Residents in Councilwoman Linda Bernhardt's district at the time she was elected in November, 1989, will be the ones to decide her fate in a recall election, not those living within new district boundaries created by subsequent redistricting, City Atty. John Witt decided Thursday.
Witt said "pure logic" led to his decision, announced in a memorandum to the City Council.
"The people who elected her were the people from whom the recall signatures were sought, and they should be the ones to determine whether she should be recalled," Witt said. Potential candidates to replace Bernhardt, should she be recalled, also will have to live within the old 5th District.
By a narrow margin of 49 signatures, the Recall Bernhardt Committee last week qualified the city's first-ever recall election for a probable special April ballot when city election officials announced that the committee had submitted 11,289 valid signatures on petitions.
Under procedures governing recall campaigns, the City Council has from 60 to 90 days from the time it is presented with a recall petition to schedule an election.
Witt said Thursday that his decision was complicated by the fact that, "as far as we can tell, there never has been a recall election that happened simultaneously with redistricting, so you just have to use your best judgment on how the matter should go, and the recall process started before redistricting took place."
Bernhardt could not be reached for comment Thursday. But, on Wednesday, a group of her supporters demanded a recount of petition signatures and indicated that it might mount a legal challenge to stop any recall election. The city clerk's office is preparing a written response to the demand, but administrator Mike Haas said Thursday that there is no basis for a recount of signatures on petitions already counted.