By JAYSON JACOBY
Baker City Herald
County Clerk Tami Green has started verifying signatures in the
campaign to spur a recall election for Baker City Mayor Dennis Dorrah
and Councilor Beverly Calder.
To force a recall vote, proponents, led by chief petitioner Jamey Hardy
of Baker City, must collect 603 valid signatures from people registered
to vote in city elections.
Based on Green's preliminary tally Tuesday, there are, as yet
unverified, 674 signatures on the recall petition sheets for Dorrah,
and 629 for Calder.
Green emphasized Tuesday afternoon that those numbers - 674 and 629 -
are the maximum possible totals of valid signatures; she doesn't yet
know how many of those signatures are valid.
She and another employee in the clerk's office have until Sept. 11 to examine every signature and determine which are valid.
A computer scanner helps with the process by comparing signatures on the petition sheets with signatures on voter registration cards.
Based on Green's preliminary count, if fewer than 72 signatures on the Dorrah petition sheets are ruled invalid, then the mayor will have to decide, later this month, whether to resign or face a recall election.
If fewer than 27 signatures on the Calder petitions are deemed invalid, then she will have to make the same choice.
Both Calder and Dorrah have said they do not intend to resign.
Both were elected in November 2006 to four-year terms that expire Dec. 31, 2010.
Although the recall petitions list several reasons why, in the opinion of the proponents, Dorrah and Calder should be removed from office, the campaign stems from the councilors' voting on June 9 to fire City Manager Steve Brocato.
Recall proponents, as election law requires, turned in petition sheets to Jennifer Watkins, the city recorder, late Monday afternoon, about two weeks before the deadline, Green said.
Watkins then forwarded the petitions to Green's office Tuesday morning.
Recall organizers had until mid-September, 90 days after the petitions were filed, to gather 603 valid signatures from people registered to vote in city elections.
State law allows the clerk's office 10 days - until Sept. 11 - to verify signatures.
Each petition is treated separately - for instance, if Green verifies at least 603 signatures on the Dorrah petitions but fewer than 603 for Calder, then only Dorrah would face a recall petition.
If the 603-signature threshold is reached, then either Dorrah or Calder - or both, as the case may be - would have five days in which to resign, to submit a written statement that would be printed on the recall election ballot, or to do neither.
In either of the latter two cases, the recall election would have to be scheduled within 35 days.
Green said that before she started verifying signatures, she was required, by law, to inspect each of the petition sheets.
There were 105 sheets for Dorrah, and 93 sheets for Calder.
Each sheet can contain a maximum of 10 signatures; however, some of the sheets, for each councilor, had fewer than 10 signatures, Green said.
State law requires the county clerk to invalidate any petition sheet - and every signature on it - that fails to comply with any of a list of a dozen requirements.
For instance, a sheet and its signatures are invalid if white out has been applied to a signature or date line, if the person who circulated the petition failed to sign the sheet, or if the circulator's signature appears to have been photocopied or carbon-copied.
Green said she invalidated three of the 105 petition sheets for the Dorrah recall, and five of the 88 sheets for Calder.
Green said that in her experience that's a typical percentage of invalidations.
The remaining 102 sheets for the Dorrah recall included 674 potentially valid signatures.
The 88 sheets for the Calder recall contain 629 potentially valid signatures.
Although two other councilors, Aletha Bonebrake and Clair Button, joined Dorrah and Calder in voting to fire Brocato on June 9, both Bonebrake and Button were exempt from a recall when Hardy filed the petitions against Calder and Dorrah in mid-June.
Oregon law prohibits anyone from filing a recall petition against an elected official who has been in office for less than six months.
Bonebrake and Button took office in January.
They no longer are exempt from recall, but no petition has been filed against either councilor.