Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Simon recall to proceed, opponent says

Mayor claims plan to remove him is work of 'out-of-town opportunist'


By GREGORY FOLEY
Express Staff Writer

A Bellevue-based group that is seeking to legalize marijuana in Idaho has decided to move forward with an effort to recall Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon.

Ryan Davidson, chairman of The Liberty Lobby of Idaho, said Tuesday that he intends to file by the end of the week a petition that alleges Simon should be removed from office for numerous reasons, including "restricting free speech" and "engaging in petty personnel battles."

"It just seems like everybody's for this, so we just decided to proceed," Davidson said.

After hearing about the decision, Simon shot back, calling Davidson an "out-of-town opportunist" who is using Ketchum politics to advance his own causes.

"Mr. Davidson and his group are trying to capitalize on my notoriety and are trying to gain publicity for their cause at my expense," Simon said. "I think it's reprehensible."

At this point, it is difficult to gauge how much support Davidson might procure for his recall petition. As of Tuesday, he had not finished acquiring the 20 required signatures of Ketchum voters who support filing the initiative. And, late last week, he cancelled a meeting scheduled for tonight to measure citizens' support for the recall.

However, Davidson said he has spoken to "50 or 60" Ketchum citizens about the recall petition and was told by 90 percent of them that they support it.

If it is to succeed, the recall petition would require a substantial grassroots effort and substantial support from Ketchum citizens.

Initially, the recall petition would have to be filed with the signatures of 20 registered city voters. If the signatures are deemed valid, the petitioners will then have 75 days to gather the supportive signatures of 379 voters, a figure equal to 20 percent of the number of registered voters in Ketchum in 2003.

If the 379 signatures are procured, the question of whether to recall the mayor would then be put before voters on one of four designated city election days in 2005.

Ketchum resident Steve Linden, a sometimes vocal critic of Simon and his policies, said succeeding in a recall initiative would be daunting task.

"It's going to be tough for anybody to get that kind of support," Linden said. "I personally think there are a lot of people who are dissatisfied with Ed Simon. But I don't think there are a lot of people who are willing to get involved in the petition process."

Linden, who stresses that he is supportive of some of Simon's work, settled a First Amendment lawsuit against the city of Ketchum and Simon in 2003. Linden filed the suit after he was fired from his city job as a computer-networking engineer, allegedly for publicly expressing opposition to Simon.

Linden said some opponents of Simon might not participate in a recall because they do not want to be affiliated with a pro-marijuana group or do not want to spend their energy on removing a mayor who will be up for re-election in 11 months, in November 2005.

The Liberty Lobby's draft recall petition alleges that Simon should be recalled because he has denied citizens the right to petition, has wasted city money and time "pursuing frivolous legal matters," and has held "illegal closed-door" meetings.

The Liberty Lobby appeared on the local scene in September, when it put forth initiatives in Ketchum, Sun Valley and Hailey to have citizens vote on whether the cities should legalize the sale and use of marijuana.

On Sept. 20, Ketchum City Council members formally directed City Clerk Sandy Cady to decline to process the cannabis-legalization petition filed with her office.

Simon—who has been recalled from office once before, when he was serving as a Ketchum City Council member in 1992—said he does not "back down" to threats.

"If they had any integrity to their cause, they would pursue it on the merits and pursue it in the courts."

Davidson has filed a lawsuit against the city of Sun Valley for declining to process his pro-marijuana initiative but has not sued Ketchum.




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