EDHCSD board recall could fall apart
Setbacks are nothing new to John Everett — the man trying to recall all five El Dorado Hills Community Services District directors. The John Skeel firing last year was the last straw for Everett, who has alleged improprieties in the management of assessments, bonds and joint use agreements over the last several years.
Everett recently reported that he’d recruited a loose pyramid organization of roughly 50 residents, a “shoe leather social network” to canvas neighborhoods, collect recall signatures and sign up other potential canvassers.
He has to collect 4,235 valid signatures per director to get the recall on a ballot. Village Life checked in with him twice on June 22 to see how signature collection was going, but things fell apart before we could get an answer. He has not returned calls since, and refused to speak with Village Life when we knocked on his door.
During the June 22 conversation it became apparent that Everett did not understand the lead times for the general election in November. Those lead times require him to submit his petitions 57 days sooner than anticipated.
From the beginning, Everett’s focus has been on collecting the required signatures for five recall petitions within 120 days of their approval by the Elections Department. His petitions were approved on April 30 for Directors Wayne Lowery and Guy Gertsch, and May 2 for Directors Bill Vandegrift, Noelle Mattock and Tony Rogozinski.
The resulting calendar math would land his petition deadline on Aug. 28 and 30, but to get on the November general election ballot he should get his petitions in by July 2, according to the El Dorado County Elections Department.
Assistant Registrar of Voters Barbara Dunmore confirmed that the lead time for a recall to get on the Nov. 6, 2012, ballot is, by law, 88 to 125 days.
Signature validation and subsequent correspondence between the Elections Department and the CSD, which must eventually call the election during a regular board meeting, push the ballot due date up even farther.
“That’s the first I’ve heard of it,” said a shocked Everett.
Dunmore insists that she told Everett about the deadline for the November ballot. “Absolutely. I had the calendar out with him counting days and marking it.”
Elections tech Justin Canning works the front counter and also recalls telling Everett that two separate deadlines were in play.
Then there’s the April 25 Village Life story that reported Everett’s recall filings, his struggle to get the petitions approved by the Elections Department and the various milestones involved in the process, including a warning that the November ballot has a separate lead time that could trump the recall’s 120-day signature deadline, warning, “Everett’s ability to submit compliant petitions and the Elections Department’s ability to validate them quickly could shrink or expand his critical signature collection deadline from August into June. Stay tuned.”
During the June 22 phone conversation it became clear that the recall proponent has not stayed tuned. Everett insisted that he was unaware of any deadline other than Aug. 28 and 30.
Registrar of Voters Bill Schultz said his staff had been patient with Everett, providing all the information he requested, plus the state and county recall pamphlets.
“We’re here to explain the code and provide the paperwork, but at some point he has to take this thing and figure it out,” said Schultz, adding that he encourages anyone launching a recall effort to hire an attorney, an admonition highlighted on page one of the Guide to Recall assembled by his staff and updated in 2009.
If Everett misses the new deadline but has the required signatures he has the option of requesting a special election, which would likely follow the general election by a couple of months, and be more costly than adding the recall to an existing ballot. Elections staff provided a “very loose” estimate of $20,000 for a special election, slightly less if it were done by mail only.
The CSD pays the county for each of its elections, including recalls. The county has charged the CSD between $16,000 and $22,000 for recent general elections. The overall ballot cost is split between the special districts based on the ballot “real estate” each district required, which in turn is based on the number of races and candidates both on the ballot and in the voter information packet.
Schultz wouldn’t speculate on how much a recall would increase the CSD’s general election cost but noted that in addition to the extra ballot real estate, the voter information packet would have to include grounds of the proposed recall, any responses from the directors and statements from replacement candidates — all of which add up quickly.
Once petitions are submitted the Elections Department is allowed 30 days to validate them, after which the CSD board must formally accept a Certificate of Sufficiency for each petition and call for an election.
The Elections Code contains various contingency scenarios which cloud the recall dates, but the November ballot’s 88-day minimum lead time stands firm, requiring that the election be called by Aug. 10 to get on the November ballot.
Invalid signatures are common on all types of petitions, said Canning, most often because the signee is not registered to vote or lists an address that doesn’t match voter registration records. For that reason, recall proponents are encouraged to collect as many extra signatures as possible.
The validation process for petitions of this size starts with a 500-signature sample. The percentage of valid signatures is multiplied by the total signatures on the petition.
If the extrapolated result is at least 110 percent of the required 4,267 signatures the petition is considered “sufficient” and goes on to the ballot.
Petitions that extrapolate to less than 90 percent of the requirement are disqualified as “insufficient.”
Petitions in the middle ground require that every signature be examined and verified, hence the 30-day time allotment.
The Elections Department certifies every petition that passes muster and instructs the CSD board to order an election at their next regularly scheduled meeting, which places a critical step in the process in the hands of the subjects of the recall.
The state elections code includes contingencies for uncooperative boards. If the CSD board fails to call the election within 14 days, the Elections Department can do so within the following five days. The worst-case scenarios would threaten the recall effort’s ability to make the November ballot.
Canning worked out a rough schedule that targets receiving the petitions by July 2 and certifying them in time for the scheduled July 12 CSD board meeting. The schedule is optimistic, giving Elections staff just eight days to validate the petitions.
Waiting until the Aug. 9 CSD meeting would require the board to order the election the day after the meeting, and would shrink filing dates for any potential replacement candidates.
A brief nomination period for replacement candidates begins after the recall election is called and runs through Aug. 23. Everett has not said if he has replacement candidates lined up.
Replacement candidates can only run for one specific seat. Two of the potential replacements would only serve until February, when the new board is seated.
Director can be recalled without any replacements specified on the ballot. If a quorum of three directors survives the recall they would appoint replacements for the two recalled directors.
If more than two directors are recalled with no replacements on the ballot, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors would either call an election or appoint enough replacements to make a quorum.
Pushing an already complicated situation into the realm of absurdity, both Mattock’s and Gertsch’s terms are up in early February. Mattock told Village Life that she’s running again, which means she could be recalled and reelected on the same ballot.
Were that to happen, she would step down when the election results were certified, typically two to four weeks after the election, then be sworn back for another four-year term during the February board meeting.
Gertsch hasn’t announced if he’s running. The filing period opens July 16.
The other three directors have two years left on their terms. If they are recalled their designated replacement would serve out the balance of their term, and could then run for a full term in 2014.
Since Everett went incommunicado, we have no way of knowing if he’s close to the required 4,235 signatures needed for each petition.
One CSD insider who asked for anonymity said, “I can’t imagine John has all those signatures already, but I also didn’t think Alan Day or Ron Mikulako would win.”
Still stay tuned.