An official recall petition for Blackshear council members Linda Gail Dennison, Shawn Godwin and Timmy Sapp may be on the horizon.
The Pierce County Board of Elections office fielded several inquiries about the process for filing a recall petition last week, but as of Friday, no one had formally filed a petition.
“I’ve talked with people and done some research but nobody has done the legal filing yet,” says Election Superintendent Leah Ritch.
Ritch, who’s never processed a recall petition before, was seeking legal review and consulting with the Secretary of State’s office last week, too.
“There’s an entire chapter in the code book I’ve had to study,” she says.
A group of Blackshear residents circulated a petition earlier this year calling for the “resignation, removal or recall” of Dennison, Godwin and Sapp, and presented it to the council in March. Petitioners cited recent actions and conflict among council members as evidence of misfeasance, malfeasance and incompetence, all potential grounds for removal according to the city charter.
City officials followed a procedure laid out in the city charter for investigating such petitions, advertised and held a special investigative hearing June 25 to listen to community concerns and review evidence leveled against Dennison, Godwin and Sapp. Those council members were also invited to the public hearing to speak in their defense, but none attended.
Councilman Corey Lesseig, who chaired that hearing at Mayor Kevin Grissom’s request, reported earlier this month he had no intention of bringing the matter up for a vote before council at this time.
The city charter would require a vote by four council members for a fellow council member to be removed. With only six members on the council and three named in the petition, that isn’t likely to happen.
“We’re kind of at an impasse from the city standpoint at this point,” Grissom said at a council meeting last week. “We all can do the math. When there’s three of those involved, there’s no way that can happen on the council. Obviously, those council members would recuse themselves from the vote.”
“We are not able to proceed any further from the city standpoint,” Grissom continued last Tuesday night. “That’s (a recall petition) entirely up to the community. We have nothing to do with that.”
Ritch says her office started fielding calls on the matter Wednesday morning after the council meeting where Grissom gave his report.
Last Tuesday’s council meeting was fraught with council conflict over a board of ethics appointment — yet another issue that sparked community outrage from those watching the meeting on live video.
City council meetings have been available on video in recent months due to the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Viewership has grown in recent weeks as word of ongoing conflict between council members spread.