Petitions filed to recall mayor

Submitted by Quest-News-Serv... on Sun, 04/12/2009 - 19:11.

Petitions filed to recall mayor

By Stephanie Warsmith
Beacon Journal staff writer

POSTED: 08:40 p.m. EDT, Apr 10, 2009

 

 


Members of Change Akron Now cheer as attorney Warner Mendenhall arrives at City Hall to turn in the petitionsseeking a recall election of Akron mayor Don Plusquellic Friday in Akron. (Karen Schiely/Akron Beacon Journal)

Supporters of the effort to recall Akron's mayor cheered as Warner Mendenhall carried a stack of petitions into City Hall on Friday afternoon.

''It feels very good!'' said Mendenhall, waving the petitions in the air as he stopped to talk to a group of journalists.

Mendenhall, with several supporters, handed the petitions seeking the recall of Mayor Don Plusquellic to City Council Clerk Bob Keith at 1:30 p.m. — about three hours before the deadline.

Mendenhall, the Akron attorney leading the pro-recall group Change Akron Now, said the petitions have 4,191 signatures — exceeding the 3,179 required to trigger a recall election by slightly more than 1,000.

The city will have 10 days to determine if the group has enough valid signatures to continue the recall process. The Akron Law Department will do an initial review and — if the group has at least 3,179 signatures — the Summit County Board of Elections will examine the petitions to make sure there are enough signatures of registered Akron voters.

Keith will certify if the petitions are sufficient.

State Sen. Tom Sawyer, co-spokesman for the anti-recall group Citizens for Akron, wasn't surprised the recall group turned in more than the required number of signatures. He has been critical of the low threshold for a recall election under the city's charter, which requires signatures from only 20 percent of the voters in the most recent mayoral election.

''This represents about 2 percent of the population of the city,'' Sawyer said. ''It's not hard to get 2 percent to be unhappy with anything. You could get 2 percent who don't like apple pie.''

When recall supporters gathered in front of City Hall to wait for Mendenhall's arrival Friday afternoon, Plusquellic wasn't in the building. He had taken a vacation day.

A few of the recall supporters wore bright green T-shirts that read: ''Recall Mayor Don.'' A vintage truck displaying a recall T-shirt circled the block, with the driver honking the truck's horn whenever he passed supporters.

Heather Nagel, one of the recall supporters, said she circulated petitions for the effort because ''it's time for a change in Akron.''

Loren Garthoff, another supporter who described himself as ''a jack of all trades,'' said he has had trouble finding work in the city.

''Contractors are fed up,'' he said. ''They can't get jobs.''

Cursory review

 

After Mendenhall handed in the petitions, he and a few other recall supporters waited outside the clerk's office while Keith and two attorneys with the law department made a cursory review of the petitions.

Mendenhall asked to have someone present for this examination.

''No, but I appreciate the offer,'' Assistant Law Director Cheri Cunningham told him.

Mendenhall, who copied the petitions before handing them in, said he didn't submit petitions with several hundred signatures that he found to have defects, such as not having signatures in the proper place.

After about a half-hour, Keith gave Mendenhall a time-stamped receipt for the petitions with a list of the numbers of the petitions that were submitted. (Keith numbered the petitions before giving them to Mendenhall.)

The receipt said the group provided 184 petitions, which was three more than Mendenhall and his supporters had counted.

''Somebody miscounted on our end,'' Mendenhall told Keith.

Some concerns

 

Mendenhall is concerned about the city's review of the petitions and has threatened legal action.

''I'm hoping we won't have a disagreement on the interpretation,'' he said. ''We'll see.''

The law department expected its review to extend into next week.

Law Director Max Rothal has said his office still is researching a few areas of the charter language on recalls, including whether circulators must sign their petitions and if they must live in the city.

''Any issues that come up, we'll research,'' Cunningham said Friday.

Different viewpoints

Recall proponents think the mayor should be removed from office because of the city's debt level, what they see as Plusquellic's excessive use of city credit cards for travel and other expenses, and the mayor's personal demeanor.

Plusquellic, who was elected to his sixth term in 2007, and his supporters point to the awards the city has received during his tenure and his national stature, which includes being among the mayors who regularly met with federal officials on the stimulus bill.

''It's clear we're going to have a large and wasteful special election to do something I'm almost sure won't succeed,'' Sawyer said.

The process could require three special elections — one for the recall and, if it passes, a primary and general election — with a total price tag for the city of as much as $525,000, according to the law department.

Recall opponents say they are ready for the fight.

''Bring 'em on!'' Sawyer said.

 

 

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or swarsmith [at] thebeaconjournal [dot] com.

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Supporters of the effort to recall Akron's mayor cheered as Warner Mendenhall carried a stack of petitions into City Hall on Friday afternoon.

''It feels very good!'' said Mendenhall, waving the petitions in the air as he stopped to talk to a group of journalists.

Mendenhall, with several supporters, handed the petitions seeking the recall of Mayor Don Plusquellic to City Council Clerk Bob Keith at 1:30 p.m. — about three hours before the deadline.

Mendenhall, the Akron attorney leading the pro-recall group Change Akron Now, said the petitions have 4,191 signatures — exceeding the 3,179 required to trigger a recall election by slightly more than 1,000.

The city will have 10 days to determine if the group has enough valid signatures to continue the recall process. The Akron Law Department will do an initial review and — if the group has at least 3,179 signatures — the Summit County Board of Elections will examine the petitions to make sure there are enough signatures of registered Akron voters.

Keith will certify if the petitions are sufficient.

State Sen. Tom Sawyer, co-spokesman for the anti-recall group Citizens for Akron, wasn't surprised the recall group turned in more than the required number of signatures. He has been critical of the low threshold for a recall election under the city's charter, which requires signatures from only 20 percent of the voters in the most recent mayoral election.

''This represents about 2 percent of the population of the city,'' Sawyer said. ''It's not hard to get 2 percent to be unhappy with anything. You could get 2 percent who don't like apple pie.''

When recall supporters gathered in front of City Hall to wait for Mendenhall's arrival Friday afternoon, Plusquellic wasn't in the building. He had taken a vacation day.

A few of the recall supporters wore bright green T-shirts that read: ''Recall Mayor Don.'' A vintage truck displaying a recall T-shirt circled the block, with the driver honking the truck's horn whenever he passed supporters.

Heather Nagel, one of the recall supporters, said she circulated petitions for the effort because ''it's time for a change in Akron.''

Loren Garthoff, another supporter who described himself as ''a jack of all trades,'' said he has had trouble finding work in the city.

''Contractors are fed up,'' he said. ''They can't get jobs.''

Cursory review

 

After Mendenhall handed in the petitions, he and a few other recall supporters waited outside the clerk's office while Keith and two attorneys with the law department made a cursory review of the petitions.

Mendenhall asked to have someone present for this examination.

''No, but I appreciate the offer,'' Assistant Law Director Cheri Cunningham told him.

Mendenhall, who copied the petitions before handing them in, said he didn't submit petitions with several hundred signatures that he found to have defects, such as not having signatures in the proper place.

After about a half-hour, Keith gave Mendenhall a time-stamped receipt for the petitions with a list of the numbers of the petitions that were submitted. (Keith numbered the petitions before giving them to Mendenhall.)

The receipt said the group provided 184 petitions, which was three more than Mendenhall and his supporters had counted.

''Somebody miscounted on our end,'' Mendenhall told Keith.

Some concerns

 

Mendenhall is concerned about the city's review of the petitions and has threatened legal action.

''I'm hoping we won't have a disagreement on the interpretation,'' he said. ''We'll see.''

The law department expected its review to extend into next week.

Law Director Max Rothal has said his office still is researching a few areas of the charter language on recalls, including whether circulators must sign their petitions and if they must live in the city.

''Any issues that come up, we'll research,'' Cunningham said Friday.

Different viewpoints

Recall proponents think the mayor should be removed from office because of the city's debt level, what they see as Plusquellic's excessive use of city credit cards for travel and other expenses, and the mayor's personal demeanor.

Plusquellic, who was elected to his sixth term in 2007, and his supporters point to the awards the city has received during his tenure and his national stature, which includes being among the mayors who regularly met with federal officials on the stimulus bill.

''It's clear we're going to have a large and wasteful special election to do something I'm almost sure won't succeed,'' Sawyer said.

The process could require three special elections — one for the recall and, if it passes, a primary and general election — with a total price tag for the city of as much as $525,000, according to the law department.

Recall opponents say they are ready for the fight.

''Bring 'em on!'' Sawyer said.

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or swarsmith [at] thebeaconjournal [dot] com.

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