Lawton_A group trying to recall Lawton Mayor John Purcell has passed its first hurdle. But, before voters get to decide on it, the group still has a long way to go. Wednesday, Lawton's City Clerk validated 120 signatures on the recall proposal petition.
They only needed 100 to start the process, but they collected nearly twice as many just in case any were thrown out. Now, the group has 30 days to turn in a statement requesting a recall. After that, they'll have to collect at least 2,500 - possibly more than 3,000 - just to get it on a ballot.
The group petitioning for Purcell's recall says he and the entire city council have shown a lack of leadership on a variety of issues - especially the recent pet ordinances. The Mayor says "it's a bunch of hogwash".
It's been a turbulent year at Lawton's City Hall - there was the debate over the prairie dog poisoning at Elmer Thomas Park, revisions to the city's pet ordinances and the tax election voters shot down and later approved. Greg Shawn says these are all examples of ineffective leadership. "Our message is if we remove the mayor, you might want to listen to us," he says.
This is something Shawn says the Mayor and Council did not do during the pet ordinance debate. "They don't talk to the local dog enthusiasts - sports shops," he says. "And when we did approach they didn't listen to us, or on occasion we were told not to make any comments. Basically, this is a group of people, the Lawton Dog Fancier's Association, and two pet stores that are unhappy with something the council did," says Shawn.
Purcell says he and the council have listened and even points to the amendments for pet shops that were made to the pet ordinance just this month. "They need to find someone to pick on, and they can't get rid of all eight council members, so naturally they just go after the mayor," says Purcell.
So, does the recall effort even stand a chance? Organizers have been collecting the roughly 200 signatures needed for at least two months. They'll only have 30 days to get about 15 times that many. And, Shawn says, many people are afraid to sign on. "Fear that reprisal will affect them and their family or household, is a primary concern to them," he says.
As for the Mayor, he says he will follow the will of the voters. After all, they overwhelmingly supported him in the last two elections. "I still have two more years on this term, and I certainly am not going to let the citizens down because a few citizens want something else," he says.
The election board secretary is still going through the numbers to determine the exact amount the petitioners will have to collect to get the recall on the ballot. And, it's also unknown who would run against Mayor Purcell if it were to make it on the ballot. Recall supporters say they have someone in mind - but they're keeping it under wraps for now.