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In an unprecedented move to fight annexation, a recall petition was filed this morning against the entire elected governing body of the City of Neligh. The recall will be at the expense of the taxpayers, as would a special election to fill those positions, if successful.
Bernadine Hughes and Merlin Mortinson of Neligh are seeking to recall the following individuals, Neligh City Council members Ted Hughes, Dale Wilkinson, Stephanie Wanek and Leonard Miller along with Mayor Joe Hartz.
According to Neal Erickson of the Nebraska Secretary of State's office, city and village officials take office in December, which means the six-month office requirement has been met.
"To attempt to recall all elected official is pretty rare, but it has happened," Erickson said. "It's not attempted so much with municipalities as it is with school boards."
Erickson said if successful, this recall would leave the City of Neligh without a governing body because it would not have a quorum to hold meetings. Should that occur, Erickson said the City of Neligh would have to hold another special election to fill those seats, which also would be at the taxpayers' expense.
According to the affidavit all five are attempted to be recalled due to “continued support/vote to approve the annexation ordinances has been done with repeated admissions that he/she has no idea what the future costs and revenues will be to the taxpayers of Neligh. This pattern of political conduct is alarming and sets the stage for future harm to the people of Neligh and to the business sector.”
The City Council approved the second reading of annexation at its June meeting. The third and final reading will be July 14.
Recall petition circulators will need 162 signatures to force a recall special election of the mayor and city council members. There are 986 registered voters in Neligh city limits. The affidavit to recall the city officials was filed Thursday morning at the Antelope County Clerks office.
Clerk Lisa Payne said she will mail a letter to the five individuals stating there is a recall attempt. She said each person will have 20 days to submit a defense statement, that will be included on the petitions. Payne will then prepare the petitions, which will need to have 162 or more signatures within 30 days to force a recall election.
As for the cost to the City of Neligh, Payne said that would vary depending on whether or not the petition is successful in gathering enough signatures for one or any of the officials. She said the last special election was for the rural fire division and cost $1,279.01. Payne said she estimates a special election for a recall of five individuals would cost the taxpayers about $5,000. That doesn't include a second special election to elect new officials.