Riverdale citizen calling for recall

By Ed Brock

At least one Riverdale citizen is calling for the recall of the entire city council but at least three council members are saying the recall is legally invalid.

Devell Andrews, 32, has set up a Web site at www.riverdalerecall.com and on Tuesday he received his official recall petition from the city clerk.

"I have now 14 days to obtain 100 signatures," Andrews said on Thursday, adding that he does not yet have any signatures. "It will be no problem getting the 100."

Andrews says he has formed his own three-person organization, the City of Riverdale Recall Committee, to promote the effort to recall the city council for what he calls their misconduct and for holding meetings without notifying the public. He also cited the recent termination of former Riverdale police Capt. Philip Neely.

On May 11 Riverdale's interim Co-City Manager Sylvester Murray sent a letter to Neely explaining that he was being fired in connection with an investigation into comments he made to the media that alleged he had been threatened by another city employee.

"That was basically the icing on the cake, when Capt. Philip Neely was terminated for speaking out about racism in the city," Andrews said.

The current recall petition is aimed at Councilman Rick Scoggins and Councilwoman Wanda Wallace. Andrews said he must allow Councilwoman Michelle Bruce and Councilman Kenny Ruffin to be in office for 120 days before he can get a petition for their recall, but he plans to do so when the time is up.

Riverdale Mayor Phaedra Graham is not included in Andrews' recall efforts. Andrews, who donated $150 to Graham's reelection campaign, said that was because the mayor only has a vote in meetings when there is a tie so the voting members of the council have the real power.

Andrews said Graham has no connection to the recall effort. Graham did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Scoggins said the people behind the recall should have contacted him first so he could explain that under the law the effort is not justified because they have done nothing illegal.

"These misinformed, misled, misguided individuals should hear truth and reason before they do things that are improper," Scoggins said.

Scoggins called the recall effort "unfortunate" and "appalling" and said that whoever followed him would receive the same treatment as soon as an outside group became dissatisfied with what the new council member was doing.

"The thing I would most like to say to the citizens of Riverdale is that I have done nothing wrong and I have performed legally, ethically and morally," Scoggins said. "I have represented the citizens of Riverdale to the fullest of my ability."

Wallace said in a statement that when the group behind the recall found out the council would not appoint them to positions and found out "they could not intimidate us, they began threatening us with removal."

She questioned the motive for the movement and whether they expect something as a reward for it.

The city council has been "working day and night to keep our city moving and standing up to those individuals who are looking to take control of our government for their own personal reasons."

Bruce also called the recall effort pointless.

"You have to do something wrong to be recalled and we haven't done anything wrong," Bruce said, adding that she hasn't looked at the Web site. "To me, it's immaterial."

Ruffin also did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Grounds for recall include an elected official acting in a manner that adversely affects both the administration of that official's office and the rights and interests of the public.

In addition, the official must have engaged in misconduct while in office, violated the oath of office, failed to perform the duties prescribed by law, or have willfully misused or misappropriated public funds or property entrusted to their office.

State law outlines a process for organizing a recall vote, which starts with a two-step petition process. First, residents must apply with the Probate Court to circulate a recall petition. That application must include the signatures of 100 sponsors who live and are registered to vote within the district up for recall.

Within four business days of the application, the official potentially up for recall can request that a superior court judge review the grounds for recall to determine the validity of the charges.

If the signatures are verified by the county Voting Registrar and the court rules the petition may move forward, the sponsors of the petition then have a specific period of time to get the required number of signatures for the recall petition. In the case of officials elected to represent districts, signatures from 30 percent of the registered voters within that district are required for the petition.