Leaders of an effort to recall four members of the Westminster City Council finished their summer project Oct. 30, wheeling four boxes of petitions and signatures challenge four City Council seats …
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Leaders of an effort to recall four members of the Westminster City Council finished their summer project Oct. 30, wheeling four boxes of petitions and signatures challenge four City Council seats into Westminster City Hall just after noon.
Once the City Clerk gets through vetting the petitions and confirming the signatures all come from registered Westminster votes, the city will know if they’ll have an election
“It’s been a long, long week,” Organizer Debbie Teter said. “We got most of them right at the beginning and then it really picked up at the end.”
Organizers began collecting signatures across the city, going door-to-door as well as setting up tables in Westminster grocery store parking lots, in parks and near the Adams County ballot box locations.
“The ballot was a really big draw,“ Teter said. “We were 100 feet from the ballot boxes so we could get them when they voted. The other one was the parks. We had huge, huge success at the parks.”
City Clerk Michelle Parker said her office has 15 days to review the signatures and verify that they are from registered Westminster voters once they have been submitted. That work began Saturday, Oct. 31, with clerk employees reviewing each name and address to make sure they are registered Westminster voters.
The recall group has 15 days after that to “cure“ the petition if there is a problem. The clerk then has another five days to review the petition signatures and declare the petition sufficient or not.
That puts a final decision on the recall effort’s success in triggering an election into December.
Councilors voted in 2018 to increase residential water rates for 2020 by roughly 10% and commercial rates by between 6% and 10% to pay for repairs and maintain the city’s aging system of water pipes, storage tanks and mains. Councilors were scheduled to consider a similar increase for 2021 this summer but postponed due to concerns about the economic impact of COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders.
The original rate increase led a group of residents to begin a recall effort aimed at removing Mayor Herb Atchison and Councilors Anita Seitz, Kathryn Skulley and Jon Voelz.
The group needed at least 6,098 signatures apiece to recall the three City Councilors. That’s 25 percent of the total ballots cast in the 2019 City Council race. The group needed 5,009 signatures to put Atchison on the recall ballot, 25% of the total number of votes cast in the 2017 mayoral election.
Teter said they easily surpassed that number, collecting 6,996 signatures to place Mayor Atchison on the recall ballot. The group collected 6,708 signatures to recall Skulley, 6,720 to recall Seitz and 6,730 to recall Voelz.
Atchison, Seitz and Skulley were on the council when the rate increase was approved. Teter said she thinks Voelz’ recall gathered the most signatures among City Councilors because he was appointed. He began serving his term in Feb. 2019, replacing then City Councilor Emma Pinter, who resigned the month before to take a seat on the Adams County Commission.
“He was on the council, but was never elected,“ Teter said. “I think that’s what inspired people to sign his petition.”
Former City Councilor Bruce Baker said he joined the effort two weeks after started, and plans to get his name on the ballot for City Council if the recall is successful.
“I intend to turn in my petition as soon as I’m able,” he said. “I know there are others, and some people have said they want to get on it.”
But Teter said the group does not have a slate of candidates.
“This had nothing to do with getting anyone on the council,“ Teter said. “We have had people come up to us but we have not been actively seeking them. It’s been two separate things.”
Not everyone at City Hall for the petition delivery agreed with the recall. Resident Ellen Buckley said a disagreement over a water rates are not grounds for recalling City Councilors.
“A recall should be reserved for malfeasance in office. There was no malfeasance on the part of any of these four councilors,“ Buckley said.
She defended the water rates increase, saying it was necessary to pay for upkeep on the city’s water system.
“We have an against infrastructure and past councils have not raised the rates over the years to keep up with what was needed to fix and maintain our infrastructure,“ Buckley said. “So this council took the difficult step to raise rates way back in 2018 so they can continue to delivery clean water and the stop sewer line breaks.”
Several of the candidates — including Atchison, Voelz, Skulley and City Councilor David DeMott — are already up for re-election in November 2021.
“It’s going to cost the taxpayers $200,000 for this election and it’s completely unnecessary,“ Buckley said. “This is why we have regular elections for. You shouldn’t waste $200,000 of taxpayer money on your personal grudge match against the city.”
Westminster spokesman Gregg Moss said a special election early in 2021 is expected to cost about $200,000. The process so far, counting and confirming petition signatures, is expected to cost between $45,000 and $50,000 in staff overtime and temporary labor.
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