CUDAHY — City Manager Jerry Caton has rejected petitions to recall four of five City Council members, disallowing two petitions outright and ruling that there were not enough valid signatures on the other two to require an election.
In addition, Caton said he has asked the district attorney to look into complaints made about the way the petition drive was conducted.
Petition proponents say their drive was above board and that they will try again if the Secretary of State does not support an appeal of Caton's decision.
"I will not give up," said recall proponent Jene Oliver, a former planning commissioner. "I'm going to drive 'em bats."
Nearly 43% of the signatures on petitions to recall Mayor John Robertson and Councilman Joe Graffio were disallowed. The petitions targeting council members Bill Colon and Tom Thurman were rejected outright because of format errors that were not corrected before the signatures were obtained, Caton said.
"Admittedly, it is minor stuff," he said of the errors, "but the law is specific."
Only Councilman Gabe Zippi is not being threatened by recall.
Supporters of the recall effort say they are acting out of concern for the city and because council members "flip-flopped" on campaign promises.
But Robertson called the recall supporters "sore losers," referring to former council members Lynn Evans and Faye Dunlap, who were defeated last year and who have actively supported the recall. Oliver lost his seat on the Planning Commission after the current council was elected.
Dunlap denied that she was seeking revenge for her loss.
"I'm a good loser," she said. "I wasn't involved in all this. Then, they said I was a prime mover, and when they started putting out all this . . . about me, I decided to get in on it."
She said her primary motivation in supporting the recall is that Robertson, Colon and Thurman had promised to not condemn property for a redevelopment project at Atlantic and Florence avenues while campaigning in 1986. After they were elected, she said, the trio voted for the condemnation.
'Nothing to Do With It'
Robertson disagrees. "In the final analysis, Parcel A (the property in question) had nothing to do with it," he said, adding that it was necessary to make tough decisions on the redevelopment issue.
Before their defeat in the last election, Dunlap and Evans had voted with Zippi against the condemnations.
Evans, who was mayor pro tem when he was defeated, said the recall signatures were obtained in good faith.
"We thought we had a comfortable cushion," he said. "We went over the signatures every day and if they were questionable, said 'Go back out and get it right.' "
To force a recall election, the petitions needed 779 valid signatures, or 25% of the city's registered voters. The petitions given to Caton had more than 950 signatures each, but Caton allowed only 549.
Reasons for Rejections
Caton said there were a number of reasons for the rejections, including duplicate signatures, requests from signers that their names be withdrawn, signers who were not registered to vote and pages in which the voter information on each line was filled out by someone other than the signer.
The city clerk has also given the district attorney's office a list of 17 people who have complained about misrepresentation by those presenting the petitions to the public.
"I got a call from a lady 90 years old who was frightened," Caton said. "She'd been told that unless she signed, there would be no more police protection in Cudahy, and she would have to start paying more taxes on her house. I had an obligation to report these complaints to the district attorney."
Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Jorgensen said that his office has assigned an investigator to the complaints but that the investigation has not yet begun.