A seven-month long campaign to recall members of Westminster City Council involving three separate counts of recall petitions has resulted in two forthcoming recall elections for Mayor Herb Atchison …
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A seven-month long campaign to recall members of Westminster City Council involving three separate counts of recall petitions has resulted in two forthcoming recall elections for Mayor Herb Atchison and Councilor Jon Voelz.
In an April 28 update to the city’s website, City Clerk Michelle Parker said that recall petitions for Atchison and Voelz contained enough valid signatures to trigger elections, but that petitions for Mayor Pro Tem Anita Seitz and Councilor Kathryn Skulley were still insufficient. Parker issued the new certifications after counting petitions that she previously rejected but was ordered to reconsider by an Adams County district judge.
Debbie Teter, a leading organizer with the recall campaign, said of the news, “We’re thrilled. For all of the people that helped us carry the petitions and the signers and for all of their hard work, this is wonderful news for them to hear.”
Voelz said on the phone, “I think it’s shameful. I very much am looking forward to getting the facts and the truth out there because we haven’t had any in the last six months.” In an email, Atchison said he would provide a comment at the May 3 city council study session.
The Westminster Water Warriors community group — named after the group’s frustration over water rates— launched its campaign in September and filed its first batch of petitions against Atchison, Seitz, Voelz and Skulley in October. Parker declared the petitions insufficient, so the Water Warriors filed an amended batch in November, which also failed. Along with discounting invalid signatures, Parker altogether rejected 81 petition sections over evidence that petition circulators removed packet cover pages. The Water Warriors then sued the city to overturn the rejection of petition sections with cover page issues. On April 16, Adams County District Court Judge Kyle Seedorf ordered Parker to reconsider the 81 petition sections.
The newly considered petitions added enough valid signatures to previous counts for Atchison and barely for Voelz. For Atchison, there were more than 1,000 valid signatures past the minimum threshold and for Voelz, just nine. In contrast, Seitz was short by 35 signatures and Skulley by 23.
Voelz rejected the very premise of the recall for him, given that he wasn’t a councilor the last time council approved an increase in water rates in 2018. Voelz was appointed to council in 2019. “They made a huge mistake with this. I think it does show how low politically, and you don’t have ideas and you can’t win in normal elections, to pull this kind of skullduggery,” Voelz said.
In an email, Seitz said that while she won’t be on the recall election ballot, she is disappointed that Atchison and Voelz will be. “Our City's charter gives a minority of residents the right to initiate a recall election. But it also gives Council members the right to answer the claims and take their positions to all the voters of Westminster,” she said.
The exact date of the recall elections hasn’t been set yet, as city council will have to pass a resolution, said city spokesman Rich Neumann. Neumann noted that the elections will occur prior to the November municipal election, about the time Atchison’s term is set to finish.
Teter said it doesn’t matter that the recall election will take place just a few months before the mayor leaves office. She said, “For all of the effort that we have put in, we couldn’t stop pursuing this.”
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