The city clerk’s office has been presented with petitions bearing more than the 224 signatures needed to initiate a recall campaign against City Councilman Ron Brooks, according to City Clerk Vicki Vivian.
Now that petitions have been submitted, there are a number of steps that must be completed to move forward with the recall, Vivian added.
Brooks has been criticized at recent city council meetings by some councilmen and through comments made from the community during calls to the public. At a recent council meeting, he was prevented from sitting on committees and his application for reappointment to a position on the Board of Adjustments was denied by a council vote, where concerns about a conflict of interest were voiced.
However, Brooks says there is no conflict, as there is a state statute that says it’s permissible for city councils to double as the board of adjustments.
“At a recent council meeting, Councilmember Jeff Cook said that he does not feel comfortable allowing me to continue serving on the Board of Adjustments,” said Brooks, who had chaired the board for six years, until his term expired at the end of July. “Mr. Cook is saying that it’s a conflict of interest because he is convinced I would be approving zoning codes as a council member and then voting against them as a member of the board of adjustments,” said Brooks. “But there is no conflict of interest. In fact, there are municipalities in Arizona where the city council is the board of adjustments, and Benson City Attorney Michael Massee confirmed there is no conflict.”
Brooks feels the recall campaign against him has been based on “misinformation” circulated by petitioners and fueled by negative comments that are voiced at city council meetings.
Supporters of Brooks have been labeled as “Brookies,” a term coined by JT Moffett, a business owner and community activist who frequently speaks out at city council meetings and is someone who supports the recall effort.
Meanwhile, questions about the person who formed the recall committee and initiated the recall — Sheila Perkins —have been raised, as she does not live in Benson. Vivian said the Secretary of State’s office contacted her because of questions that members of the community have asked about Perkins, who is employed by the City of Benson but does not live in town. “The person asked the Secretary of State’s office about a non-city resident circulating petitions,” Vivian said. The office’s response was that the circulator does not have to live in Arizona to circulate a petition.
The News-Sun contacted the Secretary of State’s office as well, with the following question: Can a person who lives outside a given city and is not eligible to vote on city matters for that particular municipality, form a committee and begin a recall against an elected city official, such as a city councilmember or mayor?
Matt Roberts, director of communications for the secretary of state’s office responded with the following answer: “Political committees must be formed to initiate a recall. Political committees, once formed, can raise money and circulate petitions and there is no residence requirement to form a political committee in Arizona.”
When collecting signatures for a recall petition, Roberts said all signers must be residents of the jurisdiction from which the recall is being attempted and registered voters. However, the petition circulators do not have to be of that jurisdiction, nor are they required to be registered voters. They must, however, qualify to be registered voters.
All petition sheets will have the name of the petition circulator on the back, signed and notarized by that circulator. As part of that process, the circulator is swearing to be the person collecting and witnessing all those who sign the petition. However, in the case of the Brooks recall effort, it has been discovered that the person whose name appears on the back of the petition as the circulator is not always the person who collected the signatures.
So, what does that mean?
Asked about the issue, Roberts said, “If this is true, it could be a problem,” adding that it’s something that will need to be sorted out in court.
Kathy Suagee, a Benson resident and Brooks supporter who has been investigating the recall effort said, “This is a misrepresentation by the people who are circulating the petition. They (the circulators) certified and swore they are the person circulating the petition. If they’re handing the petition to someone else to circulate, and we have signed affidavits that affirm this is happening, then it’s a clear violation of the petition process.”
Suagee, who has copies of the petitions with the signatures, has been contacting some of the signers to determine whether the person who collected the signatures is the person whose name appears on the back of the petition.
At this time, it’s unclear what the petition violations, if they did occur, will mean to the recall effort.