Petitions circulating to recall city officials

Signatures are being sought to recall Mayor Jim Boles and City Council members Robin Boyd, Harold Soehner, Dee Rodriguez and Judy Howell.

Dissatisfied with their behavior in council meetings, Winslow resident Maria “Bunny” Gamez took out petitions on Jan. 18 to have a recall for the mayor and three Council members. On Feb. 2, resident Eloise DeSpain filed an application for a petition to recall Howell.

For the petitions to be successful, the canvassers must collect 245 signatures for each Council member and 229 for the mayor. They have 120 days from the date of the applications to collect the needed signatures or the petitions become nullified.

The petitions include statements that give grounds for recall. The statements are individualized to each person and do not include specific issues but rather generalizations of their behavior.

“The reason I didn’t want be very specific on the recall there’s a lot of different reasons that different people have,” Gamez said. “It’s open. Anyone could be on there with or without supporting the other cause.”

If enough signatures are gathered, a recall election could be held as early as November or as late as March 2006 depending on how soon enough valid signatures can be gathered. For that to happen, first the signatures must be turned in within 120 days from when the application for petitions were issued.

The city clerk must verify there are enough proper signatures then passes the petitions to the County Recorder. The county then has 60 days to verify the signatures.

Upon return to the city clerk that there is still enough eligible signatures, then within 15 days of verification an election is ordered no sooner than 90 days from that point to the next consolidated election date. The recall election still has to fall within one of four consolidation dates according to state laws — March, May, September, or November.

At this time, Boles, first elected mayor in 1994, said he’s waiting to see what unfolds.

“We have had the most stable Council and we’ve had more accomplished and we are in the best fiscal condition we have been in in many, many years and I think that speaks for itself,” he said.

On the application, Gamez wrote that Boles “has been rude, disrespectful and belittling” to people whose opinions differ with his own.

The statement on the applications for Rodriguez makes similar charges. The statements on the application for Boyd charges him with having “low tolerance for citizens not agreeing with the council members’ voting practices.” Soehner is accused of not exhibiting “independent voting practices.”

Soehner, who first won his seat in 1997 in a recall election, said the charges against him would be difficult to prove.

“When you only have seven members it’s hard to do independent voting when it’s a yes or no vote, so you’re going to be aligned with one of those two,” he said.

Boyd said he’d leave it up to the voters of Winslow as to whether he’s not acting in the best interest of the city.

“If they have a recall election it will come out whether I’m wrong or not,” he said. “Personally, I think it’s a hand-full of people that aren’t pleased with the decisions by the Council and it’s their right to have a recall if they think the majority of the people are behind them.”

Gamez said she did not seek to recall Council members Peter Cake, Maribelle Ogilvie and Judy Howell because they have not been on Council as long as the others.

“They are senior Council members, they have been more than one term and they definitely should know how to respectfully address our community,” she said.

In the application to recall Howell, DeSpain alleges that the Councilwoman is “abusing her position to spread misinformation and dissension,” as well as accuses her of releasing confidential documents.

If the recall moves forward, it would be the second time that Boles, Boyd, Soehner and Rodriguez have had their seats challenged in a recall election.

In May 2002, upset over a garbage toter issue, members of the community sought to have all six Council members and the Mayor recalled. Three of the Council members at that time were unopposed and the others defeated their opponents to keep their seats. Boles also defeated his opponent, which was Howell, who was also the person who filed the petitions to have them recalled.

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