KRCR reached out to City Clerk Debbie Presson regarding claims made by Chico Voters surrounding the on-going efforts to recall city councilmembers Mayor Andrew Coolidge and Sean Morgan.
Below is her statement in full:
"The recall process is currently under way as the proponents have been notified of the approval of both recall petitions. It is now up to the proponents to gather the signatures and turn them in by the deadlines established in the attached documents. Decisions to ask the proponents to follow all applicable elections laws are not political but required. The Secretary of State has a recall handbook online for those interested in starting a recall process which the proponents noted they were using when going through this process. I have always encouraged proponents to seek legal advice and to look at all applicable laws when attempting to go through this process.
On December 8th, I received a letter from the County Clerk of the County’s concerns regarding E.C. Section 100 (b) and Elections Code Section 9020 not being followed on the Notice of Intentions filed for both Mayor Coolidge and Councilmember Morgan. The County Clerk found the Notices of Intention unacceptable and suggested that we refer the matter to our City Attorney for a legal opinion. Our legal counsel confirmed that those code sections needed to be followed and also found case law confirming the need for proponents and signers to “personally” affix his or her signature, printed name, and place of residence.
I then notified the proponents of the need to resubmit the Notices of Intention to Circulate a Petition for both Mayor Coolidge and Councilmember Morgan.
When resubmitted, Councilmember Coolidge’s Notice of Intention had 20 valid signatures which allowed the proponents to move on to the next step.
In the case of Councilmember Morgan, the County rejected the second Notice of Intention to Circulate a Petition due to the notice containing only 19 valid signatures. When the Notice was refiled with additional signatures, it was approved immediately thereby allowing Councilmember Morgan’s recall process to move to the next step which was to submit the actual petition form and affidavit of publishing for my 10-day review.
During the review of Councilmember Morgan’s recall petition and the affidavit of publishing, it was found that a different word had been inserted that was not in the Notice of Intention nor included in the affidavit of publishing. I rejected the recall petition due to that error. That correction was made and I approved the recall petition for Councilmember Morgan on December 13th and the proponents were authorized to begin their signature gathering commencing that day.
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What is the current status of the recall efforts targeting Councilmember Morgan and Mayor Coolidge?
Mayor Andrew Coolidge’s recall petition was approved on Friday, December 3 (see attached letter) and Councilmember Morgan’s recall petition approved on Monday, December 13th, (see attached letter). With those approval letters, the proponents of the recall were notified that they could begin to gather signatures commencing on those two dates. I have no idea if the proponents are gathering signatures at this time. They have 90-days to gather the requisite number of signatures as noted in each letter, with the petitions for Andrew Coolidge to be turned into my office by March 2nd and the petitions for Sean Morgan on March 14th.
Is it likely that either recall will be on the upcoming June election ballot?
That would be entirely up to the proponents in terms of gathering the signatures in time to meet the deadlines associated with the June election with those dates established by the County Clerk’s Office and is in strict accordance with the process outlined in the Elections Code. The June dates have not yet been uploaded to the County’s website. Please note that once the petitions are turned into my office for a prima facia review, I turn them over to the County Clerk’s Office for signature verification. Pursuant to the Elections Code, the County Elections Official has 30-days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, for the review of those signatures. So again, because of the deadlines associated with each step of the process, making the June ballot really depends on the proponents gathering the signatures and getting them turned in for signature verification.
If not, what does the beginning of the special election process look like? When would the election be held?
If the petitions are deemed sufficient and the requisite number of signatures are gathered, once I am notified by the County Clerk, I take that certification to the Council and they have 14 days to call for an election, to be held between 88 and 125 days later. Again, the timing of the election hinges on when the proponents turn in the signatures in order to be verified.
Chico Voters alleges that their intent to recall petition was denied over formatting errors that did not disqualify a previous recall campaign - can you speak to this?
In regards to the 2019 recall efforts against former Councilmember Ory and Stone, the recall petitions did require corrections as to the form and wording. However, changes on the actual recall petitions do not have to be refiled on the Councilmembers being recalled. It should be further noted that following the approval of the signature gathering, the proponents of Ory/Stone recall process never turned in the petitions which halted any recall attempts for those Councilmembers."
Chico Voters have until March 2, 2022 to gather 1,519 signatures to place the recall question regarding Coolidge on the ballot and March 14, 2022 to gather 2,424 signatures to place the recall question regarding Morgan on the ballot.
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