Judge Set To Make Decisions On Three Recall Elections In San Bernardino

(August 16) SAN BERNARDINO—Whether three of four recall elections targeting city officials in the county seat are to be consolidated with the November municipal election will likely be decided on August 22.
Beginning in April, the group San Bernardino Residents for Responsible Government undertook a wholesale recall of nine San Bernardino elected officials, including mayor Patrick Morris, city attorney James Penman and the entire city council. San Bernardino Residents for Responsible Government, led by Scott Beard, cited the city’s 2012 filing for bankruptcy protection and related municipal mismanagement issues as the grounds for the effort to remove the officials from office. Subsequently, city clerk Gigi Hanna became the target of a separate, ostensibly unrelated recall attempt.
Eventually, the group would cease its recall effort against Morris, who had previously declared he would not seek reelection this year. The group also discontinued its campaign against council members Fred Shorett, Robert Jenkins and Virginia Marquez, who must stand for reelection in November to remain on the council past next March.
Though recall proponents turned in what appeared to be a sufficient number of registered voters’ signatures on the recall petition to qualify the advancement of the recall election against Penman and council members John Valdivia, Wendy McCammack and Chas Kelley, Hanna, as the city’s election officer overseeing the process, disqualified the petitions against Penman, McCammack and Kelley on the grounds that the group had failed to publish the responses those three targeted officials provided to the allegations of the recall proponents.
Michael McKinney, the recall effort’s campaign manager, and Michael Allen, an attorney representing San Bernardino Residents for Responsible Government, filed a writ of mandate with the Superior Court on July 29 to force the city to process the recall petitions and qualify the recall vote for the ballot. Of issue now is that a decision with regard to the qualification of the recall election be made before the end of August so that the recall election takes place on November 5, the same day San Bernardino’s voters will go to the polls to elect a new mayor and voters in the First, Fourth and Fifth wards, where Marquez,  Shorett and Kelley are incumbents, to determine who will represent them from March 2014 to March 2018. The recall effort against Ward Six Councilman Rikke Van Johnson did not achieve enough signatures to succeed.
Judge David Cohn is hearing the matter. Hanna continues to maintain that the recall proponents failed to meet the burden of qualifying the recall question against Penman, McCammack and Kelley for the ballot. Hanna, who is supported by the city council, is represented by the law firm of  Straddling Yocca Carlson & Rauth.
Hanna and Straddling Yocca Carlson & Rauth maintain that Penman, Kelly and McCammack sought to have their response to the recall proponents’ charges published with the notices of the intent to circulate recall petitions naming them and that this omission disqualifies the application for a recall question against them. Councilman John Valdivia did not submit a response, so the sole criterion relating to the qualification of the recall election against him is whether there are sufficient signatures on the petition to qualify it.
The recall proponents maintain that they repeatedly sought to determine if any of the recall targets had made official responses to the recall papers they had been served with and had not received timely notice of those responses before the intent to recall notice was published. The recall proponents cite the consideration that city manager Allen Parker confiscated from Hanna all documentation relating to the recall and held it in his office from May 21 To June 5.
Should Cohn determine that the recall proponents met their burden, the recall question against Penman, Valdivia, McCammack and Kelly will come before voters on November 5, saving the city the expense of holding a separate recall election. Adding questions with regard to the recall of  McCammack, Kelley, Valdivia and Penman to the November 5 ballot would cost the city roughly $90,000. Holding the election at a later date would cost $250,000.
Hanna and Straddling Yocca Carlson & Rauth maintain that the late filing of certain recall related documents and delays in the submission of the petitions has resulted in the city being unable to consolidate the recall election with the municipal election.  Recall proponents maintain that city officials, in particular Hanna and Parker, were responsible for several of those delays.
Outside the context of the court, several of the city officials targeted for recall and their supporters have suggested that the recall proponents are not sincere in wanting to see all city officials removed from office and that they are engaged in a partisan effort that is actually militating against the Republican members of the council – McCammack, Kelly, Valdivia and Robert Jenkins, as well as Penman.
In addition to determining whether the recall efforts against McCammack, Kelley and Penman should be allowed to proceed and whether the recall questions should be included on the November 5 ballot, Cohn is also scheduled to determine on August 22 whether 2,500 withdrawal signatures, allegedly obtained from city voters who endorsed the recall petitions, can be used to rescind those signatures.

Leave a Reply