June 2, 2015

Council votes mean no recalls against Las Cruces city councilors


City of Las Cruces. Photo Credit: Wiki Commons

Votes by the Las Cruces City Council during Monday’s meeting assured that three members of the council will not be facing recall elections. For now, at least.

City of Las Cruces. Photo Credit: Wiki Commons

City of Las Cruces.
Photo Credit: Wiki Commons

The Las Cruces Sun-News reported that in three separate votes, the Las Cruces city council voted 4-1 to certify a ruling by the former city clerk that recall petitions against three of the Las Cruces city councilors did not have enough valid signatures to move forward with a recall election.

The three councilors, Gill Sorg, Olga Pedroza and Nathan Small, each abstained from the votes pertaining directly to them, but each voted to certify the clerk’s ruling on the other two cases. Councilor Miguel Silva abstained from voting on any of the resolutions and Carl Levitano voted against certifying the petitions.

The votes in Las Cruces came after New Mexicans For a Better Tomorrow started collecting recall petitions against the three councilors for allegedly being influenced by special interests and using city resources for campaigning.

Those who opposed the recall elections say that the proposed recalls were really an attempt to recall three members who were high profile supporters of an increased minimum wage in the city. The recall opposition also said that many of the recall signatures were signed after the person signing was misinformed about what they were signing.

A legal battle ensued after the city clerk removed the signatures of those who signed affidavits saying they were misled about what they were signing. New Mexicans for a Better Tomorrow said that this removal of the signatures exceeded the city clerk’s authority and filed a suit in court over the how the signatures were verified.

A District Court Judge ruled against the PAC in May.

In her decision, Rosner wrote that the city clerk’s withdrawal of signatures “was discretionary, not ministerial.” And, because of that, the writ of mandamus doesn’t apply, court documents state.

State law grants the city clerk the “discretion to arrive at and implement a method to cure ‘major infractions’ in the signature gathering process, Rosner wrote.

Rosner also wrote that the last day for the city clerk to withdraw signatures was at the city council level. That would have been April 20, if recall proponents hadn’t filed the legal action before then. Monday, city personnel said that decision is expected to be made at a City Council meeting on June 1.

There is still the chance of an appeal of the District Court decision, so the city councilors aren’t out of the woods yet.

Note: ProgressNow New Mexico helped fundraise for a legal defense fund for the councilors targeted for recalls. ProgressNow New Mexico has also helped find funding for New Mexico Political Report. ProgressNow New Mexico did not have any input on this story or the decision to write this story, nor does it exercise editorial input on any story or story selection at New Mexico Political Report.