The Homer City Council passed a resolution Monday asking Alaska’s Legislature to tighten up the legal grounds for recalling elected municipal officials. The council also approved sending a companion resolution to the Alaska Municipal League, but both were pulled for reconsideration Tuesday morning.
Both measures, sponsored by council members Donna Aderhold and Heath Smith, were passed without any controversy or discussion.
On Tuesday, council member Tom Stroozas pulled the resolutions for reconsideration at the council’s next meeting. Council members on the prevailing side of a vote have 48 hours to pull approved resolutions or ordinances.
This comes little over two months after a recall effort against council members Aderhold, Catriona Reynolds and David Lewis failed. Aderhold said the state statute is too vague and allows for multiple interpretations.
“You have to remember at the municipal level, these are community members who step up to volunteer for some period of time for their community. We aren’t career politicians. We are people who really care about our community,” Aderhold said. “I fear that if recall is that easy and it can be used as a hammer for any issue, who’s going to want to run? Who is going to want to put themselves in that position?”
Municipal officials can be recalled for misconduct in office, incompetence or failure to perform their duties. Recall petitioners in Homer claimed the three council members committed misconduct after drafting and sponsoring two resolutions regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline and inclusivity for minority populations.
The statute doesn’t provide a legal definition for misconduct, and that’s what Aderhold takes issue with.
“I hope the Alaska Municipal League, if we can get them to pass a similar resolution, making it a statewide municipal priority will help the Legislature realize that this is an issue that municipalities want addressed,” Aderhold explained.
Her push comes after another recall effort in Haines failed earlier this month.
The resolutions also list other municipalities who have faced recall elections and subsequent court cases as reasoning for clearer guidelines.
Council member Stroozas disagrees with Aderhold, and said Homer’s recall election proved the system works just fine. He adds that elected officials are able to defend themselves against recall with a statement on the ballot.
“You can argue both sides of the issue and defend both sides equally as well. I decided it’s best just to leave this thing alone,” Stroozas noted.
He plans to vote against both measures at the next regular meeting on Sept. 11.