Recall Collects Needed Signatures

Petitioners meet Tuesday deadline, county recorder to validate signatures in next 10 days

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Angela and David Lyons were successful in their three-week bid to collect enough signatures for a school board recall election of Charles Brown and Michael Horton.

Angela Lyons said the campaign was the result of the board's decision last spring not to renew the contract of Julia Randall Elementary School principal Peggy Miles.

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Michael Horton

Since the onset of the recall, Lyons and her supporters have been scouring the town seeking petition signatures from registered voters.

Angela Lyons said the drive was a success and recall petitions against Horton and Brown were turned over to Gila County School Superintendent Linda O'Dell before the Aug. 8 deadline. The petition to recall Horton contained 1,277 signatures and the one against Brown had 1,432, she said.

For a Nov. 7 recall election to he held, 1,078 of the signatures must be valid.

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Charles Brown

State law allows 120 days to collect signatures for a recall, but Lyons and her supporters were able to do it in less than three weeks.

Collecting the signatures was done in a shorter period of time than law allows so the recall could be included in the next election, said O'Dell's administrative assistant Julie Vasquez.

The responsibility of validating the signatures on the recall petitions is, by law, the duty of Gila County Recorder Linda Haught-Ortega.

She expects to have the validating process completed in about 10 days.

"One of the biggest reasons for (signatures) being invalid, is the (registered voter's) address," she said. "It cannot be a P.O. Box. It says that on the (recall) petition."

Angela Lyons said she had personally scoured the signatures before turning them in to be sure complete addresses were included.

Haught-Ortega said the person who took out the petition has the authority to correct the addresses if the signer used only a post office box or an incomplete address.

"That's what we did," Lyons said.

"There was about 20 signatures that we couldn't find (corrected) addresses for."

If enough signatures are valid and a recall election is held, Angela Lyons would appear on the ballot against Brown and her husband, Dave, would oppose Horton.

Originally, Kim Pound was to go up against Horton, but in a move that caught most everyone by surprise, he withdrew his name from the race July 27.

In stepping down, Pound said he had met with Horton and was satisfied with the job he was doing as a school board member.

Prior to that meeting, Pound had been very critical of all the board members.

If a recall election is held, Horton and Brown have the option of tendering their resignations or continuing on to the election.

Horton has said he will not resign.

Brown said he would make the decision on whether to resign or to continue when the election is confirmed by Haught-Ortega.

In spearheading the recall, Angela Lyons said the board made a grievous error in not renewing Miles' contract because she was an efficient, dedicated principal that had the best interests of the students and school at heart.

She also claims Horton and Brown have been apathetic and "do not always make the decisions on behalf of students, teachers and parents."

Horton and Brown have vigorously defended the board's decisions.

Using recalls

Recalls of school board members are not uncommon in Arizona. Recall elections, both successful and unsuccessful, have been held in Tanque Verde, Kyrene Elementary, Amphitheater, Willcox and Coolidge school districts.

Some recall attempts have failed for lack of signatures. In 1999, taxpayers in the Scottsdale Unified School District attempted to clean house because of a bid-rigging scandal, but couldn't garner the signatures needed by the deadline.

Proponents of recalls claim they are a way for voters to retain control over elected officials who are not representing the best interests of their constituents.

Opponents of recalls argue they undermine the principle of electing good officials and giving them a chance to govern until the next election.

Francis Shen, a Harvard University professor who has studied the school board's role in American politics, believes there are several skills members must have to gain the support to the taxpayers.

"I think school boards that demonstrate an ability to work constructively with each other, to overcome narrowly interested motives and to work for overall district improvement will find themselves gaining respect and power," he wrote on his Web site.

William Howell, also a Harvard University Professor, and editor of the book "Besieged: School Boards and the Future of Education Politics" disagrees, saying board members are in a no-win situation.

"Everything is in a flux," he said. "There is a strong push for top-down control. At the same time, people want bottom-up accountability through parent choice."

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, recall elections have their roots in municipal government.

In 1903, Los Angeles held the first known recall election. In 1908, Michigan and Oregon were the first states to adopt recall procedures. Minnesota is the most recent, adopting them in 1996.

-- To reach Max Foster call 474-5251 ext. 114 or e-mail mfoster@payson.com.

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