Payson Mayor Tom Morrissey on Sept. 27 filed a lawsuit challenging the signatures on the already certified petitions seeking his recall.
The lawsuit names Stan Garner as chair and Kim Chittick as treasurer of Unite Payson, the Town of Payson, all its councilors (including Morrissey himself), Town Clerk Sylvia Smith, all of the Gila County Supervisors and Gila County Recorder Sadie Jo Bingham, in an effort to block the recall election against him by invalidating signatures.
It’s a time-honored tactic to challenge petition signatures based on the address and registration of the signer — including whether each signer printed his or her address and name. It is against the law for a petition gatherer to write the address and name of the signer.
When the town and county checked the signatures, the town tossed out 40 signatures and the county 116, which left 814 signatures.
The reasons cited by the county and town included duplicate signatures, invalid dates, not registered to vote, living out of the voting district and a mismatch between the signature on the petition and the version in the registration on file.
Morrissey claimed many of the hand-printed names and addresses were written not by the person signing the petition, but by the signature gatherer. Morrissey’s lawsuit claims that test would invalidate another 94 signatures. An additional three signatures should be declared invalid “for failing to include all of the information required by A.R.S. 19-205 and 19-112 to be placed on the back of the petition sheet is not included,” according to the complaint.
In addition to attacking the signatures, Morrissey’s suit alleges Smith “improperly calculated the number of valid signatures required to trigger a recall.”
According to the Arizona Constitution (Article VII, Section I), the number of signatures to be collected for a recall “shall equal 25 percent of the number of votes cast at the last preceding general election for all of the candidates for the office held by such officer ...”
Morrissey’s suit alleges there were 5,020 votes cast for mayoral candidates, therefore 1,255 signatures should be collected.
The town calculated recall supporters needed 770 signatures, because Smith calculates voters cast 3,080 votes for the two mayoral candidates.
After the dust settled on the lawsuit’s claims, Morrissey and his lawyer figured an additional 97 signatures have been invalidated. Leaving the recall effort with a total of 717 valid signatures — 53 short.
This doesn’t phase Garner.
“We do not know what the effect of the suit is going to be and we do not agree with the assertions,” he said. “We are still collecting signatures on Morrissey.”
According to Smith, the recall committee has until Dec. 10 to gather signatures.
Morrissey’s lawsuit asked the court to set a hearing promptly.
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