SACRAMENTO — California Secretary of State Debra Bowen rejected on Tuesday a petition submitted by the state prison guards' union for a recall campaign against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, saying it did not meet legal requirements.
In a letter to Mike Jimenez, president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn., an aide to Bowen said the petition, submitted Sept. 29, failed to include the response Schwarzenegger filed nearly two weeks earlier to the union's intention to try to recall him. The format for signers to list their addresses was also incorrect, Elections Counsel Robbie Anderson said.
The union has 10 days from receiving Anderson's letter to submit a corrected petition. It is not unusual for recall proponents to go through several drafts before getting one right, said Kate Folmar, a spokeswoman for Bowen.
Some union members have expressed doubt about the wisdom of spending millions of dollars of their dues on the recall campaign and have said they would prefer donating money to defeat Proposition 5 on the November ballot, which offers alternatives to prison for drug offenders.
Michael Flores, a senior advisor to Jimenez, said he was not sure if the union would revise the petition.
"We're going to keep all options open," he said.
Officially, the union has said it wants to recall the governor because of his performance in office, including his management of state finances, which are now in crisis.
The governor has said the move is related to his conflict with the union over a contract that expired more than two years ago. And at the union's convention in Las Vegas last month, Jimenez himself linked the recall effort with the governor's treatment of the union.
A year ago, Schwarzenegger, a Republican, took the unusual step of unilaterally imposing new working conditions on the union, as he is permitted to do under state law. He curtailed the union's ability to bring workplace complaints to arbitration and members' right to take sick leave without being questioned by superiors.
"I've never dealt with an administration that has so little integrity and so little credibility, even among their own party," Jimenez told his members in Las Vegas after they reelected him.
"I'm willing to take some softer approaches, but you've got to speak softly and carry a bat," he said.
Schwarzenegger's response called the recall effort "special-interest politics at its worst" and said the guards were trying to intimidate the governor into giving them a sweetheart deal.
The union also had requested that Bowen force the governor to modify his response to correct what it said were inaccuracies, but in his letter, Anderson said she had no authority to do that.
The union left the governor's response out of the petition, Flores said, because it was "extremely misleading" in referring to the union's membership of more than 30,000 as a special interest.
"They are citizens of this state, and we think they should be treated fairly," he said.
The union asked Bowen to force the governor to modify his response, but Anderson said in his letter that she doesn't have that authority.
"Because they didn't like what our response said, they just ignored the law," said Adam Mendelsohn, a spokesman for the governor.
"Whether it was a mistake or deliberate, the fact is that the recall is nothing more than political posturing."