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Killeen recall effort could make history

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Posted: Sunday, April 17, 2011 12:00 pm

By Anthony Scott

Killeen Daily Herald

The possibility of a total recall of the Killeen City Council and mayor looms over City Hall as residents start a tedious process to have the option to recall every council member and mayor on the Nov. 8 ballot. Such an event would be the first in the city's nearly 130-year history.

Before council members can be recalled, however, enough residents first must sign the petitions for the elected city officials they want recalled.

The ultimate decision will be made in the voting booth during the Nov. 8 election, where the option for the recall would appear on the ballot.

For the petition to be successful, the Killeen city charter requires 1,050 valid signatures of registered voters, which is at least 51 percent of the total votes from the most recent council election in which four members were elected. The most recent was May 9, 2010, when 2,057 votes were cast.

If the recall effort succeeds, Killeen may be without a council for several months.

In the event there are not enough council members in Killeen to make a quorum of four people, the minimum number needed to have a meeting, the council would not be able to convene.

If four or more council members meet, those members can fill the empty seats with their appointment selections.

Petition power

All signatures on the petitions must be verified as registered voters - a time-consuming task performed by City Secretary Paula Miller, who will have five days from when the petition is received to complete the verification.

Killeen spokeswoman Hilary Shine said Miller compares the names to a registered voter list provided by the Bell County voter registrar.

Miller said she will go through the list by hand and compare the names. She will then enter other names into a computer system to verify if they are registered.

If enough signatures are verified, the council members will have a five-day grace period to resign. If they don't resign, their recall will be left for the voters to decide.

An election to fill the recalled seats will be held at the next regular election date in November, as required by state law. The city must have 30 days notice to call a special election. Shine said ousted council members can run again.

'Ground to a halt'

A similar recall situation happened in Copperas Cove in November 2008 when residents recalled four council members. The city operated for nearly four months without a council.

"It just almost draws your city to a halt until you get a new council there or a new mayor elected, because there's nobody to actually make any big decisions," said Copperas Cove Mayor John Hull, who was a retired county judge at the time.

The city manager couldn't do anything involving decisions on big expenditures, something council must approve, Hull said.

"It made it pretty tough," he said. "It all fell back to the city manager because they couldn't have a meeting."

In the aftermath of the recall, Copperas Cove City Manager Andrea Gardner said one of the biggest problems she faced was acting quickly to reseat a council in time to approve the city's audit.

While the Copperas Cove City Council does not approve checks or payroll, their vote is needed to approve the audit, which is required to be completed by March 31.

"It's just a matter of being on top of your game and making sure that you're organized and planning accordingly," she said.

If residents succeed in recalling the council in November, the same situation could happen in Killeen.

Enter Okray & Co.

The petition to recall the Killeen council was started by Killeen resident Jonathan Okray after a 4-3 council vote March 29 bought out former City Manager Connie Green for $750,000. Okray said he wasn't satisfied with the council's explanation of why the city paid Green $195,000 more than his contract stipulated.

Since his petition began, Jason and Jutta Demmon have teamed up with Okray to gather signatures to recall Mayor Tim Hancock.

The clock is ticking for Okray, who has 17 days to complete his task. The council petitions are due May 4 and the mayoral petition is due May 11.

As of Saturday evening, each council member's petition had the following number of signatures: Billy Workman, 702; Juan Rivera, 736; Larry Cole, 746; Ernest Wilkerson, 840; Kenny Wells, 841; JoAnn Purser, 857; Scott Cosper, 838; Tim Hancock, 277.

Green, 49, was named city manager in 2005 after David Blackburn resigned to become city manager in Temple. Green started with the city as finance director in 1990 and was promoted to assistant city manager in 2000.

Residents seeking more information regarding Okray's efforts can contact him at jokray.jo@gmail.com or (254) 368-8966.

Petitions can be signed at 6 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays at the Killeen Community Center, 2201 E. Veterans Memorial Blvd.

Contact Anthony Scott at ascott@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcity.

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