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Sullivan Election Commission OKs Bluff City recall petitions

J. H. Osborne • Mar 18, 2008 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Recall petitions for three members of Bluff City’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen were certified Tuesday by the Sullivan County Election Commission.

That simply means the commission OK’d the format of the petitions, which had to happen before recall supporters could begin collecting signatures.

A separate petition is required for each elected official targeted for recall. Bluff City’s charter permits a recall question to be put on a ballot for all voters if 15 percent of the city’s registered voters sign a petition seeking the recall.

For this recall effort that equals 132 signatures, Sullivan County Administrator of Elections Gena Frye said. Frye warned that to be a valid, each signature must come from a city resident who is already registered at the time they sign the petition — in other words, you can’t sign the petition, then go register to vote.

Petitions seeking removal of Vice Mayor Todd Malone and Aldermen J.C. Gentry and Don Weaver were first submitted to the Sullivan County Election Commission several weeks ago.

But the Tennessee Election Commission twice suggested changes in the wording, and the county Election Commission passed those recommendations back to recall organizers — who include former Bluff City BMA members Lon Gene Leonard and Jim Embree.

Leonard and Embree lost re-election bids in May 2007, when Malone and Gentry won office.

The amended petitions seeking to oust Malone, Gentry and Weaver were OK’d on Tuesday.

Election guidelines allow 75 days — or until June 2 — for collection of the required signatures and submission of the completed petitions back to the Election Commission, Frye said.

She described the following process if the recall effort moves forward:

•If enough valid signatures are collected and submitted to the Election Commission — for one or more of the aldermen in question — a date for the ballot will be set. In this case it’s expected to be August. A separate state election law dictates that for such a question to be added to the ballot, it must be certified by the Election Commission no later than 60 days prior to the Election Day in question. For the August election, that would be June 9.

•Any BMA members named for recall would continue to serve until voters go to the polls.

•Under Bluff City’s charter, a recall vote is a simple yes or no matter. On election day, voters would either vote for or against the recall for each elected official listed on the recall ballot.

•If a majority of voters vote for recall, the elected officials in question vacate office. Remaining members of the BMA would then appoint replacements to fill out their terms.

Frye said she knew of nothing in the city’s charter to prevent remaining BMA members from reappointing an alderman who was ousted in the recall.

The process is different than the most recent recall effort in Sullivan County, when several members of the Bristol Tennessee City Council faced recall in 2002.

Under Bristol’s city charter, a required number of valid signatures basically launched a special election for the seats in question — when voters went to the polls, they voted for council candidates, which in some cases included the incumbents.

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