If you’re a little rusty on recall protocol, it might be time to brush up as activists seek to recall three of the five members of the Coastside Fire Protection District board.
It is, after all, the first such recall in memory, according to San Mateo County Elections Manager David Tom.
Petitions are currently being circulated to recall fire board President Doug Mackintosh and Directors Mike Alifano and Gary Riddell. Opponents say the three men have been less-than transparent as they work to end the contract with CalFire and establish a new, possibly more expensive, independent fire department.
“People need information. They’re asking for information, and they haven’t been getting enough of it,” said Montara resident Peggy Emrey. She’s volunteered to put together a website, keepcalfirelocal.com, that she plans to use to provide news updates and link visitors to various resources pertaining to the recall effort and local fire service. As of Tuesday, that site remained a work in progress. It consisted solely of the words, “Keep CalFire on the Coastside” and “Recall these guys” and a photograph of the Three Stooges depicting firemen in a black-and-white movie.
Recalling elected officeholders is not easy.
The first step is to file a Notice of Intent with county election officials — a document that lists the name and title of the officer to be recalled, a reason for the recall and proponents’ contact information and signatures. There must be at least 10 signatures on the notice.
The notice must then be published in a newspaper or three public places in the district if a general-circulation newspaper is not available. Proponents are responsible for covering the cost of publication. Fire recall supporters published such notices in the Review in June.
Proof of publication must be filed with elections officials along with two blank copies of the petition.
In order to be accepted, these initial petitions have to be formatted correctly. For example, heading and footer margins must be at least an inch wide, and signature spaces must be consecutively numbered.
An elections official reviews the documents and also ensures that the proponents used proper formatting and wording in line with the proponents’ objectives. If there are discrepancies, proponents have an opportunity to correct the petition.
After elections officials accept the paperwork, officers facing recall may file a response with election officials.
Once completed, petitions, along with circulators’ contact information and signatures, can be circulated. Circulators are responsible for witnessing the signing of the petition and vouching for its legitimacy.
The number of required signatures depends on the number of registered voters within a district.
“A recall is nasty, and they set the bar high,” said recall proponent John Lynch. “We need 20 percent of registered voters in the fire district. That equates to 2,714 signatures (for each person facing recall).”
Not everyone is eligible to sign. Those who sign must be registered voters in the district.
If the elections office receives petitions that don’t have enough valid signatures, officials will not approve the petitions.
“We are halfway at this point — halfway from where we want to be … We want to have enough signatures in to make sure there won’t be legal challenges that will keep this recall from happening,” said recall proponent Mike Gaynes.
Proponents also have to be cognizant of deadlines. They have 120 days to collect the signatures. The countdown started on June 29.
Once petitions are filed, elections officials will count and verify the signatures. Gaynes said proponents hope to have the petitions in by mid-October.
For large districts, an elections official will start by looking at a random sample of the signatures to calculate if there are enough that are valid, but Tom said that is probably not applicable to the fire recall. Because the district is relatively small, he expects each signature will be validated.
If the elections official finds that the number of valid signatures is equal to or greater than the required number, the official can introduce it to the elections governing board for approval.
Once approved, the board has 14 days to issue an order stating that an election will be held to see if an officer will be recalled.
Candidates may also file to be elected to fill the office of the person facing recall, should the recall pass. The election is supposed to happen between 88 and 125 days after the governing board announces it.
Then it’s up to the people. During the ensuing election, voters have the opportunity to decide whether to recall an officer and vote for a candidate, if any have filed. The candidate with the most votes will then assume the office.
Gaynes hinted that potential candidates have been identified, but he declined to name them.
Fire recall proponents hope to get the recalls on the ballot for a special election to be held in early 2013.