A special election to recall three Homer City Council members is now set for June 13.
The three had pushed to make Homer a sanctuary city, a place where illegal immigrants could find shelter from federal authorities.
Their actions this winter were documented in a series of emails that showed their intent to participate in a “resist Trump” style movement that would include creating sanctuary status for Homer via a resolution they were drafting with journalist-cum-citizen-activist Hal Spence.
Later, they modified their activities to create an “inclusivity” resolution, but by then their intentions were already public, as were the tracks they laid while they tried to re-brand their efforts.
A group of outraged Homer residents last month decided the three needed to face a recall election, and within two weeks had gathered the signatures needed. They delivered the signatures to the city clerk on Friday.
“After reviewing the petitions, and consulting with the City Attorney, I have determined that sufficient signatures have been submitted for each of the petitions,” wrote Homer City Clerk Jo Johnson in a memo today. “I have also found that some of the allegations in the statements for recall were sufficient. As a result, I certified the petitions on April 5, 2017.”
Petition sponsors, Mike Fell, Larry Zuccaro, and Larri Fancher submitted 15 petition booklets for each of the council members they seek to remove. Johnson certified that there were sufficient names in each of the petitions to proceed to the next step of deciding if the allegations had merit. There were 437 signatures to recall Aderhold, 436 for Lewis, and 436 for Reynolds.
Johnson found that 24 signatures for Alderhold were of people not on current voter rolls, or the signatures were illegible, or the actual signature was left off, or the person signed more than once. The petition for Lewis had 23 names that were not eligible, and 27 on the Reynolds petition were tossed.
But in the end, the recall group only needed 373 signatures each and they had several to spare in reaching their goal.
“Given the sufficiency of the signatures, I next examined the sufficiency of the statement for recall, with substantial assistance from the City Attorney in interpreting the relevant statutes and common law principles. In the State of Alaska, there are three grounds for recall, 1) misconduct in office; 2) incompetence; and 3) failure to perform prescribed duties,” Johnson wrote.
She said the grounds for recall are liberally constructed to favor access to the recall process, and she concluded that the group had sufficient grounds to ask for the vote.
She also noted that “the statutes offer the targeted official an opportunity to make a rebuttal, which will be placed on the ballot alongside the petitioners’ statement of charges. This rebuttal statement is the proper forum in which accused officials may defend against the charges. Where the petition merely characterizes the law in a way different than the official (or his or her attorney) would prefer, he or she has an opportunity to put his or her rebuttal before the voters, alongside the charges contained in the petition. It is not the place of the municipal clerk…to decide legal questions of this kind.”
The Homer City Council will be advised of her decision at its Monday meeting. Johnson said early voting will start two weeks prior to the election, which comes in the middle of a busy fishing and tourism season for the community on Kachemak Bay.