The Marginalized Attempt Recalls
Poplar Bluff, MO — For weeks both Topix and Facebook have had a frenzy of posts regarding how citizens “should go down to City Hall and support Doug Bagby at the next meeting!” But at last night’s City Council meeting only Dan Coffman spoke during the citizen input. For the most part Mr. Coffman parroted the DAR’s talking points and challenged the council regarding their recent actions. The council respectfully answered all of the inquiries and the meeting moved on without incident.
It has been rumored for over a month that those claiming to have been marginalized or disenfranchised by the actions of the current council are attempting a recall of Mayor Pearson and Johnny Brannum. I assume that the group attempting the recall has chosen the political committee name of “Bring Back Our Future”. I also speculate that Eddy Justice’s Facebook page “Citizens for Poplar Bluff’s Future” is aligned with the effort.[Update: According to Eddy Justice, the Citizens for Poplar Bluff’s Future is not participating in the recall effort. My speculation was partly based on the fact that the facebook page was created on May 14 and that is the same day that the domain BringBackOurFuture.com was registered with GoDaddy.com.]
The Missouri Ethics Commission recently rejected Bring Back Our Future’s first attempt at forming due to an incorrectly filled out application submitted. At this time, no subsequent application has been filed. They need to hurry since over $8,000 has allegedly been raised for the effort as of today. Sources also report that the DAR is slated to advertise/announce the recall petition as early as tomorrow (Wednesday 5/21). Though no one has confirmed whether the announcement will be a paid advertisement or a “free” Schrieber editorial.
The recall of a council member is allowed by Missouri statutes but understanding the rules of recall for our third-class city is a convoluted and messy process involving statutory construction and knowledge of the three different forms of third-class city Poplar Bluff has operated under during it’s history. That being said, the following are the steps necessary to completing a recall.
The first step to recall a council member is a recall petition:
- Petition must be signed by 25% of the voters in Ward 1 (for Pearson) and Ward 4 (for Brannum).
- The Petition must be completed within 60 days of the first signature.
- The person getting the petition signatures must be from the ward where the signatures are collected.
- Each petition page of signatures has to also have two authorizing signatures: One signature of the person who got the signatures and one of a notary public.
The petition is to be turned in to the County Clerk’s office who is charged by law with authenticating each petition signature against the voter’s registration signature. If enough signatures are validated and the petition is affirmed then the next step is a recall vote.
This isn’t a vote for the next council member, this is a vote of whether the council member should be removed from office. It is somewhat analogous to a “Confidence Vote”.
The recall vote will only take place within the ward of that council member on the next possible general election ballot. The ballot question will be formed such as:
[ ] FOR the removal of . . . . . . . . . . . . . (name) from the office of Councilman of Ward ____.
[ ] AGAINST the removal of . . . . . . . . . . . . . (name) from the office of Councilman of Ward ____.
If a simple majority of those casting votes elect to remove the council member, the council member steps down at the next meeting. If not, the council member continues in their position.
Interim Council Member
Contrary to popular, local belief, a recalled council member is NOT replaced by election. Missouri statutes state that any third-class city in a county less than 900,000 inhabitants shall have all vacancies filled by a vote of council. (YES, you read that right – the remaining council members get to choose the interim council member). However, the recalled council member is prohibited from being named as the interim council member.
New Council Member Elected
At the next regularly scheduled city council election (which is in April of each year), the voters of that ward would go to the polls to elect a council member to serve out the remaining portion of the term.
Both the interim council member and the recalled council member are eligible to run at that time.
And then Elected Again
Finally, when that ward’s normal election cycle comes back around, the council members must again run for re-election. The way the timing looks, if the group is completely successful in their recall, the voters of Ward 1 would be at the polls in April of 2015 and, again, in April of 2016.
I personally think it is more likely that I get struck by lightning, twice, over the course of the next year than either Brannum or Pearson being recalled by their wards.