LAKESIDE -- Efforts to dislodge the mayor and three councilors are under way as the city braces for what could be its third recall election in six years.
Two residents are collecting signatures in separate drives to force special elections. In either case, the petitioner must collect 127 signatures from registered Lakeside voters before March 4.
In one of the drives, petitioner Mildred Dover-Bennett is campaigning to recall Councilor Sue Allen. In the other drive, petitioner Darline Atkin is campaigning to unseat Mayor Ed Gowan and councilors Naomi Parker and Ed Langley.
The efforts are the culmination of months of feuding between two factions of the council table and their supporters in town.
Dover-Bennett, known more commonly by the name Midge Viedo, said she wanted to recall Allen because she was blocking the appointment of a candidate to a vacant council seat.
In retaliation, Darline Atkin, Allen's neighbor, is trying to recall three councilors who are viewed as Allen's chief opponents on the council table.
Atkin said she was reluctant to start a recall petition but said it was the only way to answer Dover-Bennett's campaign.
Both Dover-Bennett and Atkin are confident they will collect enough signatures to spur that special vote. On the weekend, supporters from both sides were canvassing for signatures in shops and on streets.
By Sunday night, Dover-Bennett had collected 37 signatures to recall Allen. She expected to easily reach the required 127 because she had a long list of people who had signed a previous 'warning" petition against Sue Allen.
Atkin hadn't yet tallied the number of signatures on her petitions against Parker, Gowan and Langley.
The officials targeted by the campaigns say they are disappointed the town is staring down the barrel of another recall election. Lakeside last had recall elections in 2009 and 2006.
Allen said Dover-Bennett's claims against her were untrue and it was a misuse of the recall process. Allen believed recalls only should be reserved for officials who commit major ethical and moral breaches.
She clarified that all she did was vote against the appointment of either of two candidates to a vacant council seat. She believed neither candidate was qualified to sit as a councilor.
She said this was not a breach of constitutional law as alleged. Two other councilors, Mack Eubanks and Elaine Armstrong, also have given the appointment of the candidates the thumbs-down.
In general, she believed recall campaigns were too often the solution sought by people in Lakeside and she wished it would stop. She added that she didn't support or oppose Atkin's retaliatory petition, given the circumstances.
Ultimately, if either side collected enough signatures, the biggest loser would be the city, she said.
'Lakeside has no tax base," Allen said. 'The money that we get is from cigarette taxes and alcohol taxes and hotel taxes. We don't get any money from property tax, and to waste $3,500 on this kind of an issue is just stupid."
That cost could be higher if both Dover-Bennett and Atkin fail to hand their petitions in on the same day.
City Administrator Charlie Hill said that if the petitions were returned with more than a few days between them, they would likely be processed separately, costing the city roughly $7,000.
That cost could be higher again if at least two councilors are recalled by voters. With only three councilors left, the council would not have a quorum necessary to govern. That would spur another special election to fill the council.
Councilor Ed Langley said the recall campaign was an indication of how divided the council had become.
However, he was confident, based on what he had had heard from the community, that any election would fail to oust him from office.
'I'm not going anywhere and I don't think the mayor or Naomi Parker are either," Langley said.
Lakeside last had recall elections in November 2009 (costing $3,212.94) and August 2006 (costing $3,520.96).
Reporter Daniel Simmons-Ritchie can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 249, or at email@example.com.