it say which group donated more monetarily to the cause.

In a perfect world, none of this would make a difference, particularly for a non-partisan race. 

“My thought is, if you really have a non-partisan person who is doing what is right for the community, then both parties should be willing to support them,” Tomeny said. 

Hate speech

Billed as a “community meeting place for conservatives, veterans or anyone who loves this country,” Patriot Place is a bastion of conservative memorabilia and conversation, with a life-sized cut out of the president, “Fox TV, good country music and free Constitutions,” according to the website. 

“It is a place safe from fake news and bullying by those who wish to destroy it,” the website reads.

Patriot Place is also a center for conservative politicians in the community, hosting multiple events for statewide Republican candidates. It also has pictures of city council members Henry and Woodbury on its wall.

It is unknown if Lucio endorses the politics of Patriot Place; ultimately, no candidate can decide who does or does not support them. However, Patriot Place does help promote some of Lucio’s speaking events (which are unaffiliated with Patriot Place), and under the Patriot Place website tab “Election Advice,” her name, along with Woodbury and Henry, are listed as candidates to vote for.

Florence Liberty Alliance also posts about Lucio on its Facebook page.

So does that mean Lucio and Patriot Place are linked?

“[The campaign] decided they were not going to put Geraldine signs in front of Patriot Place,” Tomeny said. “We really felt that she appealed to the whole spectrum, and we didn’t want to hurt that by saying she’s a conservative candidate. She’s not. I asked her if she was being pressured to push an agenda from anybody, specifically Patriot Place. She said, ‘Absolutely not.’”

There are multiple political organizations throughout the region, representing various issues. There is the Florence Area Democratic Club. There is also Florence ORganizes, which incidentally had plans to establish its own gathering center right next door to Patriot Place. [UPDATE: The final plans for the center are now in flux, however, and it is unknown what the final establishment will be when it opens.] Florence ORganizes and Patriot Place were established after the divisive 2016 national election, which saw an uptick of political tribalism in the country, and heated partisan rhetoric on both sides of the aisle.

Despite this, sometimes these differing ideologies and organizations get along. This past July 4, Patriot Place volunteers brought hots dogs and pie to the Florence Democratic Club, who had a booth in Old Town to discuss the historical importance of the War of Independence in a non-partisan way. In fact, a photograph was taken with Miltenberger and Prosser side by side. 

But last May, liberal political writer Mel Gurtov visited Patriot Place, and wrote about his experiences in an op-ed to the Siuslaw News.

“It appears some people at Patriot Place are drawn to absurd conspiracy theories — baseless nonsense presented as unchallengeable fact,” he wrote. “Recently, one of its volunteers told a friend who visited that Congressman DeFazio ‘belongs to the Illuminati,’ that Jews as a group ‘either follow Christ or Satan’ and that ‘Zionists control the banks.’ Ignorant stuff to be sure, but also hate speech — which should have no place in Florence or anywhere else.”

Patriot Place is also an active supporter of Measure 105, hosting Cynthia Kendoll, President of Oregonians for Immigration Reform alongside a candlelight vigil for Mollie Tibbets, who was killed earlier this year by an illegal immigrant. It should be noted that the family of Tibbets has expressly asked for her death to not be politicized. 

At the same time, Miltenberger has been involved with political events this year, which have created their own controversy. 

In May, Miltenberger co-coordinated an unaffiliated “March for Our Lives” event which called for gun reform. The event was largely peaceful, but some demonstrators entered the Florence Gun Shop on Highway 101 and began harassing the owner for his business. Photos of the incident were placed online. Miltenberger was unaware that the incident occurred, did not plan for it to happen, and condemned it.

The Siuslaw News also investigated many of the claims made at the event about gun laws, which led to a five-part series debunking many of the assertions made at the event.

Are organizations such as the Florence Liberty Alliance and Florence ORganizes good for the community? The fact is, they do provide a safe place for citizens in turbulently partisan times, but there is also the danger of promoting tribalism, hate and fear toward people with different political views.

However, is all of this hate and fear warranted? The Lucio campaign came about, in part, because of the fear of bringing a liberal agenda to the council. This thinking would lead to the idea that anyone with a partisan political view is unwilling and unable to find common ground. Since most of America seems lost in political ideology these days, does that mean that a true bipartisan worldview is truly dead?

For that, we asked Miltenberger.

“We have to grow up”

“You can say things are non-partisan all you want, but there certainly is partisanship,” Miltenberger said. “When it comes to our country, we’re very divided. People are tending to be on one side or the other. They’re not going to cure that in a small town, where all of a sudden everybody is down the middle. It’s not going to happen.”

This is not something that Miltenberger is celebrating, saying, “You pretty much are ‘them or us’ in this nation right now, which is really unfortunate. That’s coming very strongly from the top, so I think it’s very hard not to do that at the bottom.”

However, she does not think it matters much in the position of councilor, which is why Miltenberger says she did not want to bring up her affiliation with the Democratic Party back in January.

 “A council is made up of people,” she said. “All those people have different views, and they were elected in there because of their different views. Period. There’s no way you can get around it. But we do the best for the people.”

However, after January, she said she feels obligated to talk about her involvement with the Democratic Club wherever she goes.

“I’ve got it on my brochure, and I’m putting it on because the mayor said I lied,” she said. “But now they’re saying I’m bad because I’m putting it on, so, you know.”

Miltenberger said it’s a no-win situation that has brought about frequent attacks against her character. Some have even chanted “lock her up.”

Many of the complaints have been about the paperwork filed for her candidacy. One letter to the editor about Miltenberger put in bold that Oregon law states providing false information may result in a felony with up to $125,000 in fines or five years in prison.

One complaint calls for her imprisonment because Miltenberger failed to disclose her recall from Canby on the candidate filing application. However, the application does not state that she should disclose if she had been recalled, and Miltenberger is open and proud of that fact when asked about it.

There were calls for her to be penalized because she did not put her experience with the Democrat Club on the paperwork. But again, there are no specific requirements requiring all community involvement be written down. 

But there is one complaint that seemed to get some traction. On both her January application, and for the application for November, she put under Occupational Background the words, “Social Worker.” That phrase is a protected title — one must have the license to be able to call themselves a Social Worker. It’s a license Miltenberger does not have.

“Thinking about it now, I wouldn’t have said that,” Miltenberger said. “But when you’ve done 40 years of social work, it’s hard not to call yourself a social worker. When you’re running organizations helping people, what are you? A people worker?”

She listed a variety of jobs she’s held in the social work field, including becoming the Executive Director of the Community Action Agency in Idaho, which oversaw the Head Start Program, the Area Agency on Aging, a six food banks. 

“I realize now that I should have taken a little more time with my application, but when I think about it, I know several licensed social workers. They always identify themselves as licensed social workers, I do not.”

Her application did not list the initials LSW (Licensed Social Worker) or CSW (Certified Social Worker), which denotes social work. And in her January interview, she said she did “social work type of jobs.”

However, the explanation has not seemed to quell her critics. An official complaint was filed to the City of Florence by Dan Berry, who actually does not live in Florence, but in the Dunes City area. Quoting the Oregon Board of Licensed Social Workers, Berry suggested that Miltenberger be fined a civil penalty of up to $3,000.

The complaint has made its way up to the Secretary of State, which did open a case on the issue. The Siuslaw News has been attempting to verify the status of the case, but has not been able to reach a definitive conclusion. However, a spokesperson said the case sounded “frivolous” when asked about it.

And so do social workers.

On Oct. 1, State Board of Licenses Social Workers Investigator Troy Clinton sent the following email to Miltenberger: 

“To my knowledge, there is no complaint against you with our agency. I have spoken to another person about your use of the title ‘Social Worker.’ I conducted independent research and follow-up. After speaking to you back in August, I feel any potential title use issue was resolved. There was no reason to open a complaint after you clarified some of the facts.

“It is pretty common to find persons in the same position as you. I know of situations where other professionals supervise Social Workers; however, they don’t call themselves Social Workers. I have seen titles such as: Executive Director of Social Work Services and Department of Social Work Supervisor, etc.”

There are new complaints coming in. Last week, Florence ORganizes posted in Facebook about candidates attending the City Club candidates forum. Miltenberger was the only candidate in attendance. Woodbury was out of town and Lucio declined. 

Beveridge wrote the following comment: “Of the three invited to the Meet and Greet at the Elks Lodge, only two showed up.”

She was referring to a forum held by the Elks that had invited all three candidates. Lucio and Woodbury attended, Miltenberger did not.

What Beveridge did not point out was the reason for the absence. 

According to Miltenberger, after the three candidates finished their Our Town radio interview, Woodbury told her they had done a good job, and that he was looking forward to meeting at the Elks. However, Miltenberger had been told that candidates had to pay $150 per entry, and that she had already reached her $750 campaign finance limit. It would be illegal for her to spend any more. Woodbury stated the event was free, so she accepted the invitation. But soon after, Beveridge emailed Miltenberger the following:

“I ran into Woody today and he informed me that you changed your mind and plan to attend the Candidate Meet and Greet on Sunday at the Elk’s Lodge. Unfortunately, he was misinformed and the cost for each candidate is NOT being covered, so if that affects your decision about attending, please let me know.”

Miltenberger said, “I’m being attacked by somebody. It’s not X or Y campaign. Somebody’s calling me a liar, whether it’s Republicans in general or someone else, I don’t know.”

Miltenberger does view the world in a somewhat partisan manner. She referred to Measure 105 as a Republican issue, and polls show that it is. Miltenberger is also passionate about environmentalism with her work through EMAC, and polls show that is generally a liberal passion.

Both of these issues have come up in one way or another in the city council.

“A lot of issues that go on with the city are just intellectual, studying, get your information. Nonpartisan. Do we need new roads? Do we not need new roads? It doesn’t have anything to do with politics,” said Miltenberger. “But there are issues you really want to know where you’re coming from.”

This is why Miltenberger is calling for more candidate forums.

“It’s so we can say, ‘Hey, you’re running for the city council. How do you feel about the school bond? How do you feel about sanctuary state? How do you feel about this? Those kind of issues are going to show how you vote and how you form the city,” Miltenberger said. “Whether you’re trying or not to be partisan, you still have feelings going into things.”

Without debates, she feels that voters will vote strictly on partisan lines. 

“Imagine I don’t know anything, I’m new to town, I don’t know any of the players. We don’t have information in the voters pamphlet. Maybe we have short newspaper questionnaires. But if we don’t have the ability to talk, then I’m going to make a partisan decision, vote for a straight Democrat and go straight by the issues,” she said. 

But most importantly, she feels they are a chance to show how the candidates can be non-partisan. As an example, she used her interactions with Woodbury while taping the three-candidate forum for KCST’s “Our Town,” which aired Tuesday, Oct. 9. 

“I was very determined not to like him [after January], but I do have a level of maturity,” said Miltenberger. “I’ll tell you what, when we were sitting at the radio station, we were kind of having fun. I would say something, and he would say, ‘Yeah, what Maureen said.’”

And vice versa. She felt the two were taking their own unique points of view, finding ground and working together to find solutions. 

By the end of the interview, she said she found Woodbury to be a “really cool guy.” And while she doesn’t know Lucio, she states that she doesn’t harbor any ill will toward her and found her pleasant in the few interactions she’s had with her.

“I think we’re back to issues and maturity,” she said. “Hopefully you’re mature enough to get back down to business and deal with it from an intellectual point of view. And hopefully, whoever gets on the council will be able to do that.”

And maturity, in the eyes of many residents, seems to be lacking in the race for the City of Florence council race. Council members are openly warring, candidates are being threatened with jail or physical attacks, businesses are being threatened and lifelong reputations are being destroyed.

“In some ways, we’re a microcosm of a microcosm,” Preisler said. “It’s a very polarized country. In some respects, it’s a very polarized state. Somehow, we’ve got to get to the point where we used to be. Where there were people on both sides that could sit down and talk to each other, away from the tribal instincts, and do what’s best for the country. That seems lacking, lately. I think the people are just going to wake up and ask, ‘What have we accomplished? What are we doing?’ This has got to change. But if you don’t speak about it, and don’t work to make it better, this is not going to change.

“We have to grow up.”