BLOUNTVILLE — By mid-November, the Bluff City Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) could be a one man show, albeit temporarily.
On Wednesday, the Sullivan County Election Commission certified recall petitions for four of the five sitting BMA members. The questions will be put to voters on the November ballot.
At the request of Bluff City residents seeking to oust the four BMA members, including the town’s mayor, the Election Commission approved the format of the petitions in July.
Last week recall organizers returned the petitions, each with more than enough signatures (from registered Bluff City voters) to get the recall questions on the ballot.
A separate petition was required for each elected official targeted for recall — in this case, Mayor Todd Malone, Vice Mayor J.C. Gentry, Alderman Don Weaver and Alderwoman Irene Wells.
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 134 signatures, Sullivan County Administrator of Elections Gena Frye said.
Staff in Frye’s office verified every signature submitted, she said, and the Election Commission certified the following number of signatures for the recall questions:
•146 certified signatures on the petition for a recall question on Wells.
•152 certified signatures on the petition for a recall question on Malone.
•150 signatures on the petition for a recall question on Weaver.
•149 certified signatures on the petition for a recall question on Gentry.
In the town’s most recent municipal elections, in May 2007, 219 voters cast ballots. In that election, Gentry received 135 votes and Malone received 130 votes.
In the town’s prior municipal election, in May 2005, 204 voters cast ballots. In that election, Weaver received 128 votes.
For the 2005 election, there were 931 registered voters in Bluff City. By May 2007, the number was down to 842. On Wednesday, the number of registered voters in Bluff City was 897.
The last day to register in time to become eligible to vote in the November election is Oct. 6.
In order to be on the ballot in November, the completed petitions had to be returned to the Election Commission on or before Friday.
According to Frye:
•BMA members named for recall 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 will either vote for or against the recall for each elected official listed on the recall ballot.
•All Bluff City voters who go to the polls for the November election will automatically be given a ballot including the four recall questions — in other words, voters will not have to ask for a special ballot to participate in the recall questions.
•If a majority of voters vote for recall, the elected officials in question vacate office — once the Election Commission certifies the results, which usually happens a week or so after the election. Remaining members of the BMA will then appoint replacements to fill out their terms.
•If voters oust all four BMA members up for recall on the November ballot, that’ll leave Alderman Melvin Carrier as the only remaining member.
That could change, however, between now and November. There’s currently a vacant seat on the BMA, and the board’s current membership could appoint someone to that slot.
Frye said she knew of nothing in the city’s charter to prevent remaining BMA members from reappointing a BMA member ousted in the recall.
Earlier this year, Robert Thomas, the Bluff City mayor, resigned — and a group of town residents launched an earlier recall effort, trying to oust three members of the BMA.
Later, another mayor, Tom Anderson, resigned.
And the recall effort was re-launched — expanded to four targets for removal from office.
The earlier recall effort made it to the signature-gathering phase, but completed petitions were not filed by the deadline for the August ballot.