League of Women Voters statement about City Council recall


A statement issued yesterday from the League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Tulsa:




The League of Women Voters (LWVMT) has a long and proud history of supporting representative government in Tulsa. We studied and advocated Charter change from Commission to Mayor/Council representative government for 35 years (1954-1989). Therefore, the League’s Board of Directors is concerned about the current recall process and its consequences for maintaining the integrity of representative government.

The LWVMT absolutely supports the concept of citizens being able to recall elected officials. Accordingly, the LWVMT has researched matters relevant to the recall process. While the Charter authorizes the process, it does not specify reasons for recall. We believe there should be reasons consistent with state law. We also believe that the charter makes it much too easy for people, who do not even have to be constituents of a district, to initiate a recall for a councilor who is democratically elected to represent a district. -- this is clearly inconsistent with the representative form of government.

Therefore, the LWVMT urges community leaders to do everything in their power to resolve the conflict before it becomes any more destructive. Our reasons include:

Oklahoma law (Title 51, Section 93) requires that ouster of an elected municipal official must be for one of the following causes: "willful failure or neglect to perform the duties of office; public intoxication; conviction for any offense constituting a violation of a penal statute involving moral turpitude." We have heard of no allegations of such conduct by any councilor.

The Charter does not require cause for the recall of a duly elected official. This is a defect that the LWVMT would like to work with others to correct. (Ironically, the charter does require that Oklahoma statutes be followed if an appointed member of the Airport Authority or the Utility Board is to be recalled -- but not for democratically elected officials.)

A second defect in the process is that the Charter does not require that a recall be initiated by citizens of the district. This is inconsistent with principles of representative government. If any councilor’s constituents are not satisfied with that councilor's performance, there will be an opportunity to "recall" that councilor in the next General Election.

The Charter of the City of Tulsa (Article VI, Section 8, D.) states: "If a vacancy shall occur in the office of a Councilor less than one (1) year) prior to the next General Election, the Council, by a majority vote of the membership of the Council shall appoint a qualified elector of the election district in which the vacancy exists to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the unexpired term." This effectively disenfranchises the residents of that district. Only if the recall election occurs before March 12, 2005, may the City Council call a special election.

From our perspective, if the recall petition process continues:

If successful, the possibility of one or more lawsuits could well delay a recall election beyond the next General Election. The process, therefore, would be a waste of time, energy and money for all parties. We should all be working together to unite our city instead of exacerbating the dispute.

Permanent and inappropriate damage to the reputation of elected officials on the basis of policy disagreements can set a precedent the city may not wish to establish.

It will become very difficult to attract qualified persons to seek election as city councilors for fear of attacks by a few who may not like a position or vote which that councilor might take.

We should be concentrating our efforts positively on healing the divisions in the community and working toward resolving the problems we face. Economic development and comprehensive land use planning need to be addressed in ways we have yet to work out. The seriousness of these issues deserves the community's attention and should not be diverted by the divisive recall process.

The League stands ready to assist the community in bringing this crisis to an agreeable conclusion.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 24, 2004 7:18 AM.

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