Despite an investigation into how recall petition signatures were collected, the City of Neligh will move forward with a special election in the attempt to remove all four city council members.
Councilman Ted Hughes asked for clarification that the Nebraska State Patrol and Antelope County Sheriff’s Department could investigate even if the council passed a resolution to have a special election.
Both City Attorney James McNally and Mayor Joe Hartz confirmed that an investigation could proceed even with a special election.
After much discussion, council member Stephanie Wanek said “while disturbing to have people come to us with reports” of illegal behavior, she encouraged fellow council members to “be the role models of taking the high road” and move forward with an election.
Council member Leonard Miller agreed and said he didn’t want to proceed with a lawsuit against those who circulated the petitions.
“Like Steph said, it’s disturbing that things happened and things were not presented in a forthright matter,” Miller said.
A resolution was unanimously passed to have a special election on Thursday, Oct. 15, at the regular polling places.
McNally said there was “legal basis to contest the signatures” but that would take about six months and could create more turmoil for the community.
Hartz asked City Clerk Dana Klabenes about the costs of the election, which is estimated at $5,000 each.
He asked, “Actual cost could be $10,000?”
Klabenes said if the recall is successful and an election is necessary to replace council members, then another $5,000 could be spent, making the total cost to the taxpayers about $10,000.
Hughes raised concerns about absentee ballots and possible “coercion” of registered voters. Klabenes said this special election would be handled like others and absentee ballots will be allowed.
In regard to an investigation in the collection of signatures for the recall, McNally said there could be legal ramifications if circulators did not present the petitions accurately and “could be guilty of perjury” since they had to sign the affidavit when turning in the documents to the county clerk.