Recall process

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During my appearance this last Tuesday on KFAQ's Michael DelGiorno show, I was asked by Michael to look into the City of Tulsa's recall process. While Mayor Bill LaFortune, Councilor Chris Medlock, and I were all up in New York at the Republican National Convention, there were a number of people calling Michael's show wanting to launch a recall effort against the Mayor.

A recall is not a tool to be used lightly, but it does provide a check against official wrongdoing or neglect of duty when such conduct falls short of criminal conduct. Having supported Bill LaFortune in the 2002 Republican mayoral primary over other worthy candidates, it grieves me to think that he has become so estranged from the city's grassroots that some are unwilling to endure his continuation in office for another 19 months. It appears to many observers that he has not fulfilled the promises of reform and cooperation with the City Council which won him the support of so many Tulsans. In fact, it seems that he has aligned himself with those who want to preserve the status quo at City Hall regardless and set himself in opposition to the Council's Reform Alliance majority.

Article VII is the article of the City Charter dealing with recalls. Here's the timeline of the process, using maximum times for each step:

START: Filing of a petition for recall with the signatures of 5% of the votes for Mayor in the last general election. (About 64,000 votes were cast in 2002, so this number would be about 3,200.) The petition must state the reason for recall in 200 words or less.

5 days: Deadline for answer (200 words or less) from Mayor to recall petition.

20 days: City Clerk issues form of supporting petition, as approved by City Attorney's office, and including the reason for recall and the answer.

80 days: Deadline for submission of supporting petition. Number of signatures must be 25% of the votes cast for Mayor in the last general election. (About 16,000.)

100 days: Deadline for City Clerk to determine sufficiency of petitions.

110 days: Deadline for submission of additional petitions, if initial petition is determined to be short of the required number.

115 days: Deadline for City Clerk to submit final determination

If the City Clerk determines that the petition is sufficient, the Council must call an election at the earliest possible date allowed by state law. That means at least 60 days, and only on certain Tuesdays specified by law and charter.

Let's assume the initial petition effort gets underway immediately, takes a minimum amount of time to complete, and somehow they manage to collect the required signatures for the supporting petition at a record pace -- 1,000 signatures a day. Let's further assume that everything else takes the maximum possible time.

So assume that the initial petition would be submitted on September 17. The Mayor's response would be due on September 22, and the City Clerk would issue the supporting petition form by October 7. Assuming a wildly optimistic rate of signature collection of 1,000 signatures a day, the petition would be submitted on October 25 (the 23rd is a Saturday). The City Clerk would have until November 14 to certify the petition. Assuming it is sufficient, on November 18 (the next City Council meeting), the Council would call an election for the second Tuesday in February 2005, which is the 8th. The election would be certified on the 11th. If the recall is successful, the Council should canvass the result at the next Council meeting on the 17th (although they could call an earlier special meeting). At that moment, the Mayor's office would be vacant.

If everything were to happen on that schedule, the vacancy would occur more than one year prior to the next general election on March 14, 2006, and under Article VI Section 8, the vacancy would be filled by a special election, with the designated temporary Mayor serving in the interim. This happened when Mayor Rodger Randle stepped down unexpectedly in 1992. The special election would be no sooner than 60 days after the vacancy -- the second Tuesday in May would be the earliest possible date. As with all City of Tulsa special elections, there would be no primary and no runoff -- all comers running in a single election, and the winner is whoever gets the most votes, even if that total were well short of 50%.

Assuming worst-case timing for gathering the supporting petition signatures, and the need to submit additional signatures and validate them, the certification of the petition would come on January 10, too late for the everything to come together in time for a February election. If the recall election occurred on the second Tuesday in March, it would be certified too late for the vacancy to occur more than a year before the next general election, so the temporary Mayor would serve out the remainder of the term. Right now, that person is Steve Sewell, but someone else could be moved into that position before the recall election occurs, although the designation of a temporary Mayor requires the approval of the Council.

The bottom line -- even if signatures were gathered at a record pace, we would not see a new Mayor until mid-May 2005, only eight months before the filing period for the 2006 mayoral election.

So who is pushing for a recall? You might assume that the talk about recall, and the rumors of the Mayor's early resignation to take a private sector job, are coming from people allied with the Council's Reform Alliance majority, but I'm not hearing it from people I know, disappointed though they are with the Mayor's performance and his relationship with the Council majority. Here's a speculation, drawn from the aside in Ken Neal's most recent Sunday screed that the Mayor could use hardball tactics to whip the Council into submission. Could it be that the Cockroach Caucus, the defenders of all the cozy arrangements and insider relationships that have run the city for so many years, are the ones looking to replace the Mayor, on the grounds that he isn't ruthless enough to prevent the Council majority from enacting reforms? Just a thought.

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A quick pass through the 'sphere to see what I missed, and apparently it was quite a lot:A movement may be cranking up to recall Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune. Nearly... Read More

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 10, 2004 10:55 PM.

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