Recall Election Heats Up In Pine

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The recall election for Ross Gooder, a member of the Pine/Strawberry Fire Board, has begun.

Ballots were mailed out to qualified electors in the district beginning April 12. The official election date is May 15, when the ballots must be returned and the tabulation of results will begin.

The ballots can be mailed to the Gila County Recorder or turned in by hand to election officials at the Isabelle Hunt Memorial Library in Pine on Tuesdays or Thursdays until May 15. The votes will be counted at the Gila County Elections Office in Globe, said Gila County Elections Specialist David Rogers.

Rogers said election officials are hoping the votes will be counted and a winner decided by the end of the election week, or by May 18.

The challenger

Robert Senita Jr., a resident of Strawberry, is challenging Gooder for his seat on the fire board.

Senita will be at the Ponderosa Market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday for a meet-and-greet session with the public.

He said he is running because he wants to make a difference for his community and believes that he will be beneficial to the board.

"I believe the many years of experience I have in a government agency would be an asset to the fire district board, citizens of Pine and Strawberry, and the fire department," he said in an election flier.

Senita ran unsuccessfully for a spot on the board in November and applied for the open seat left vacant by former chairman Dan McKinney.

"I want what's best for the community," Senita said. "I'll be fiscally responsible. I'm not going to waste taxpayers' money, but I'll make sure that the Pine/Strawberry Fire Department has the equipment that they need. I'll find a balance."

Senita plans to have a table set up at Ponderosa Market to answer questions and garner support. He has prepared an election flier listing his qualifications, which will be available to the public on that day.

Gooder's plight

Gooder faces recall after the Gila County Board of Supervisors approved an order on Dec. 19 calling for the recall election, after the required 175 signatures from registered voters in the district were collected.

According to the election ballot, Gooder faces the recall because he "demonstrated malfeasance and unprofessionalism as a fire board member."

The ballot continues with the grounds for the demand of the recall based on Gooder's "unbecoming conduct as an elected official, inappropriate and derogatory remarks in public board meetings directed towards departmental personnel and other fire board members, failure to adhere to agenda protocol, making threats against departmental personnel and repeated violations of fire board by-laws."

The fire board voted on May 10, 2006 for Gooder's removal as chairman.

While Ross Gooder said he had no comment, his wife, Betty Gooder said that she hopes that people will take a good look at his statement, included in the mail-out ballot. She added that the "accusations against him are unfounded."

In his defense statement on the ballot, Gooder said, "The petitions were drafted by disgruntled personnel associated with the Pine/Strawberry Fire District, because I have often been a dissenting vote against their request to spend the taxpayers' money frivolously."

Gooder's statement, in part, goes on to say, "All of their accusations are pure rubbish and I am highly offended they would stoop so low to satisfy their desire for revenge. It is curious to me that they have waited so long to bring the accusations against me, when I have been a member of the Pine/Strawberry Fire District Board for seven years."

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