Recall office

Stan Garner stands outside the recently opened recall signature collection office in the Swiss Village, at 802A N. Beeline Highway. The office is open five days a week from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

A recall effort against Payson Mayor Tom Morrissey and three other council members involves a former mayor, councilors and business and education leaders. The recall group faces a self-imposed deadline of Aug. 30 to collect signatures to get the measure on the November ballot.

“We hope to have an early election,” said Stan Garner, the chair of the recall effort.

If Garner and his group can’t collect the 770 signatures needed to recall the mayor’s position and 1,653 signatures for each council seat from registered Payson voters, they’ll shoot for the March 2020 ballot.

The group has an office in the Swiss Village Shopping Center for drop-in petition signers between a frozen yogurt shop and dry cleaners. On Friday, a steady stream of signers visited the small space. Asked how many signatures they had gathered so far, Garner said they didn’t have an official count, but would tally things up Saturday, Aug. 24.

“We have several sheets filled with 15 signatures per sheet,” said Garner.

Recall nuts and bolts

If they’re to make the November ballot, they have only until the end of the month to gather thousands of signatures to recall Morrissey and council members Suzy Tubbs-Avakian, Janell Sterner and Jim Ferris.

Kenny Evans, former Payson mayor, has agreed to serve as the unofficial adviser to the recall group, which also involves former councilor and town manager Fred Carpenter.

Evans, head of the MHA Foundation, said, “I did agree to share whatever institutional information or political background information I might have. I shared that from my experience; a recall would be difficult ... I affirmed that a vote of the people was the only sure way to know what the taxpayers really wanted. A recall does not overturn the will of the voters. It reaffirms that they, the taxpayers, are the ultimate bosses — not the temporarily elected officials.”

State statute grants recall organizers 120 days from the date they file petitions to collect signatures, but recall organizers say they will try to qualify for the November ballot — which gives them an Aug. 30 deadline.

State statute gives the group up to four months to get the needed signatures, which if they are successful would mean a March election, according to Gila County and Town of Payson staff. Both the city and county play a role in a town recall election.

The recall battle played out last week in back-to-back appearances on the KMOG radio station. First Morrissey, then recall supporters, each spent half an hour on the air talking about the recall.

Morrissey expressed frustration that, “I’m trying to give them (the people) a voice, but they (recall organizers) are not happy with it.”

Morrissey said he has a transparent administration open to the public. He said he hosts a bi-monthly Coffee with the Mayor and has upcoming open mic nights at Messinger’s Mortuary.

“If you want to talk to me, come out and talk,” he said. “Come on and meet with me at the office.”

Morrissey told host Randy Roberson the recall effort is about “power. They want the power back,” he said. However, he said regular elections — not recall elections — should determine who has the power.

The recall groupFormer Payson councilor Fred Carpenter and longtime local business owner Jennifer Smith represented the recall effort on the air. Carpenter also served as Payson town manager before the town council fired him after a luncheon meeting at a conference. The Arizona Attorney general’s office later determined that luncheon meeting violated the state’s open meeting law. The town had a period of open meeting law probation as a result.

Carpenter was “set off” by the termination of LaRon Garrett, the former town manager.

“I think it was settling scores,” said Carpenter. “If you are at one place for 25 years, if people don’t get permits, they blame you. They blame the employee, not the code.”

Roberson made a point of introducing Smith through her family’s history.

“Your company is Precision Intricast,” he said. “I know your family was courted by Payson years ago (and) you’ve been around Payson a long time.”

Smith confirmed that her family came to Rim Country in 1992. She’s a Payson High School graduate and also went to college locally.

She started tuning in to town politics during the budget hearings in May.

“Something that was disconcerting is the lack of ability of the public to weigh in at public meetings,” she said.

Carpenter agreed with Smith.

“Many of the people, who ran under ‘transparent Payson,’ are up there,” he said. “When you have a public meeting as to the firing of a longtime employee ... and you allow three or four people to comment and you come up with very few reasons — pretty lame reasons — to let someone go ... I have been the victim of such chicanery.”

He also said that the newly formed council subcommittee to review contracts and capital projects would cause problems.

“It is a very dangerous road to go down,” he said about council members telling staff “what backhoe to buy.”

Smith finds the council’s “lack of civility” very “concerning.”

“I see a lot of power plays up there,” she said. “There is almost always a 4-3 split ... my personal concerns are that I believe it is an overreach of the power that is given to the council.”

The winner-take-all attitude alarms Smith, who predicts long-term consequences. She spoke of the $271,000 splash pad approved for Rumsey Park as a “pet-project” of the mayor that jumped ahead of other projects waiting in line for years.

“More important to me is the long-range planning,” she said. “A great deal of resources and high-level expertise went into these plans — like the Economic Development Plan. It was developed by an economic development specialist.”

Demographics of the recall

Smith and Carpenter said they represent just a portion of the people who have “come together for a unified objective,” said Smith.

“In our first meeting, I actually ... just acknowledged the elephant in the room — there were dozens of those who had sat on one side of the fence or the other in the past in that room — not on the fence,” she said.

Smith then listed retirees, parents, educators, business owners, Democrats, Republicans, independents, Libertarians and “others who don’t want to be identified politically.”

“We have old guard and we have newcomers,” said Smith. “If you could cut a cross section of town, this would be it. It is growing exponentially every day.”

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(9) comments

Mike White

It is a shame that the old guard Liberals can't even let the new guard transparency candidates a chance. They are so entrenched in their prior stranglehold and good ol' boy control that they are terrified of any changes that might provide the citizens more visibility and access. Why can't they wait until the next election and make their case for returning to the old ways of tax and spend, behind-the-scenes deal making, and insider control?

Jack Hastings

Once again you have it wrong Paul.The reason for the recall is an utter lack of transparency as promised.The rate at which this group is spending on poorly planned projects is astounding.A recall would be a bargain! When you discover a cancer you must cure it at any cost or you die.

Paul Frommelt

You don't know "jack!" And Apparently no one else knows you either!

Don Evans

Well whata you know. Kenny Evans, the game is afoot! Lol..

Paul Frommelt

It is inconceivable to me, the amount of money being spent on this attempt to negate the last election. Follow the money, folks! Look at the names of the backers for a bit of background. New ideas, or the old guard?

Judy Radigan

I agree. This is ridiculous. If u disagree run for office and see if u can get elected base upon yr policies. I think Payson residents can see thru this.

Phil Mason

It is totally conceivable to me. Total up the total town expenditures this decade, then make an excel spreadsheet on who received contracts for projects, materials and services. Then look at what will be on the agenda for the next four years with the economic boom that is now just beginning.

Residents need to make a simple decision: Do you want Payson to achieve the lifestyle and economic prosperity for everyone (including our youth entering the job market) that is easily to perceive or do you want to return to the past when everything was divvied out to the small group of good 'ol boys?

If we want a better future, we will have to fight as hard for the reforms that have been started by the Mayor and new council members as the good 'ol boy cabal who want to return us to the dark ages and back room deals the voters rejected last year.

Paul Frommelt

Wouldn't it have been amazing if the Transparent Payson group had gotten a lead in title like this when gathering petitions for Propositions 401 and 402? "Propositions Gather Steam." Some of the names of the backers of this effort may actually harm their cause. That is truly "the elephant in the room."

Mike White

Good insight by Paul on the apparent position of the Roundup in this split.

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