Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 11 May 2010 18:33
A political rift in the small Marion County community of Ramona became front-page news in a regional newspaper last week after word was spread that some residents had filed a petition to recall the mayor.
An extensive story on the petition to recall Mayor Pat Wick, as well as the issues surrounding the action, appeared on the front page of the Saturday issue of the Salina Journal.
Word about the recall petition, including its content, came to the Free Press last week by anonymous e-mail.
The petition listed four grounds for recall, alleging that Wick had violated a city ordinance by not paying sewer fees for one of the local properties she owns, violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act, was no longer representing the will of local voters, and had responded insensitively when a medical emergency occurred during a council meeting.
The e-mail indicated “councilman Billy Alcorn led the recall and James Thompson put it together.”
Marion County attorney Susan Robson confirmed Friday that her office had received a petition to recall Wick as mayor, but that the petition was going to be returned to the originator, identified as Thompson, because it had not been developed according to state statute.
Thompson said Monday he put the petition together following conversations with a small group of citizens, including Alcorn. He said he asked the county attorney’s office for input.
“Being unfamiliar with the legal process, the county attorney sent me a whole stack of statutes,” he said. “There’s a lot of hoops you have to jump through as far as protocol and how to file a petition.”
Thompson said he will not try to submit a new petition “for now,” but would wait until Wick, who has been mayor for seven years, completes her current term next spring.
“There’s no way she going to be elected,” Thompson said. “She doesn’t have the numbers.”
Contacted Monday, Alcorn said, “I tell people I had nothing to do with (the petition), but I do back it.”
The two men confirmed the e-mail assertion that the petition had been signed by 41 registered voters and that 39 voters had participated in the most recent election.
The Marion County election office reports 66 registered voters in the city of Ramona.
Wick said Monday the allegations in the petition were not legitimate.
“I would think if there was a legitimate complaint, it would be brought before my city council and the city council would look at the facts and would say, is there one or is there not one?” she said.
Wick said the underlying issues have to do with efforts by the council to clean up the community through ordinances that limit such things as what residents can store on their property and how many animals are allowed to be cared for on it.
Alcorn, who was elected to the council in April, said those issues are mainly symptoms of a deeper issue: city government’s effort to limit the rights of citizens and not enforcing the ordinances fairly.
“Some on the council are only there to benefit themselves, and I do not like that,” he said. “Or, they pick and choose who they want to live in town, and I don’t like that. I care less what they do as long as they let people live the way they want to live. We’ve got rights in the United States.”
Wick said the furor is directed more at her personally, and is not really a matter of city business.
“This is somebody who’s intent on making trouble,” she said.
Alcorn did not apologize for being a counteracting force on the council, which he called a “rubber stamp” for the mayor’s agenda.
“I’m pretty vocal, arrogant and obnoxious,” he said. “I?told the people when they wanted me to run in the past years, ‘I’m not the one you want on (city council) because I’m too outspoken.’
“They talked me into it this past year and I will run one time,” he said. “But somebody better be running (next time) or you’re going to lose your town. That’s basically what’s happened.”