Monday, May 22, 2017

California: Artesia Mayor and Councilmen facing recall efforts

Mayor Ali Taj and Councilmen Miguel Canales and Victor Manalo are facing a recall led by the former Parks and Recreation Commissioner and the recall effort has now led to charges of fraud and forgery in the collection of signatures.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Rhode Island: Providence City Council attempts to remove president with 2/3rd vote

Following the successful recall of Councilman Kevin Jackson, the city council is looking to President Luis A. Aponte by a proposed rule change that would allow him to be kicked off by a 2/3rds vote. Aponte refused to resign after being charged with embezzlement and misuse of campaign funds. Sounds like a potential court fight.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

California: Napa Valley School District facing recall over mascot, hazing and deficit

The Napa Valley Unified School Board is facing an effort against all seven trustees over the expulsion of five football players for hazing, a million dollar budget deficit and a claim that the board and the Superintendent have a "silent agenda" to replace the High School's Indian mascot.

The effort is against Chairman Jose Hurtado, Trustees Joe Schunk, Tom Kensok, Icela Martin, Robb Felder, Elba Gonzalez-Mares and Stacy Bratlien. Petitioners need at least 10,000 signatures to get on the ballot.

There was a recall against two school board trustees in 1982, though they failed. Four trustees at the St. Helena School district were kicked out in 2010.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Alasaka: My op-ed on the Homer Recall and the difference between Political and Malfeasance Standard recalls

In this piece, I note that in Alaska there have been at least 22 recalls attempted which received enough signatures to make the ballot in the state over the last six years. Of those recalls, 17 officials have been kicked out, though recalls against the Wrangell Medical Center and the mayor and city council of Dot Lake make up 13 of those. The other four officials who were kicked out were the mayor of Whitter, "the weirdest town in Alaska," the mayor of North Slope Borough, a Galena school board member and a Wasilla city councilman who was accused of trashing a hotel room. Only one official survived a recall vote, the mayor of Houston. In Holy Cross, the city council simply refused to schedule a recall, which killed the effort.

Five other recalls efforts, one against the governor, two against state representatives, one against an assembly representative, and four against Anchorage school board members, are a bit more instructive. Using the same arguments that the ACLU has cited in Homer, they were rejected by governmental officials as beyond the scope of Alaska's recall law. For this, it pays to understand how the state's law works compared to how people might expect a recall to operate.

While 38 states allow the recall on the lower level, only 19, including Alaska, allow it for some or all state-level officials. There are two broad categories of states with recall laws. Eleven states have what is called a political recall law. This means that an official can face a recall for almost any reason. There is no need to prove a cause of action, such as criminal behavior for the recall to move forward. Essentially, all famous recalls in the US, such as California Governor Gray Davis or Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker have taken place under these laws.

The other eight states, including Alaska, have a form of a recall called judicial recall (not to be confused with a recall of a judge) or malfeasance standard recall. For recalls to take place in these states, the petition must show a violation of either law or in some cases of incompetence? These laws are not uniform. In Illinois, it is only the governor who is covered by recall and in Virginia, there is no election but rather a recall petition triggers a judicial hearing. The judge decides whether to kick out the official. But all require an agency or the courts to hold that a specific, statutorily delineated bad act was perform by the elected official.

Utah: Op-ed By Bar president article against recall of judges in Utah

Here -- this was over a column by Robert Gehrke calling for a recall of judges based on comments during a sexual assault case. In that case, Judge Thomas Low said "great men sometimes do bad things." He did sentence the defendant to up to life in prison.
A proposal to subject judges to recall elections is no small thing, inasmuch as Utah's judicial system is born out of a document no less important than the Utah Constitution. Our state's founders established Article I of Utah's Constitution to create an independent judiciary, a principle anchored in the English Magna Carta of 1215.
In Lyon v. Burton, the Utah Supreme Court observed that the purpose of an independent judiciary was "to bar sovereign power, whether kingly, parliamentary, or legislative, from undermining an independent judiciary and arbitrarily abolishing remedies that protect the person, property, or reputation of each individual."
Article VIII of the Utah Constitution goes on to permit judges to sit for extended terms, subject to voter approval in six-year retention elections. The retention election system allows jurists to dispense justice without regard to the vagaries of day-to-day public opinion.
As former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor once told Utah lawyers, "The reason why judicial independence is so important is because there has to be a place where being right is more important than being popular."
Further, Utah's Judicial Conduct Commission administers the Utah Code of Judicial Conduct. That code consists of stringent ethical canons aimed at ensuring the fair and objective administration of justice. In response to filed complaints, the Judicial Conduct Commission can investigate judges and, where violations are found, recommend to the Utah Supreme Court disciplinary action, including that a judge be reprimanded, censured, suspended or removed from the bench.
Public reports indicate that at least one group has filed a complaint regarding Judge Low with the commission. In short, there is already an effective system in place to respond to concerns of the public, including crime victims.
Utah's constitutional and administrative underpinnings of its judicial branch have served Utah well. Thanks to a Legislature that has taken great care to preserve a strong judicial branch and a governor who has carefully selected well-qualified judges, our state is widely regarded nationally as having an excellent judiciary.
Utah's judges and court administrators enjoy an excellent national reputation when it comes to the efficient and effective operation of a judicial system that wrings exceptional value from every dollar it is allocated. My clients from around the country report their deep satisfaction with Utah judges who intelligently and dispassionately apply the law to the facts. Utah's excellent reputation in this regard is a testament to the success that comes from the proper maintenance of an independent judiciary.
It is currently fashionable to criticize judges with whom one disagrees. Of course, the press and the public should engage in spirited debate about important decisions handed down by courts, and even dissect the statements judges make in issuing their decisions. That is the nature of the open "perfect union" in which we live and clearly the province of the Fourth Estate. But to respond to controversial remarks or decisions by calling for judicial recall elections ignores the already-existing strength and credibility of Utah's judiciary and the importance of judicial independence that is founded in our state's Constitution.
Robert O. Rice is president of the Utah State Bar.

Louisiana: Times-Picayune calls for easier recall law

You don't see too many newspaper editorial pages calling for an easier recall law, but Louisiana's law is so tough.

India: Leading activist supports proposed recall law

Here

Michigan: State Supreme Court looking at Benton Harbor conviction

Following the failed attempt to recall Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower, lead petitioner Ed Pikney was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for changing the dates of signatures. The Supreme Court is looking at the case now -- though Pikney is getting out in June.

The Michigan Supreme Court is looking at the conviction of a Benton Harbor activist who was accused of altering dates on petitions to recall a mayor.
The court will consider whether it was proper to allow evidence of Ed Pinkney’s history of activism in Benton Harbor, even if it wasn’t directly related to the crime. The court said Wednesday it will hear arguments in the months ahead.
The 2014 recall election against James Hightower wasn’t held after local courts said the petitions were spoiled. Hightower was Benton Harbor’s mayor at the time.
Pinkney testified that another person made illegal changes to the recall petitions. But investigators couldn’t find anyone with the name that was offered.

Pinkney was sentenced to 2½ years in prison and will be released in June.

California: Sacramento Bee looks at GOP grasp for relevance behind State Senate recall attempt

Here

North Dakota: Bismarck Mayor recall fails

Bismarck's City Administrator has said that too many signatures were knocked off the petition against Mayor Mike Seminary to get on the ballot. Petitioners handed in 2405 and needed 1898. They only had 1738. The issue was the mayor's alleged welcoming of Dakota Access pipeline protesters.

The Bureau of Criminal Investigation is still examining the inconsistencies with the petitions. Petitioners are considering an appeal.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

California: Signature gathering starting against Oxnard Council and Mayor

Mayor Tim Flynn and council members Carmen Ramirez, Bert Perello and Oscar Madrigal are facing recall efforts over a 5% raise in wastewater rates. Petitioner would need about 12,000 signatures to get to the ballot.

Arizona: Three Whetstone Water Improvement District Board members ousted

President Tum Sulger, Treasurer Robert Tinney and board member Leonard Howell were all easily defeated, getting less then 13% of the vote. Tony Ellis beat Sulger (239-33), Steve Ursey beat Tinnet (236-31) and Joe Dooley beat Howell (241-26).

The issue was a dispute with district employees over the repair of a well. The board fired the three employees who disagreed with them. One of those employees led the recall effort.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

My Wall Street Journal Op-ed on the daily presidential briefing

Here's my op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on why the beneficiary of the daily presidential briefing is the president himself -- and it may be better for the country, and certainly for Congress, if they didn't hold this briefing.

In my original draft, I had a great quote from the Vietnam War classic Dispatches that had to be cut for space. But I wanted to put it here, as it really gets what the issue with official briefings.

"It could have rained frogs over Tan Son Nhut and they wouldn’t have been upset; Cam Ranh Bay could have dropped into the South China Sea and they would have found some way to make it sound good for you." Michael Herr, Dispatches

California: Op-ed by Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association President on Senate recall

The recall effort against State Senator Josh Newman (D) is proceeding, and here's an op-ed by the Jarvis Association president explaining why they are supporting the recall effort (which would, if successful, knock out the Democrats super majority in the Senate).

North Dakota: Bureau of Criminal Investigation looking at potential fraud in Bismarck Mayor recall

Petitions against Mayor Mike Seminary, who is facing a recall over his alleged welcoming Dakota Access protesters, are now being looked at by the Bureau of Criminal Investigations over alleged fraudulent activity. Petitioners handed in about 2500 names, they need 1898 valids. 400 have already been tossed out over failing to live in the city limits.

North Dakota: Suspended McKenzie County Sheriff facing recall effort

Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger, who has been suspended due to ethical considerations, is facing a recall petition over his alleged misuse of a county credit card. The county commission is also trying to remove him.


Phillipines: Supporters of losing San Juan mayoral candidate files recall effort

Mayor Guia Gomez is facing a recall effort filed by supporters of losing mayoral candidate and former Vice Mayor Francis Zamora. PEtitioners handed in 30,000 signatures. They need 21,367

Colombia: Bogota Mayor facing recall effort

Mayor Enrique Penalosa is facing efforts by four different groups over management questions including privatization plans and what to do about the metro. Petitioners handed in 660,000 signatures. They needed 271,817 (30% of the vote) The mayor's party is looking to change the recall law, so it's not clear what will happen.

Friday, May 12, 2017

North Dakota: Group drops Fargo recall effort

The recall effort against Councilman Dave Piepkorn over his questioning of refugee resettlement has been dropped. Petitioners needed a little over 3500 signatures.

California: Del Norte Supervisor hit with petition over proposed trip

Supervisor Lori Cowan is facing a petition over a complaint that she was scheduled to accompany school district personnel to Japan as part of a sister city program (though it sounds like she didn't go). Another complaint is that Cowan was also nominated as an alternate to go on a trip to DC if other council members couldn't go.

Maryland: Editorial calls for recall against Taneytown councilman

Councilman Donald Frazier has been censured for the second time, and the Carrol County Times is now calling for his recall. The Taneytown charter requires a censure before a petition can be circulated (they need 20% of qualified voters).

Frazier was censured for berating the city clerk, questioning the city attorneys legal fees and requesting that the invoice be sent to him instead of the mayor and posting on a political groups's social media page a letter from the city attorney (violating the attorney-client privilege).