Earlier this year the then-mayor, Robert Thomas, resigned — and a group of town residents launched a recall effort, trying to oust three members of the Bluff City Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
This month another mayor, Tom Anderson, resigned.
And the recall effort has been re-launched, this time expanded to four targets for removal from office: current Mayor Todd Malone, Vice Mayor J.C. Gentry, Don Weaver and Irene Wells.
On Wednesday, former BMA member Lon Gene Leonard submitted blank recall petitions — naming the four officials listed above — to the Sullivan County Election Office, seeking approval of their format from the Sullivan County Election Commission, Administrator of Elections Gena Frye said.
To be considered valid, such petitions must be checked by election officials for proper wording before being circulated for signatures.
At this point, it will be at least November before recall questions would go before Bluff City voters. The deadline has passed to have such questions added to the Aug. 7 ballot.
The Election Commission is expected to meet within the next one to two weeks, and the petitions are expected to come up for format review at that time.
The earlier recall effort made it to the signature phase, but completed petitions were not filed by the deadline for the August ballot.
Frye described the following process if the effort moves forward:
•If properly worded petitions are presented to and certified by the Election Commission, proponents will then have 75 days to collect enough signatures to cause a recall.
•The deadline for getting questions on the November ballot is 60 days before the election.
•A separate recall petition is required for each office — in other words, proponents must circulate a particular petition for each alderman (or mayor or vice mayor) they wish to put to a recall vote.
•The number of valid signatures required from registered Bluff City voters to make a recall happen was about 133 as of Wednesday. The figure is set out in the city’s charter at 15 percent of all registered voters in the city.
•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 would likely be November.
•Aldermen 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.
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.