Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Petition seeks to recall mayor

Former P&Z member wants referendum on Randy Hall

Express Staff Writer

Randy Hall

On top of running a city embroiled in heated disputes over large-scale hotel projects and a highly contested affordable housing project, Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall now has to face an even bigger challenge.

A petition to recall Hall from Ketchum's top post was circulated last Thursday and turned into the city the following day with 24 signatures.

The petition was rejected on a minor technical error, according to City Council President Baird Gourlay, but will likely soon be back in City Hall to officially put the proceedings in motion.

The petition was created by former Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commissioner Anne Corrock, who listed several reasons behind the recall effort. These included "doubling his salary during a period of a budget crisis" and the "failure to operate city finances within the established budget ordinance."

At the beginning of the year, the mayor's salary increased from $1,500 per month to $3,000, the result of an ordinance adopted in August 2007 that also raised the salary for council members from $1,250 per month to $1,666.

Idaho state law mandates that the mayor cannot legally raise his own salary—it is a decision that must be approved by the council.

In addition, the ordinance to do so must be in place 75 days before the following election, meaning those who created the ordinance may not actually be the ones benefiting from the increase.

In regards to the operation of city finances, it would also be an illegal act for the mayor to spend more than the amount set in the city's annual ordinance to approve the budget.

Ketchum City Treasurer Sandra Cady said that to increase spending, the council is required to reopen the budget, a practice that happens nearly every year.

"It's not uncommon to open the budget in order to accept new revenue and allocate new expenditures," said former City Administrator Jim Jaquet, who has more than 25 years of experience in managing city affairs.

However, Corrock said in an interview Monday that while the expenditures she alludes to may not have been illegal, they have been imprudent, citing the hiring of outside consultants and the creation of the Community and Economic Development Director position, which carries with it a $121,000 salary.

In addition, Corrock noted the potential budgetary shortfall that has resulted in a freeze on hiring and discretionary spending for city departments.

While Hall was not available to respond to the petition due to a death in his family, Councilman Gourlay quickly came to Hall's defense.

"We're not worrying about the city's finances right now and neither should you," Gourlay said to a crowd of nearly 200 at a special City Council meeting Monday night. "The only expenditures outside of the budget I'm aware of were for the Castle Rock Fire. During that time, Randy volunteered between 14 and 18 hours a day with the Fire Department."

In the petition, Corrock also listed city-related retreats held outside of Ketchum and Blaine County for city officials as a reason for the recall.

However, Gourlay noted that while under Hall city officials had gone to Mackay, Hagerman and Hailey for the annual retreats, previous administrations had traveled to Park City, Telluride and Aspen.

"Randy's integrity and work ethic are beyond any mayor I've ever served under," Gourlay said to the crowd. "If you're going to sign the petition, I hope you're ready to serve because there will be a number of us that would drop off—I know I would."

To get the recall on the next ballot, Corrock would need to collect 418 signatures of registered voters by Sept. 19. The number is based on a percentage of the number of citizens who participated in the last city election.

According to Cady, for the recall to be successful, there would need to be as many or more votes in support of the recall than originally were cast for Hall back in 2005 when he was elected. This means that at least 503 votes for the recall would be needed. A majority of the ballots cast in the recall vote would also be required.

At the Monday meeting, a vocal plea was made against the recall by Ketchum resident Tom Pomeroy.

"Of all the issues to put all the money and time and anger into—it's just mean-spirited."

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