The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly reluctantly voted Wednesday to place a recall vote on the Oct. 2nd local election.
The special assembly meeting was called after sponsors of a petition to recall School Board President Trevor Shaw turned in more than enough valid signatures last week.
Numerous people spoke during public comment before the assembly’s vote. Four supported placing the recall in front of voters, three opposed it. One of the speakers was Sid Hartley, who is the primary sponsor of the recall effort.
She offered to answer questions from assembly members. Rodney Dial asked whether she would try to recall other elected officials in the future for violating a bylaw.
Hartley said if there’s a pattern of misbehavior, yes. Otherwise: “No. If somebody made one mistake or did something wrong one time, but they’ve shown great leadership the rest of the time, why would you touch it? You know, you’d be like, ‘We’ll eat this one.’ But this is a repetitive thing. It was time to act,” she said.
The grounds for recall detailed in the petition allege that Shaw violated board bylaws by not allowing a student board member to participate in discussion of a school board appointment.
Dial also asked Hartley about two other attempted recall petitions for other school board members. Those petitions were denied for insufficient grounds. Dial said it appears the recall effort was targeting conservative members of the school board.
Hartley said she was not aware of the political leanings of those board members.
Shaw also addressed the assembly. He said the recall petition isn’t specific enough, because it doesn’t include dates for the alleged action. If it was the most recent school board appointment, he said, that student was allowed to participate in the discussion later in the meeting.
Following public comment, Borough Clerk Kacie Paxton read aloud state statutes that regulate the recall process.
“If a regular election occurs within 75 days, but not sooner than 45 days after submission of the petition to the governing body, the governing body shall submit the recall at that election,” she read.
Borough Attorney Glenn Brown later clarified that “shall” means the assembly is required to submit the recall. If the assembly refused, he said it would be in violation of state law.
Assembly Member Stephen Bradford, who is an attorney, said he spent much of the afternoon researching the recall process. He said voting to place it on the ballot doesn’t mean the assembly agrees with it.
“The Supreme Court has reviewed this procedure and has said – the Supreme Court has said – ‘We emphasize that it is not our role, but rather that of the voters to assess the truth or the falsity of the allegations in the petition,’” he said.
Most assembly members agreed, reluctantly, that they had to vote to place the recall in front of voters. Dial, however, refused.
“There have been many miscarriages of justice over time and people have used the excuse, ‘I’m just following orders.’ I’m not going to be one of those people,” he said. “This is wrong.”
The motion to place the recall question on the Oct. 2nd local election ballot passed 4-1. Dial voted no. Assembly Members Sue Pickrell and Felix Wong were absent.