Recall petitions have been issued for three Homer City Council members following allegations of misconduct. Those allegations stemmed from two controversial resolutions that went before the council.
The petitions for recall were issued March 14 for Council Members Catriona Reynolds, David Lewis, and Donna Aderhold.
The initial application for petition alleged the council members violated their oaths of office and engaged in misconduct when they either sponsored or supported Resolutions 16-121, on the Dakota Access Pipeline, and 17-109, on inclusivity in the city. The latter stated Homer committed to “resisting efforts to divide this community with regard to race, religion, ethnicity, gender, national origin, physical capabilities, or sexual orientation.”
Despite now moving forward, this recall process has been rocky from the start. In a memorandum from Homer City Attorney Holly Wells on March 9, she described it as “mired in confusion.”
There have been concerns raised over whether or not the council members did act inappropriately. Also, Wells explained to the council at its meeting earlier this month that the rules for recalls are not always clearly outlined.
“This is a very unclear area of law," said Wells. "There are a lot of ambiguous rulings out there and a lot of missing information. There’s not a lot of definition, so we’re going to do the best that we can within the law as it exists and the legislative intent that we are able to find and rely on.”
Now that the petitions have been issued, the petitioners will have several weeks to gather signatures before returning them to the clerk. In this case, each petition needs 373 signatures, which equals 25 percent of people who voted in the last regular election. If those are gathered, the clerk would then go into a second technical review.
"And at that time, the determination will be are the signatures provided sufficient? Do they meet the requirements? Do they have the additional information that is necessary? And is the statement, is the petition itself and the statement and the grounds on which it’s based, sufficient? If it is determined that it’s sufficient, we will move into a recall election process," she said.
So, although the petitions have been issued, it’s based on the fact that the applications were done correctly. It’s not guaranteeing that the underlying reasons are valid.
Wells said it’s important to note that because they are three separate petitions, signatures will have to be gathered and approved for each.
For the same reason, the timing on two of the petitions is different from the third. Typically, petitioners have 60 days to gather signatures. However, petitions must also be turned in within 180 days of the last day of a council member’s term. Wells says in this case, those two time frames don’t agree.
“Generally the petitioners would have 60 days to circulate and gather signatures. Because in this case, the 60-day timeframe runs up against the 180-day time requirement, that time to circulate the petition for signatures will be shortened and will require them to get that circulated by April 11," explained Wells.
That problem only arises for Lewis and Reynolds as their terms expire earlier than Aderhold’s. She has an additional year left to go in office, so the petition is able to take longer.
Wells anticipates only having one special election, if the petitions are approved and the process moves in that direction. However, it is feasible that the Aderhold petition could end up in a separate election if the signatures on it are delayed in any way.
Since this process started, the community has been divided on the issue. Council members have received criticism and hate mail and also outpourings of support. For example, one group in particular planned to attend last Tuesday's council meeting with paper hearts to show their silent support of the three council members facing potential recall.
Editor's note: In the interest of full disclosure, KBBI morning news host Carolyn Norton organized the paper heart initiative.