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Saturday, September 23, 2017
HomeAlaska NewsBreaking: ACLU, council members sue Homer over recall election

Breaking: ACLU, council members sue Homer over recall election

Larry Zuccaro of Homer files petitions with Homer City Clerk Jo Johnson in March.

According to three city council members in Homer, Alaska, it’s not up to voters to decide if they are “unfit for office.” It’s up to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The three, who are facing a recall vote, have enlisted the ACLU of Alaska to help them sue the City of Homer over what they  claim is an unconstitutional recall election scheduled for June 13.

Donna Aderhold, David Lewis, and Catriona Reynolds are facing the discontent of hundreds of local residents who signed recall petitions in March. The petitions said they were unfit to represent the city.

The council members had worked as a group to craft a resolution that would have made Homer a “sanctuary city,” where illegal immigrants would find safe haven from law enforcement. The effort was cloaked in secrecy and residents were surprised when they learned of it. Under local fire, the resolution was eventually watered down and it failed passage.

The “Sanctuary Three” didn’t stop there. They also worked to establish an official position for the City of Homer opposing the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota and support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its resistance against the project. Some Homer citizens felt the council members had “gone rogue” in trying to make the entire city weigh in on a project thousands of miles and several states away, for no good reason other than obsequious political correctness.

The ACLU, in a press release, said that the three have done “nothing more than exercising their free speech rights.”

But the citizens are also expressing their right — their right to vote people out of office. They gathered 437 signatures — far more than needed — on petitions to recall the three council members. The city clerk, after consulting with the city’s attorney, said the petition was strong enough to allow it to go for a vote. The law provides liberal language that supports the public’s right to remove lawmakers.

But the ACLU disagrees.

“Legislators have a well-established right, under the First Amendment, to discuss their views on local or national policy and it is good that they do. Such a right promotes public discussion and advocacy of issues of concern to our neighbors at all levels of government,” the ACLU wrote in a press release.

“Taking public positions and drafting legislation are activities every lawmaker has the right to do, even if there are people who disagree with them,” the ACLU wrote. “As a result, the certification of their recall petition both violates the constitutional rights of the individual council members and would send a dangerous message to all of Alaska’s elected officials that they dare not express opinions on public policy issues for fear of facing a recall effort from a motivated faction of voters.”

That’s troubling to Larry Zuccaro, who was involved in gathering the signatures needed for a special election.

“That is just how a Marxist would think. They’re telling us we don’t have a right to remove them? It’s basic — that we are only governed through our consent, and we’re simply following the legal process for removing our consent to have them govern,” said Zuccaro.

“This is much more troubling than just this Homer recall,” Zuccaro said. “If the ACLU is able to block the citizens from a recall, where does this end on the national level, that we no longer have the authority to recall our own council members? Who is going to decide these things — will it no longer be the public but the ACLU now determining our local politics? It would set a significant precedent.”

Sarah Vance of Homer was also concerned about the ACLU’s involvement, but even more so by the fact that three city council members are suing to keep their elected positions – and asking that the city pay their legal costs.

“These three council members chose to have the ACLU represent them in suing the city that they swore to defend,” she said. “They’re suing to keep their jobs. It’s an insult to me as a resident that they would not allow every resident an opportunity to state their opinion at the ballot box, but have instead chosen a lawsuit, and they want to use our tax dollars.”

Mike Fell, another supporter of the recall, wondered why the ACLU got involved in the Homer election. “It’s absurd that the ACLU would try to stifle the democratic process. That’s what they are supposed to defend.”

In fact, at the national level the ACLU has made it a top priority to fight against voter supression. “Apparently the Alaska ACLU didn’t get the memo,” Fell said.

The lawsuit states that there are insufficient grounds to claim that the three are unfit for office, as the recall petition alleges. And, of course, the three council members in question are also asking that their legal fees be paid by the city of Homer.

The council members lawsuit is found at the ACLU Alaska’s web site here.

Their request for attorney fees is found here: Motion for declaratory and injunctive relief.

[Read: Homer recall set for June 13]

[Read: Homer petition gains ground]

[Read: Smoking gun: Council members intended to create sanctuary city]

Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • I think its best to leave it up to a judge to decide whether or not this recall is constitutional. You guys need to just stop beating this to death, this resolution never even passed, you won, get over it.

    • Been having to say that a lot lately, huh? Nope. Progressive bull—t is still bull—t. It fairly pathetic that these a–holes have to run and cry to mommy ACLU because they fail at representing their voters this hard.

    • AMEN! This article is BLATANTLY biased! This is not journalism, this is not reporting. It is someone with a personal agenda and it shows. Since the ENTIRE council met and discussed the ACTUAL resolution, not the draft given to Lewis by a city resident, then perhaps ALL the council should be up for recall? NO. They all did their jobs, as described by law, but three were chosen in the witch hunt. It’s beyond ridiculous that the City Clerk only used the City Attorney to determine the recall in the first place. They, like this writer, are too emotionally involved in this tiny end of the road community to be rational. Seeking outside council would have nixed the entire recall!

      Do you think the ACLU takes on ANY case? No. They take on cases where peoples rights have been stomped on! In this case, it is three city council members – just because they are city council members does not mean they give up their right to free speech! Period. The people of Homer were never put in harms way, their rights were not trampled upon, their reputations have been torn asunder by ugly gossip-mongers and this is not only not fair, it is actually illegal. Their actions were not illegal, but the action of the City very well could be determined to be so. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was.

      Witch hunting, McCarthyism, and all that rot … has raised its ugly head in many places since the Trump election and it’s got to stop. It doesn’t matter whom you voted for; your vote has NOTHING to do with the matters of this CITY. The three members did their job, performed to the letter of the law and Homer policy, and were STILL castigated for doing just what the people wanted! They got what they wanted, yet still filed for a recall.

      This is not about that resolution, this is about petty differences of political opinion grown too large by small-minded people who do not understand how government works in the first place. Let them run for office and try the job on for size! It’s not easy trying to please everyone all the time. It’s impossible! Yet that is what this is really all about. For shame, on the Homerroids who started all this mess, which actually began from a personal interpretation of a DRAFT that a young man posted on Facebook, and shame on the “Must Read Alaska” for allowing such bias to be printed under your banner. It’s sickening.

    • We only Win when these three are removed from our city council. They have brought the ACLU into this before the community has even had a vote. They went behind the peoples back to bring about change without including community input.
      They need gone

      • Yes you have a right to free speech but when you are representing me you don’t have the right to attach MY name to your opinion! As an individual speak on…. but not by using the title WE gave you by voting for you- that title gives you the right to speak in Homer council and to debate & solve issues about Homer, within Homer, that we as the citizens expect to get solved Homer’s local problems that need to be addressed. You can’t create the issue, decide the rules and spend our money to solve your legal problems while wearing your council Hat and saying this is what the people of Homer believe is best for Homer. Until you understand that is crossing the line, I can and will reject you as not acceptable behavior as my representative. If you continue on and expect me and my fellow citizens to pay for your temper tantrums and legal costs, you are unfit because you are making yourself more important than the job we hired you to do. You would then not be doing your job as a council person. You’re fired!

  • Crazytown, we have met thee, and thy name is Homer.

    Sad.

  • This is bull crap. The ACLU is going to stop a recall?

  • You think Homer is a mess, just look what has happened to Anchorage. But that’s ok, the revolt is coming.

  • I think this will start a revolt once citizens realize what the three council members have done. They think they are above the recall, and that the citizens have granted them a monarchy.

    Just wait till the 400+ citizens who signed the recall find out their petition means nothing to these people, and on top of that, they want us to PAY ($) for their discomfort! HOW DARE THE SUBJECTS CHALLENGE THE CROWN! 1776

  • Alaska progressive…So a judge (king) should decide if the citizens have a right to redress of greavence of their city council??? Do you even know what form of goverment you reside under? You are a fool

  • If the ACLU and these three wannabe dictators succeed, then the recall process is null and void and might as well be thrown out. As Larry said in the article, representatives only are allowed to govern with our consent. Once we revoke that consent, they are required to step down. Simple as that. As Benjamin Franklin responded when asked whether America was a Republic or a Monarchy, we’d been given “A Republic, if you can keep it.” People like Donna Aderhold, David Lewis, and Catriona Reynolds (and Gabrielle LeDoux in the Alaska State House), and organizations like the ACLU keep trying to take our Republic away from us. It’s up to us to stop them and put them in their place, which to their displeasure is NOT on a throne.

  • Nice spin, Suzanne! I think the issue is that the City Clerk should not have certified the recall, as the grounds do not pass statutory muster and would violate basic free speech protections. Because the City took the extraordinary and strange step of certifying the recall, it left itself wide open to a legal challenge, which is what the City Attorney warned would happen. I am glad that the court will provide some precedent here so that we don’t see a lot of baseless partisan recall efforts in the future.

  • Strange that they still think it’s about free speech. The progressives just don’t get it. And they cry that this should be a local issue, but then blast it all over their twitter feeds and run to the ACLU. Fun to watch them march in lockstep repeating their mantras.

  • So Louie, just curious, do you believe in our Constitutional Republic? Or some other form of government? And if so, please do enlighten us

  • Yes Sir, I do believe in our form of government in the United States with all of its constitutional protections. Thank you for the question. I support a clear and accessible recall process for elected officials should their infraction violate the statute. I do not think the current Homer recall grounds meet the requirements of law. I believe in the rule of law. I do think that recall supporters have a legitimate disagreement with the City Council members. I don’t think the disagreement should be resolved via a recall petition which will cost the city time and money in court, on a case which I am fairly certain it will lose. I think those with a grievance should vote in the regular election – or better yet – run for office!

  • Recall is a petty, vindictive attempt to punish council members for exercising rights protected by the constitution. Very simply, all you who dislike them for whatever reason, vote them out next time they come up for election. Otherwise, stop the stupid persecution and move on. Summer is coming.

  • CITY OF HOMER
    HOMER, ALASKA
    Aderhold/Reynolds/Lewis
    RESOLUTION 17-019

    A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF HOMER, ALASKA,
    STATING THAT THE CITY OF HOMER ADHERES TO THE PRINCIPLE
    OF INCLUSION AND HEREIN COMMITTING THIS CITY TO
    RESISTING EFFORTS TO DIVIDE THIS COMMUNITY WITH REGARD
    TO RACE, RELIGION, ETHNICITY, GENDER, NATIONAL ORIGIN,
    PHYSICAL CAPABILITIES, OR SEXUAL ORIENTATION REGARDLESS OF THE ORIGIN OF THOSE EFFORTS, INCLUDING FROM LOCAL, STATE OR FEDERAL AGENCIES.

    WHEREAS, The City of Homer recognizes that American politics has become polarized, which has led to divisiveness in our community; and

    WHEREAS, Violent acts targeting religious groups, minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community have become more frequent in and outside of the United States; and

    WHEREAS, Before and especially since the election, some citizens on both extremes of the political spectrum have been emboldened to express overtly an intolerance of diversity that is opposed to the views of most Homer residents and most Americans; and

    WHEREAS, The City of Homer recognizes that our community is diverse in regards to religion, political ideologies, sexual identity or orientation, and ethnicity, and that no citizen should feel in any way threatened for their beliefs or physical appearance, and the City should be on record as opposing all intolerance towards those individuals.

    NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the City Council of the City of Homer unequivocally rejects expressions of fear and hate wherever they may exist, and specifically rejects harassment of women, immigrants, religious minorities, racial and ethnic minorities, and LGBTQ individuals, and non-violent political groups.

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Homer embraces all peoples regardless of skin color, country of birth, faith, sex, gender, marital status, political ideology, or abilities; and that the City of Homer will not waver in its commitment to inclusion and to continuing to create a village safe for a diverse population.

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Homer will resist any and all efforts to profile vulnerable populations.

    Page 2 of 2
    RESOLUTION 17-019
    CITY OF HOMER

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Homer will cooperate with federal agencies in detaining undocumented immigrants when court-issued federal warrants are delivered.

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Homer shall steadfastly defend the United States and Alaska constitutions, especially with regard to the former’s precedent-backed right of privacy and the latter’s specified right of privacy (Article 1, Section 22), and safeguard the rights declared in the Bill of Rights.

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Homer will continue its staunch support of our local police in their ongoing efforts to enforce law and protect our community and its visitors in a just, unbiased and transparent manner.

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Homer will declare itself a safety net for the most vulnerable members of and visitors to our community.

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Homer calls on all its citizens to stand against intolerance and resist expressions of hate toward any members of the community, and thus to set an example for the rest of the nation, demonstrating that Homer residents and Alaskans adhere to the principle of live-and-let-live.

    PASSED AND ADOPTED by the Homer City Council this 27th day of February, 2017.

    CITY OF HOMER

    ________________________
    BRYAN ZAK, MAYOR

    ATTEST:
    This is what was introduced, it is far from a sanctuary city

  • The three City Council members received a petition for a motion from their Homer constituency which was strongly worded, and politically insensitive. Rather than turn their backs on their neighbors, they worked with them to tone down the language to be more presentable. The motion was presented and failed to pass. It should have ended there. Instead, three Homer residents decided winning was not enough. They collected signatures to recall the three City Council members. During the collection of signatures, they approached folks with remarks that represented their efforts as a fight against Homer becoming a Sanctuary City. This is what folks thought they were signing. That effort had already been put to bed by the three City Council members, and tucked away by the vote. I stand with ALL of Homer’s City Council. They have all been elected to represent us, and they are doing a fine job.

  • Looks like someone didn’t read the council members emails…

  • I read the emails. What the re-callers don’t get is that those like me who voted for these three have a right for them to serve their full terms unless they take action that meets the criteria of the law for recall. I should not have to go to the polls, in the middle of summer no less, to vote again because a group of folks do not want my point of view represented on the council. This is about free speech and voter rights.
    I don’t read this blog often but I am amazed that when I do this writer so often gets the facts wrong. In this case, the order of the resolutions. She also fails to note that the mayor also voted in favor of the Dakota pipeline resolution. Leaving out details and reordering history for dramatic effect is unprofessional.

  • I am a Homer resident for over 30 years. This article is biased and not how a majority of Homer residents feel. I have been through many city hall meetings, the council members named were always thorough, professional, and courteous. It is a shame to see people in this town supporting this kind of hate and injustice. This is a huge waste of our city’s resources. Please stop wasting our time with this crap and put your energy towards building an informed and more productive city council!!!!!

  • So what is the problem with letting the recall people be proven wrong in a very public way by letting the june 13 date stand? If you are so confident the citizens are behind the council members, then what better way to prove it

  • I am a 28 year homer resident and I am disgusted this is still continuing. I am proud our council members are speaking up for those of us in Homer that support them and support the process of city politics. On another note, I have to say, I’m a bit disgusted that Mike Fell and Larry Ziccarro and other pioneering this effort are refusing to speak to local papers, or unbiased reporters. If your efforts are so noble why will you only speak to this ‘news source’?