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Rural Alaska

North Slope Borough mayor recall petition approved

  • Author: Lisa Demer
  • Updated: May 31, 2016
  • Published January 8, 2016

An effort to recall North Slope Borough Mayor Charlotte Brower can move ahead, according to a letter hand-delivered Thursday to the movement's sponsors.

The borough clerk's office reviewed the signatures on a petition seeking a recall election and verified 583 as belonging to borough voters, enough to move forward, the letter signed by clerk Sheila Burke and deputy Elaine Solomon said. The sponsors needed to collect 492 signatures by the week's end.

"Woo-hoo, we are certified!" said Dora Arey, one of the organizers. "That's such good news."

The clerks delivered the letter Thursday afternoon to her home, where she was waiting with her neighbor and another of the sponsors, Beverly Hugo.

But it's been a tense few weeks, with accusations of improper actions being thrown around by both sides in the recall fight.

The petition now has been declared "legally sufficient," both in terms of signatures supporting it and the stated grounds for recall, according to acting borough attorney Teresa Bowen.

The sponsors said they expect the borough Assembly to schedule a recall vote soon. Under the borough charter, a recall election must be held within 40 days of Thursday's certification.

Organizers say they want to remove Brower because of misconduct including what they call "corrupt use of public funds," such as spending borough money to send her grandchildren to basketball camp. The mayor's actions harm everyone on the North Slope, recall backers said.

"Our public leaders, our elected officials need to be accountable for their actions," Arey said. "We just feel there is so much lawlessness. … It hurts our inner being to have somebody continuing in that direction."

The sponsors had delivered a recall petition on Dec. 18 with 649 signatures, but Bowen said in a Dec. 28 memo that a number were invalid for various reasons, including failure to provide a residential address. So the count at that point fell short by three signatures.

The organizers disputed the need for a residential address in a place where everyone gets mail at the post office but still collected 10 more signatures, to be on the safe side. The clerk's office in Thursday's letter stated the total submitted was 658.

At Tuesday's Assembly meeting, Arey, Hugo and others questioned the process, including why signatures of known voters weren't being accepted.

Meanwhile, some of Brower's relatives were visiting homes and urging people to take back their signatures, according to Arey and Hugo. Questions also have come up about how signatures were gathered, Bowen's memo said.

Ultimately, 20 people asked for their signatures to be removed from the petition, including four who were not registered voters to begin with, Thursday's letter from the clerk said. Others also were rejected, either for signing twice or for not being a registered borough voter.

The clerk's office concluded that with 583 acceptable signatures, "the petition is currently deemed sufficient and is certified."

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