By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEEKEND EDITION, FRIDAY, FEB. 21, 2014) — THE PLANET had an inquiry recently about the recall procedures under the “new” Pittsfield city charter. The move by Hinsdale voters to approve a recall petition inspired the question.
THE PLANET went to city’s official website. We couldn’t find a direct link. Conducting a hunt using the search engine produced language of an April 23, 2013 draft of the charter. Further hunting, however, produced the actual, approved language. It’s interesting that the city makes finding such key information so laborious and multi-stepped, and we wonder how that plays in the box seats and the cheapies. For example, if you were looking to relocate a home or business here, what impression would you take away from your interaction with the city’s online presence?
We thought so.
Here is the language that describes the process, the mechanism, for removing an office holder:
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Application – Any holder of an elected office in the city, with more than six months remaining in the term of office for which the officer was elected, may be recalled therefrom by the voters of the city in the manner provided in this section. No recall petition shall be filed against an officer within six months after taking office.
Recall Petition – A recall petition may be initiated by the filing of an affidavit containing the name of the officer sought to be recalled and a statement of the grounds for recall, provided that the affidavit is signed by at least 500 voters for the office of mayor or councilor-at-large and at least 300 voters for any other elected officials; provided, however, that the signatures for a recall petition for the office of ward city councilor shall be from certified voters in the ward for which the councilor was elected. The city clerk shall thereupon deliver to those voters making the affidavit copies of petition blanks demanding such recall, copies of which printed forms the city clerk shall keep available. The blanks shall be issued by the city clerk, with signature and official seal attached thereto. The blanks shall be dated, shall be addressed to the city council and shall contain the names of all the persons to whom the blanks are issued, the number of blanks so issued, the name of the person whose recall is sought, the office from which removal is sought and the grounds of recall as stated in the affidavit. A copy of the petition shall be entered in a record book to be kept in the office of the city clerk. Said recall petition shall be returned and filed with the city clerk within 28 days after the filing of the affidavit, and shall have been signed by at least 20% of the voters of the city for any officer elected at large and signed by at least 20% of the voters of the ward for an officer elected by ward. The city clerk shall submit the petition to the registrars of voters and the registrars shall, within five days, certify thereon the number of signatures which are names of voters.
Recall Election – If the petition shall be found and certified by the city clerk to be sufficient, the city clerk shall submit the same with such certificate to the city council within five days, and the city council shall give written notice of the receipt of the certificate to the officer sought to be recalled and shall, if the officer does not resign within five days thereafter, order an election to be held on a date fixed by the city council not less than 64 days and not more than 90 days after the date of the city clerk’s certificate that a sufficient petition has been filed; provided, however, that if any other city election is to occur within 120 days after the date of the certificate, the city council shall postpone the holding of the recall election to the date of such other election. If a vacancy occurs in said office after a recall election has been ordered, the election shall not proceed as provided in this section.
Office Holder – The incumbent shall continue to perform the duties of the office until the recall election. If said incumbent is not recalled, the incumbent shall continue in office for the remainder of the unexpired term subject to recall as before. If recalled, the officer shall be deemed removed and the office vacant. The vacancy created thereby shall be filled under articles 2, 3, 4 and 5 of this charter for filling vacancies in such office. A person chosen to fill the vacancy caused by a recall shall hold office until the next regular city election. Should the person be a candidate in the subsequent election, that person will not be allowed to have “candidate for reelection” appear on the ballot at such election.
Ballot Proposition – The form of the question to be voted upon shall be substantially as follows:
“Shall [here insert the name and title of the elective officer whose recall is sought] be recalled?”
If a majority of the votes cast upon the question of recall is in the affirmative, such elected officer shall be recalled.
Repeat of Recall – In the case of an officer subjected to a recall election and not recalled thereby, no recall petition shall be filed against such officer until at least 270 days after the election at which the officer’s recall was submitted to the voters of the city.
Office Holder Recalled – No person who has been recalled from an office or who has resigned from office while recall proceedings were pending against such person shall be appointed to any city office within two years after such recall or such resignation.
For any measure to be effective under initiative procedure and for any measure to be declared null and void under a referendum procedure and for any recall election, at least 20% of the voters as of the most recent regular city election must vote at an election that includes on the ballot submission to the voters of one or more initiative or referendum or recall questions.
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Now that you, the citizens, are armed with this weapon of self-defense, the big question is: Is it time to use it? Think hard on this. Ask yourself if there is any currently sitting official “with more than six months remaining in [his or her] term of office” deserving of recall? For example, in your view, does the mayor qualify?
The followup questions is this: Assuming that there is such a currently sitting official, are the numbers out there for a recall petition to succeed? Are there at least 500 citizens who would sign an affidavit? Are there almost 3,000 people willing to sign the succeeding petition?
THE PLANET invites your thoughts on this interesting, important, and — perhaps — urgent issue.
“I got a brand new pair of roller skates. You’ve got a brand new key. I think that we should get together.” — Melanie, “The Roller Skate Song.”
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.