Judge rules recall petition OK | CraigDailyPress.com

Judge rules recall petition OK

Dinosaur town mayor to undergo recall election

Christina M. Currie

Rio Blanco County Court Judge Laurie Noble ruled Wednesday that a petition circulated for the recall of Dinosaur Mayor Richard Blakely was sufficient barely.

Noble ruled that 43 of the 49 signatures on the petition were valid the exact number needed to force a recall election.

Noble was brought in by the town of Dinosaur to issue an unbiased ruling on the sufficiency of the petition after Blakely protested its validity. Blakely said petition circulator Mike Christoff misled voters on the intent of the petition. Blakely said Christoff would not let some people read the front page of the petition which outlined the grounds for recall and gave them false information about the allegations outlined in the petition.

“I feel that people was misrepresented on the petition,” he said.

Blakely’s protest prompted a hearing so that each side could present witnesses and submit evidence. The hearing was held Friday.

Before the hearing, Blakely circulated his own petition protesting the recall petition. His stated: “This letter of protest is to be signed by the people who were falsely informed about the recall petition and were fooled into signing it or who just want to have their name taken off the petition it’s self (sic). Remember why you are signing the recall petition, is it because you have a problem with the way the job is being done, or is it a past personal problem.”

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Blakely submitted six signature on his petition.

Nine witnesses were called on behalf of Blakely. One, Randy Bailey, stated outright he wanted his name to remain on the petition. Two others testified they had read and understood and either signed in anger or while in a hurry.

Noble ruled those signatures valid.

Six witnesses testified they did not read or understand the allegations or the warning listed on the petition. Some said the page containing the allegations and warning was folded back and not visible. Despite the fact that each page contained a warning and a one-sentence explanation stating the petition was for the recall of Blakely, three people testified they thought the petition was for street improvements.

“I explained to every one of them,” Christoff said. “I made them read the warning and the grounds. They knew what it was about. Every one of them.”

Christoff said people felt intimidated by the mayor and were asking to withdraw their signatures for that reason and his statement was backed by witness testimony.

“I said I wanted off the list because I felt my family was being targeted by the town,” resident Dianne Partridge said. Her husband, J. B. Partridge, also said he felt targeted.

Noble ruled to remove the signature of resident Lorie Bailey after Bailey said she never read the petition, but said it was explained to her.

“I can’t say either way whether I was misled,” she said. “I thought what (Christoff) said was what there was to know.”

Bailey said she believed Christoff’s allegations that Blakely wasn’t doing his job, but when approached by Blakely who told her he was trying, she changed her position.

“I would like my name to be removed to be impartial to both sides,” she said.

Three others wanted their names removed because they are related to both Blakely and Christoff and did not want to cause family problems.

Christoff circulated the recall petition from Sept. 13 to Sept. 29 on the grounds that Blakely had not enforced town ordinances, not used proper procedures at Town Council meetings, refused to reconcile problems concerning property belonging to the town, not supporting the police and not fulfilling his duties after taking an oath to represent the people of Dinosaur.

Christoff recently resigned his position on the Town Council because of some of the problems listed on the petition.

Blakely has the option to resign or withstand an election. He said he does not plan to resign. According to state statute, the town of Dinosaur must make plans to hold an election within 45 to 75 days from Wednesday.

Christoff said he feels the chances of recalling Blakely are good if any opposition runs a good campaign.