Friday, March 27, 2015

New Mexico: Additional signatures handed in against Las Cruces Councilman

Petitioners handed in 400 more signatures in the recall effort against Las Cruces Councilman Gill Sorg. This was in their "cure" period.

Massachusetts: Petitions handed in for Hinsdale Select Board Chair

Hinsdale Select Board Chairwoman Bonnie Connor is facing a possible recall, as almost 400 people signed the recall petition. They needed 280 signatures. Voters approved the petition 202-95. Connor had previously faced a challenge in December 2013, when more than 300 people asked for her resignation. Then two months ago, 100 people signed a petition to recall Connor over the firing of the Police Chief and transfer station attendant.

This recall does not specify that reason, just incompetence. They are also claiming violations of open meeting laws.

Oregon: Gearhart mayor survives recall vote

Gearhart Mayor Dianne Widdop survived her recall today, winning 183-320 (63.6%-36.3). Voter turnout was 54.44%. The reasons for the recall was that Widdop allegedly asked a business to remove a candidate's sign from the window and recording a conversation and distributing it.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

North Dakota: Lincoln mayoral recall scheduled for June 16

The recall of Lincoln Mayor Bob Johnston will take place on June 16, as petitioners handed in at least 110 valids. The issue is over a veto of council members ordinance and then a veto of a law giving the council a veto override power. Johnston's behavior has resulted in a state law (still to be signed) giving councils throughout the state a veto override provision. 

Arizona: Glendale Councilman facing renewed recall effort

Glendale Councilman Robert Sherwood is facing another recall effort for his flip position to support of a casino, extension of a sales tax and vote to allow wider use for digital billboards. The last recall failed when petitioners did not disclose whether the gatherers were being paid on the top of each sheet of petitions. Petitioners need 2,752 signatures by June 20.

Interestingly, Sherwood beat Dianne Douglas, who went on to win the Superintendent of Public Instruction position. She is now facing recall threats herself.

Massachusetts: Fired Town Manager reinstated by new Sagus Board

The recall in Sagus was over his firing, and now Scott Crabtree is being brought back. However, it could get messy, as the old recalled board signed a contract with a new town manager four days before the recall and swore him in the day before the recall.

Missouri: College sophomore jumps into Columbia Councilwoman replacement race


Michigan: Berrien County Treasurer facing petitions over affair

Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski is facing petitions over his extramarital affair and explicit text messages. However, the petitioner is not looking to actually collect signatures. An investigation cleared the three-term treasurer.

Petitioner would need 11,000 signatures in what is listed as 180 days, but is likely 90 days.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Florida: Fort Myers Councilmember facing threats over racially charged comments about early voting polls

Fort Myers Councilwoman Teresa Watkins-Brown is facing recall threats after discussing early voting poll locations. Apparently wanting to set up early polls in white neighborhoods, Watkins-Brown (who is African-American) said that "White people are sacred to come over into our community." Brown said that the polls should be in "area where everybody will feel comfortable to vote."

There is discussion about launching a recall, though they would need to meet the cause requirement of the malfeasance standard (in addition to getting the signatures of 10% of registereds). As you can see below, in my post on Ferguson, this may not rise to incompetence or whatever other level would result in a recall.

Colorado: Recall against Colorado Springs councilwoman leads to discovery

Apparently, neighbors of Helen Collins' property in Kansas City were complaining about her property, but couldn;t find her. Now, thanks to the recall, they have.

Article in the Forward on Harry Houdini

In my research on Wisconsin's adoption of the recall, I found a surprising obit for Harry Houdini. I wrote this article for the Jewish Forward on it. Here's the link to the original piece in the Milwaukee Sentinel.

Philippines: Detailed look at recall law in two gubernatorial efforts


Nevada: Poll shows strong disapproval of Hambrick recall

This poll suggests that Nevada Speaker John Hambrick has a commanding lead if he faces a recall -- 54% and only 17% are in favor.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Missouri: Will the recall effort against the Ferguson Mayor pass judicial scrutiny?

It looked like the recall of Ferguson Mayor James Knowles was "dead in the water" a couple of weeks ago. But times have changed. There is now a more concentrated -- or at least much better publicized -- effort to have Knowles kicked out. Signatures are starting to be collected and press reports note that petitioners need about 1800 signatures (15% of registereds) in 60 days.

The move may simply be a way to pressure Knowles into resigning (a common result in a recall). But if Knowles doesn't resign, there is an open question -- and possibly conflicting statutes -- as to whether he can be recalled for his leadership of the city. There may also be a question of how many signatures are actually needed for the recall.

The problem here is that the state law may conflict with the local law.

The first statute at play is Ferguson's basic recall law. It requires the signatures of 15% of registered voters in 60 days. It also appears to allow recalls for any reason whatsoever (i.e. political recalls). As a point of knowledge, almost every recall that you have heard of has been a political recall (think Gray Davis, Scott Walker, the Colorado state Senators, Arizona Senate President, etc.)

However, the state of Missouri has a (possibly overriding) statute. Missouri doesn't provide a recall for state officials, but it does have them for Class 3 cities (cities with a population between 5,000 and 29,999). This recall law is not a political one, but instead it is what has been called a judicial recall or malfeasance standard. What this means is that a specific charge has to be put forward in the recall petition, and (in Missouri's case) it has to allege "misconduct in office, incompetence or failure to perform duties prescribed by law."

The statute also requires the signatures of 25% of registered voters, so according to this law, more signatures would be needed.

The first question is whether Ferguson is actual a Class 3 City. The commentators I've read seem to take the Class 3 status as a given, specifically because of Ferguson's size (21,203). In this article, a University of Missouri-St.Louis Political Science professor says that it is a Class 3 City (though the description of the recall is inaccurate). However, on page 21 of this document from the Missouri Municipal League, Ferguson is listed as a Constitutional Charter city, which may be able to have its own recall law (again, I'm not clear on that or whether the city can't just be both). So it may be that the Class 3 designation is incorrect. I do not see an answer in the charter, but as we will see based on one other case, there is good reason to think that the Class 3 designation may be used by the courts.

If Class 3 is correct, from what I can tell, there isn't any case law that answers the question of how Ferguson and other cities can have recall laws that conflict with the state law (and I don't have access to Westlaw or Lexis so I will gladly acknowledge that there may be a dispositive case that easily squares the circle and would be happy if someone pointed it out). It could be that Ferguson's law is simply in violation of state law and would be thrown out by the courts.

Missouri's case law and use of the recall is quite skimpy, but it does shine some light on the subject.

There was an appellate court ruling in 1988 that stopped a recall in Gladstone because it failed to specify reasons for the recall. The court's ruling is narrow -- it does not seem to say that the recall would have been quashed because it failed to state a valid claim of "misconduct, incompetence or failure."

In the last four years, there have been three recall efforts in Missouri that are worth talking about (the other efforts all failed to hand in signatures). In 2011, the mayor of Lebanon was recalled and removed. They seem to list some reasons that may meet the standard (obstructing a meeting). There didn't seem to be any case law surrounding this recall. In March, a recall against Columbia Councilwoman Ginny Chadwick got on the ballot (over her flip-flop on marijuana). Chadwick resigned before the vote, though I haven't seen any news stories that suggest that she sued to stop the recall. Columbia is a much larger city and would not qualify as Class 3.

But the third one, the recall effort against five Ellisville councilmembers in 2012, may be the one that matters the most. Ellisville has a recall law similar to the one that Ferguson possesses. Ellisville (population 9,173) should has the same questions on whether it is a Class 3 City or Constitutional Charter city. In this case, the recall (over the building of a Wal-Mart) was tossed out by the judge because it failed to state a valid reason for the recall. If a judge follows this reasoning, then the Ferguson effort has the difficulty of meeting the malfeasance standard.

A number of commentators appear to assume that the standard for the recall will be easily met. I can't comment on Missouri law, but a look at how other states with a cause requirement for a recall act suggests that a recall based on the actions surrounding the Michael Brown shooting may not be enough to get on the ballot.

I'm not going to compile a full list, but numerous states and jurisdictions have a similar type of provision, including (for our purposes) Georgia, Minnesota,Washington and Alaska.

Over the last few years, we've seen plenty of attempts to get a recall on the ballot in these states (feel free to look through past posts for examples). Almost all have failed. Minnesota has reportedly never had a recall since it was adopted statewide in 1996. Georgia is no easier -- they are not willing to accept Open Meeting violations, a tactic that succeeds in other jurisdictions.  Alaska and Washington have had some recalls occur, but frequently there has been obvious misbehavior on the part of the official, though both have also regularly rejected recalls. There are other examples -- Here's a jurisdiction in Florida tossing a recall out for the failing to state a proper cause.

The commentators seem to think incompetence is easily shown, but that is not the case. Again, its unclear how Missouri courts would decide whether an official's actions were "incompetent" but other states have a high threshold (it almost seems like a "business judgment rule"). The only recall over the last four years that I've seen meet an incompetence threshold was Kansas' Shawnee Treasurer, who (arguably incompetently) commingling funds from the DMV and Real Estate divisions. Despite a bi-partisan call to resign, they couldn't get the signatures for that recall.

The question becomes what is the cause to recall Knowles. I haven't seen the petitions, but if it is simply focused on his actions following the Michael Brown shooting, that may be tossed out, especially since the mayor's power is very weak. In one article there is the suggestion that Knowles tried to influence a driving ticket for a friend. Strange as it sounds, that could be a much more fruitful avenue to pursue a recall.

At this point, these questions remain open-ended. And they also depend on whether Knowles will contest a recall in court. But while all the articles seem to suggest an ouster is very possible, there may be good reason to believe that a recall against the Mayor (and other officials) in Ferguson may fail in the courts.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Canada: Two Liberal MLA's in British Columbia targeted for recall

Two MLA's Richard Lee and Marc Dalton, are facing recall threats from what seems like an organized political effort (called the B.C. Citizens for Recall) to target 12 Liberal lawmakers who could be defeated in a recall. Dalton was targeted with a recall campaign in 2011, but it didn't get anywhere near enough signatures.

Petitioners need 40% of registered voters in 60 days, which appears to be over 15,000.

The issues are all over the place (underfunding of hospitals, seismic upgrades, poverty rates).

There was apparently one successful B.C. recall effort. In 1998, Liberal MLA Paul Reitsma resigned after enough signatures where collected for a recall. Reitsma was accused of writing self-promoting letters to newspapers.

Colombia: Bogota mayoral recall on

Colombia's Constitutional Court has ruled that Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro will face a recall within 60 days. Petro's term ends at the end of the year. Parties on both sides of the aisle argue that the recall shouldn't be run. Petro faced a recall threat that was superseded by an inspector-general decision to remove him from office. However, he was later reinstated.
A court has ordered a recall referendum despite the fact that the mayor's term will end at the end of the year. Several notable Colombian politicians expressed their disagreement with the ruling of Colombia's Constitutional Court to hold a referendum to remove Bogota mayor Gustavo Petro. The court ordered on Tuesday that the recall referendum must occur within 60 days, however Petro's term will expire at the end of this year, with new mayoral elections set to be held on October 25, 2015. “It isn't right to subject the city to a process like this and then two months later hold new elections,” Rafael Pardo told El Telegrafo. Pardo is a conservative politician and a candidate in the upcoming elections. Clara Lopez, the mayoral candidate for the leftist Democratic Pole echoed Pardo's comments, saying, “This is not the moment to reactivate a recall as it does not have a practical effect, precisely at this moment when the (electoral) race is starting, what it does is generate confusion in the city.” Hollmas Morris, another leading candidate for mayor, told El Telegrafo, “I will be the first to take the streets to defend (the Petro administration). Petro isn't going anywhere. I don't see the point in holding the recall referendum now but we should be vigilant and not let our guard down.” Several other mayoral candidates from across the political spectrum also expressed reservations. Further complicating matters is the fact that the electoral body must divert resources meant for the mayoral election to the running of the recall referendum. The head of the electoral body, Carlos Ariel Sanchez, has said he respects the courts ruling but will nonetheless seek to have it nullified. Mayor Petro has said he embraces the challenge and is confident he will win should it be held. “The referendum is welcome. This is our battlefield. We are always subject to the will of the people, they know what we have contributed to their social development. We do not fear a recall,” said Petro. Petro was temporarily ousted as mayor in 2014 after Colombia's conservative inspector-general ordered his removal and banned him from holding public office for 15 years. He was eventually reinstated after mass protests and a court ruling.

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Phillipines: Recall campaign against Bulcan Governor halted

This long running drama has not run its course just yet. There's also contempt motions being filed.

California: Oroville recall campaign dropped

The push to recall Oroville Councilman David Pittman was dropped. The group failed to publish a public notice. The issue was PG&E's tree removal project. This was the second attempt against Pittman.

Colorado: Fort Collins ballot initative deals with recalls

This is a minor fix that changes the local law to fit with the Supreme Court's recent decision -- basically, you can't require the voters to vote on the recall question in order to vote on the replacement race.

Oregon: Gearhart City Administrator taping of convesation with mayor/former city council member, not legal, not prosecutable

So says the District Attorney. The voters will have their say shortly.

New Jersey: Irvington Township mayor recall can't start until May 12

Petitions against Irvington Township Mayor Tony Vauss over a lawsuit claiming that he forced a municipal employee to have sex with him in a township office will not be allowed to begin until May 12, when he's in office for 50 days. There was a lawsuit that held that notice of intent to recall was prematurely filed.

This decision may prevent petitioners from hetting a recall on the November ballot. Petitioners need 25% of registered voters in 160 days.

The sex act occurred before Vauss took office.

Texas: Hearne recall has resulted in problems with council quorum

This is part of the result of the Maxine Vaughn recall removal (but the mayor and other councilmember weren't there).

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Michigan: Plymouth Supervisor resigns after recall threats

Supervisor Richard Reaume, who was one of four officials facing petitions, resigned. Reaume also filed petitions against two other supervisors simply to highlight the recall, though he didn't collect signatures.

Arizona: Cave Creek Planning Commissioner resigns following recall of council

Some fall out from the Cave Creek recall -- Planning Commissioner Grace Meeth, who was appointed by the members of city council who were bounced, resigned her seat.

Maine: A look at requirements in-state

A really good look at the recall requirements for Maine.

Florida: Bradenton Beach mayor recall getting close to signature hand in

Petitioners have collected 80 signatures for the recall of Bradenton Beach Mayor William Shearon. They need 115 by April 6. Shearon is also face a move by the vice mayor to have him forfeit the office.

Colorado: Two Center School Board members ousted, one survives recall over superintendent

Two Center School Board members were kicked out of office Phil Varoz (460-189) and James Sanchez (462-188). The issue was their opposition to the Superintendent. A third member Yuridia Cendejas faced a recall by Varoz and Sanchez supporters for supporting the Superintendent,survived (221-441).

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Nevada: More info on North Las Vegas Municipal Judge recall

Some more details, but not much in the way of light, on the recall attempt against North Las Vegas Municipal Judge Catherine Ramsey. This discussion is still about wasting money and lawsuits filed against her. Hopefully, more info will come up in the future.

Massachusetts: Four Sagus selectmen kicked out over town manager firing

Four Sagus selectmen were kicked out of office --Selectman Steve Castinetti,Paul Allan, Castinetti, Maureen Dever and Chairman Ellen Faiella -- over their vote to fire the town manager. The last selectman voted against firing the manager and didn't face a recall.

 Allan lost to Jeffrey Cicolini (54-37%); Castinetti fell to Mark Mitchell (49-39%); Dever was beaten by Jennifer D’Eon (55-36%); and Faiella lost to Scott Brazis (60-35%). Oddly, School Committeeman Arthur Grabowski challenged each of the sitting selectmen and he got between five and 11% on each.

Missouri: House takes up St. Joseph School District recall law

The bill to require St. Joseph School District to allow recalls has been taken up the Missouri House. The bill would require signatures of 10% of turnout from the last school board election. It also would require the county commission fill the seats, and cut the length of the term from 6 to 4 years.

Arizona: Call to increase signature requirements for small town recalls

This editorial calls for higher signature requirements for recalls in small towns. This would mimic California's law (it has three levels of signature requirements, topping out at 40% for the smallest towns).

Michigan: Tawas recall candidates set

The May 5th recall of Mayor Pro Tem Dave Dickman has a challenge -- Theresa Hurst.