Pawhuska lawyer Steve Holcombe, who is a member of a group that has collected signatures on petitions seeking the recall of members of the City Council, on Monday morning delivered to city hall documents bearing what he hoped would be more than enough valid voter signatures to force a recall.
The goal was at least 108 valid voter signatures — 25 percent of the number of voters who participated in the last Pawhuska general election, on April 2. The recall committee had 15 days from the day it collected the first signature to complete its task. Monday, July 15, was the deadline.
Holcombe said Monday morning that 13 people had gathered recall petition signatures. He clarified that the committee advocating for a recall of city councilors is larger than that number. He explained that signature gatherers followed specific rules about who could sign a petition and about witnessing those signatures.
Holcombe initally said Monday that 129 signatures had been gathered that had subsequently been tested for validity through an internal auditing process prior to submission. He later increased that number to 132.
Pawhuska City Clerk Barbara Smith confirmed by phone about 10:30 a.m. Monday that she had received the signed copies of the petition and notified City Attorney John Heskett.
“We’ve never been here before so I’m not exactly sure,” Smith said regarding what would happen next.
Councilors John Brazee, Mark Buchanan, Rodger Milleson and Roger Taylor would be susceptible to the recall, while Councilor Jourdan Foran would be legally exempt, Holcombe has said. Fouran has not been in office long enough to be recalled.
Holcombe clarified Monday that the recall signatures do not represent recall votes. The signed petitions are simply a vehicle toward meeting the legal standard for calling a recall election. He said he is thankful to Pawhuska voters for being willing to sign a public document with a “John Hancock” sort of signature, forcing an open consideration of the actions of current city councilors.
Holcombe said one of the key questions he encountered from voters when he talked to them about signing a copy of the recall petition was why the recall was necessary if the recent issue regarding the job status of Police Chief Nick Silva had been resolved.
Silva was fired June 28 and reinstated July 3. In the intervening period, an interim city manager and an assistant city manager (the people who fired Silva) resigned, and a new interim city manager was hired. The new interim manager, Tonya Bright, reinstated Silva.
Holcombe explained that his answer is that the situation regarding the police chief was symptomatic of the dysfunction of city government under the guidance of the current council.
A memorandum Holcombe provided regarding recall elections in Pawhuska has the following to say about when a recall election would be held if one were legally required: “Once the petition is filed with the City Clerk, the City Council or Mayor must issue a proclamation calling a special recall election. Such recall election shall be held not less than 30 days nor more than 60 days from the filing of the petition. If the petition is filed on July 15, for example, the election must be held in the second half of August or first half of September.”