Recall effort down to wire
With three days left, proponents of a recall petition against El Dorado County Supervisor Mark Nielsen are 300 signatures shy of the required amount.
Recall supporters have until Monday at 5 p.m. to collect the remainder of 3,366 names needed to hold a special election next year. Bob Salazar, spokesperson for the Citizens for Ethical Government, said volunteers will make one last attempt this weekend to gather more support.
“We plan to go door to door once more in light of the circumstances,” Salazar said. “As of last week, we were 300 signatures short, so we expect the end goal will be less than that.”
The county’s Elections Department mandates the group has 120 days to gather 20 percent of the registered voters in Nielsen’s District 3.
If the citizens submit the petition Monday, the elections department will spend the next month validating the names with county records. The signatures will be cross-checked with voter registration cards for authenticity. Election employees will also look for duplication and forgery.
“If the signatures don’t match the voter cards, we can disqualify a name,” said Michele MacIntyre, the county’s Registrar of Voters. “The recall proponents will have a chance to find out why names were knocked off after we examine the entire list.”
The grass-roots group that assembled over the summer has been plugging away for the last four months. Claiming that Nielsen has acted recklessly and improperly while in office, CEG has been attacked by some residents as being a band of fervent zealots with a huge grudge against the supervisor.
Nielsen last month was cleared of charges levied by the 1994-95 grand jury. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Allen Fields dismissed the case on technicalities and further stated that the accusations didn’t have merit. His decision infuriated some residents who believed Nielsen was let off scot-free and the process was put in shambles after a two-year struggle to get the accusations unsealed.
The grand jury claimed Nielsen violated three sections of the government code. In one allegation, they believed that he acted in conflict of interest by not informing other supervisors about conversations he had with a former county employee who was suing the county. He was also charged with breaking the state’s open meeting law, the Brown Act, by trying to gain consensus from other supervisors on agenda items prior to a vote.
Nielsen remarked on Thursday that he’ll be happy when this final chapter ends.
“The group is continuing despite the basis in the petition has been answered,” Nielsen said. “It’s self-evident in the efforts what they are trying to do.”
Salazar said the recall goes beyond the grand jury accusations. Nielsen’s behavior and the decisions he’s made are the basis for the eight reasons on the petition. The petition says Nielsen mocked the grand jury, took advantage of procedural technicalities to prevent a vote on a 1996 citizens initiative and didn’t step down from voting Hal Barker, a re-election supporter, to county sheriff.
“There isn’t one allegation that can’t be substantiated,” Salazar said. “We knew this would be a contentious situation. All recall efforts are like that.”
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