Recall goes on despite death
The death of the chief petitioner for the recall of a county commissioner has not stopped the recall effort.
On Monday, Jefferson County Clerk Kathy Marston approved the new petitions for circulation for the recall of Walt Ponsford, the chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners.
Citing lawsuits filed against the county as a result of its Measure 37 policy, the Measure 37 Committee originally filed petitions to recall Ponsford and Commissioner Bill Bellamy on June 26.
Ballot Measure 37, passed by state voters in November of 2004, gives property owners the right to seek compensation when local or state government laws reduce the value of their property -- provided that they owned the property before the laws were passed. Measure 37 allows government -- in this case the county -- to waive the regulations rather than pay claims, as Jefferson County has done.
The committee began the process of refiling the petition for Ponsford on July 21, before the death of chief petitioner Leona Waldow, 97, on July 26. Waldow's son Lee Waldow is the new chief petitioner.
Waldow was one of three property owners who were dissatisfied with the Measure 37 waivers they received from the county, and filed lawsuits against the county seeking millions of dollars.
Petitioners for the recalls have 90 days from the day the paperwork was submitted -- until Oct. 19 for Ponsford -- to collect 886 signatures for the recall, according to Marston. Petitions against Bellamy must be submitted by Sept. 25. Chief petitioner for that petition is Fannie Regnier, 100.
Bob Harris, one of the main organizers of the recall effort, said the committee had collected about 400 signatures on each of the petitions before Waldow's death.
Earlier this week, the committee sent out new petitions to the people who had already signed the petition for the recall of Ponsford, who is up for re-election on the November ballot.
Harris was optimistic about the time required to recollect the original signatures for Ponsford, and collect another 500 signatures on each of the petitions. "We got help coming in to collect signatures. We're shooting for in the neighborhood of 10 days," he said, to collect the remaining signatures.
After the 90-day period allowed to collect signatures, the clerk's office has 10 days to verify signatures. The person against whom the petition has been filed then has five days to either resign or submit a statement of justification.
Up to 105 days after the original petition is filed, Marston has another 35 days to schedule the election -- for a potential total of 140 days. For Bellamy, that could mean an election as late as mid-November, and for Ponsford, early December -- well after the November election.
If there were separate elections, each would cost taxpayers between $7,000 and $8,000, Marston said, but Harris insisted that there would only be one election, and that the committee has offered to pay the costs of printing and mailing the ballots.
"Both will be turned in at the same time," he said.
Even if the committee collects enough signatures before the deadline for the ballots for the November election -- which must be printed by Sept. 20 -- the recall could not be included on the November ballot.
"Basically, it's not going to work to have it on the November ballot, because the ballots are printed so far ahead of time," said Marston. A recall election has to take place within 35 days from the time the subject of the petition submits a statement.
"People are very upset," said Bellamy. "Either they laugh, or they're mad. It's a total abuse of the recall process."
Ponsford, who considered Waldow a friend, was saddened by her death, but is surprised that the effort is continuing this close to the election.
"They have the legal right to do this; I just don't understand," said Ponsford. "Even if they get the signatures, they're going to be butting up against the November election."
"I've tried as hard as I can to follow the law," he continued. "It's really ironic that because I'm trying to follow the law, they're going to try and recall me."