JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Three leaders of an Alaska fishing community who sponsored a resolution to promote inclusivity after the election of President Donald Trump are fighting efforts to recall them from office.
The recall effort targeting three Homer City Council members is pegged to two resolutions, one supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota in its fight over a pipeline and another aimed at promoting inclusivity in Homer.
Catriona Reynolds, David Lewis and Donna Aderhold sued the city Monday, asking a judge to block the June recall. They argue their actions are protected by their constitutional rights to free speech and that the grounds for recall are insufficient.
The three are being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska. “Once elected, public officials have not only a right, but a duty to tell their constituents where they stand on the issues of the day and we will stand up to protect that right on behalf of all of their constituents,” ACLU Alaska executive director Joshua Decker said in a news release.
In a memo earlier this month explaining certification of the recall petition, City Clerk Jo Johnson said the grounds for recall under the law are to be liberally construed in favor of access to the recall process. Johnson rejected one of the allegations, which she said accused the council members of violating a legal duty that does not exist.
Johnson wrote that certification “in no way reflects the merits of the statement of recall in the petitions, as the City Clerk is prohibited from considering the truth or falsity of the allegations contained in a recall petition.”
In a statement, City Attorney Holly Wells said the city “performed extensive legal analysis before certifying the petition and determined that the most legally defensible option backed up by case precedent was to certify the petition and move forward with a special election. This leaves the judgment in the hands of the voters and not a municipal employee.”
The recall says the three are unfit for office. It also alleges misconduct, claiming “irreparable damage” was done when the draft of the resolution about inclusivity was made public.
According to the lawsuit, Lewis, Aderhold and Reynolds voted for the Standing Rock resolution introduced by Lewis. It was adopted when the mayor cast a tie-breaking vote.
The other measure was aimed at affirming Homer’s commitment to inclusion amid national concerns about the treatment of immigrants, religious groups, the LGBTQ community and others.
It was softened from an earlier draft that the lawsuit says was offered by a resident. That draft said Trump took power without a popular mandate, had made offensive statements and had stated a “disregard” for the First Amendment.
The draft was posted online and prompted a backlash, with some residents seeing it as unnecessary, distasteful and a slap in the face.
City council members have said it’s not unusual for them to sponsor resolutions brought forward by residents for discussion. While Reynolds, Lewis and Aderhold were listed as sponsors of the revamped measure, which did not mention Trump, ultimately only Reynolds voted for it, and it died.
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