By Seth Schmidt
A Feb. 13, 2018, referendum will be held to consider whether Tracy City Councilman Tony Peterson should be recalled from office.
The Tracy City Council passed a resolution authorizing the recall vote Monday, in response to a citizen recall petition. The petition charges Peterson with four violations of city code and charter, and requested the recall referendum. Peterson has denied any “acts of malfeasance or misfeasance” as alleged by the petition.
City charter authorizes a recall referendum of an elected official, with a petition signed by city residents who represent at least 20% of the votes cast in the last mayoral election. Interim city administrator Shane Daniels certified last week that the petition had the required minimum of 130 signatures from registered Tracy voters.
The council’s resolution stated that the petition had a total of 170 signatures, but 38 were eliminated because they were not registered city voters and two were eliminated because they did not list an address.
The council’s resolution stated that Feb. 13 was the earliest the recall referendum could be held, according to state election laws. A four-page memo from City Attorney Matt Gross explained that although city charter called for the referendum to be held “within 30-45 days after the first city council meeting after the petition is determined to be sufficient,” state law supercedes city code.
The council’s responsibility, Gross said, is not to determine whether the allegations in the petition are true, but only to set the date of the special referendum.
Mayor Steve Ferrazzano said that some people apparently have mistakenly thought that the council would be holding a “mini-trial” into the veracity of the petition’s allegations. Once the petition has been determined to be “sufficient,” the mayor indicated, its only responsibility is to pass the resolution setting the date of the vote.
In essence, Gross said, the citizen vote will determine the validity of the allegations.
The recall referendum will have a single “yes” or “no” question on whether Peterson would be removed from office. If the majority vote calls for removal, the council would be reduced to a four-member board until the vacancy is filled by an appointment, a special election, or the November, 2018, general election.
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Councilman Peterson said he was supportive of the citizens’ rights to petition for a recall election. His only question, he said, concerns the process used by petition organizers, to verify that they had witnessed each signature, and that they vouched that each signature was authentic and from a city resident.
Gross said that the language in the charter is “very vague” on the process to be followed in the witnessing of signatures by the petition committee members. Petition committee members are Shirley Anderson, Rosemary Martin, Michael Martin, Jon Chalmers, Tamara Schons, and Rhonda Fredericks.
Councilman Bill Chukuske asked if a citizen who signed the petition, but now wanted their name removed, could do so.
Gross said “no,” that once the petition is determined to be sufficient, all signatures remain part of the record.
A copy of the petition is available for public inspection at City Hall, as is Gross’s memo on the recall.