JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska judge on Tuesday refused to block a scheduled recall vote for three Homer City Council members who sponsored a resolution promoting inclusivity after President Donald Trump’s election.
In a written ruling Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Erin Marston said the recall petitions were legally sufficient.
Council members Donna Aderhold, David Lewis and Catriona Reynolds, through their attorneys, argued that their actions were protected by their constitutional rights to free speech and that the grounds for recall are insufficient. They sought to have the June 13 recall election stopped.
“To conclude that anytime a recall petition is based in part or in whole on what a politician said is protected by the First Amendment would be to eviscerate the recall statute to such an extent that the populace would almost never be able to seek recall of any of their elected officials,” Marston wrote.
The judge’s decision can be appealed. Casey Reynolds, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, which is representing the three, said the issue was being reviewed.
The recall effort is pegged to two resolutions: one supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota in its fight over a pipeline and one aimed at promoting inclusivity.
According to the lawsuit, Lewis, Aderhold and Reynolds voted for the Standing Rock resolution that had been introduced by Lewis and was adopted when the mayor cast a tie-breaking vote.
The resolution aimed at affirming Homer’s commitment to inclusion amid national concerns about the treatment of immigrants, religious groups, the LGBTQ community and others was defeated. Reynolds, Lewis and Aderhold were listed as sponsors, but only Reynolds voted for it.
It had been softened from an earlier draft that the lawsuit said was offered by a resident.
The draft, which was posted online, referenced Trump, saying, for example, that Trump had stated a disregard for the First Amendment. It prompted a backlash, with some residents seeing it as unnecessary in a community that already saw itself as welcoming.
The revised version that was voted on did not mention Trump.
The recall says the three council members are unfit for office. It also says there was misconduct, claiming damage was done when the draft of the resolution about inclusivity was made public.
An attorney for the city said during arguments before Marston in Anchorage on Monday that each council member has a right to submit a rebuttal statement that would appear on the ballot.
Marston wrote that while “misconduct in office” is not defined in the law, “to require misconduct in office to be criminal would be to undermine the intent and effectiveness of the recall statutes.”
The city clerk is legally required to certify legally sufficient petitions, he wrote.
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