Dave Golembewski last week pulled papers so he can gather 1,638 signatures to find out if Payson voters want to recall Councilor Steve Smith, bringing to five the number of council members facing the threat of a recall.
Golembewski’s application says “Smith has created animosity and discord at every Payson council meeting in the attempt to disrupt new motions and progress.”
The petition also cites, “an extreme lack of judgment on the part of a Payson city council member” for his part in helping former Town Attorney Hector Figueroa put his gun in his car after rodeo staff told Figueroa to do so.
Controversy has dogged Smith ever since he was appointed by the outgoing council to fill former Payson Councilor Richard Croy’s seat after his resignation.
Smith’s appointment spurred a brief open meeting law investigation, triggered by the Roundup’s questions about the law. Golembewski and some newly elected, incoming council members criticized the appointment — saying the old council should have let the new council fill the seat.
“This gives the voters a chance to vote on Steve as he was appointed, not elected,” said Golembewski.
Smith agrees in the concept of the recall process.
“I believe it is the right of every voter if they believe the elected official is not serving them as they wish,” he said of a recall election.
Earlier in August, a group of citizens launched a recall signature-gathering effort against Payson Mayor Tom Morrissey and Payson Town Councilors Jim Ferris, Suzy Tubbs-Avakian and Janell Sterner. Those four have formed a consistent town majority that voted to fire Town Manager LaRon Garrett.
Recall efforts stem from complaints about the tone and tenor of Payson politics.
Things have steadily escalated since the new council took their seats in mid-December. Conflicts between Smith and Morrissey have erupted during several meetings. Smith filed an open meeting law violation with the Attorney General’s Office because of an email about broadband sent to Morrissey, Ferris, Sterner and Tubbs-Avakian.
Smith also opposed Morrissey’s formation of a council subcommittee made up the mayor and Tubbs-Avakian and Ferris. The subcommittee will review past contracts and could hire consultants.
Smith also objected to the process by which Morrissey filled empty spots on council committees, such as Parks and Recreation and the Airport Commission. Smith said Morrissey should have involved other council members in reviewing any applicants and that the mayor mostly filled the slots with his friends and acquaintances.
Smith, along with the council minority of Barbara Underwood and Chris Higgins, vocally opposed the abrupt firing of Garrett.
“My job is to represent everyone fairly and impartially and do what is in the best interest of Payson,” said Smith.
The transition has proved challenging for the former National Guard colonel.
“In all my leadership time, this is the most difficult,” he said, “because I’m not the commander or the military officer, I’m the person who has to listen and has to be fair ... so often it is the people that are silent that need the most representation — like kids or battered women, senior citizens or the mentally ill or those that suffer from PTSD.”
Those people inspire Smith.
“I volunteered to be that voice so long as the people will have me,” he said.
Golembewski has printed up 130 petitions, “enough for 1,653 signatures,” he said.
“We both believe in the people’s wishes — I think that’s called democracy,” said Golembewski.
As of now, he has no committee to support him and has agreed to only spend $500.
He said he would drop his effort if the other group drops the recall against the four-councilor majority.
“I believe in the election process,” he said, “I would like my recall added on their recall election date to avoid additional costs to the town. I would consider dropping mine only if I was the only recall cost to the town, as I don’t want to burden the town.”
Call Golembewski at 928-951-2794 to ask questions or volunteer.
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