How Does a Recall Work?

August 11, 2015

THE ISSUE: In light of the firing of City Manager Michael Ross, some residents are discussing recalling the three councilmembers – all recently elected – who supported his ouster. Ross’ termination was supported by Mayor Pro Tem Bob Kelly, and Councilmen Brennan Reilly and Burt Ballanfant.

Mayor Susan Sample and Council member Mardi Turner voted against Ross’ termination.

CAN THEY START CIRCULATING PETITIONS NOW?

The West U City Charter allows such recall petitions, and signatures can be collected now. But the petitions cannot be submitted until the 180th day – six months – after the council members took office. They were sworn in on June 1, which means Nov 28 would be the earliest petitions could be filed. Since that falls on a Saturday, Nov. 30 would be the first business day for petition filing.

ANY OTHER RESTRICTIONS?

Signatures will become invalid after 180 days.

HOW MANY SIGNATURES ARE REQUIRED FOR A RECALL ELECTION?

City Secretary Thelma Lenz reports valid signatures would be required from 15 percent of 10,234 registered voters – or 1,535 signatures.

WHAT HAPPENS IF THE CITY COUNCIL JUST SITS ON THE PETITIONS?

If the city council refuses to act on a recall petition, according to the Texas Municipal League, the decision could be shifted to the county or a court: “Most charter provisions on recall state that if the mayor or city council does not call a recall election when presented with a valid petition, the county judge shall discharge these duties. Still other charters attempt to place this duty on a district court judge.”

WHAT’S THE HISTORY OF RECALL ELECTIONS?

Municipal recall elections are rare in Texas, and attempts to recall elected officials are frequently unsuccessful. Bellaire residents, though, recalled their mayor and three of five council members in 1977 to oppose what they considered runaway development along the West Loop.

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