Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Assembly wants state to clarify recall law


February 15, 2018

The Haines Borough Assembly unanimously passed a resolution that requests the Alaska legislature clearly define the “cause” required for a recall election to proceed.

The resolution says Alaska statue requirements for a recall petition “do not adequately define the standards for what constitutes both an action that would justify recall and how a local municipal official should evaluate the recall application sufficiency.”

The resolution mirrors one passed by the Alaska Municipal League last November. Kathie Wasserman, executive director of AML, said the resolution was based, in part, on the recall efforts in Haines, along with four other municipalities.

Wasserman said the impetus behind the resolution is that borough clerks should stay away from certifying grounds for recall.

“Alaska clerks do not and should not make those kinds of calls,” Wasserman said. “That’s not what they’re trained for.”

Borough Clerk Julie Cozzi, following advice from borough attorney Brooks Chandler, certified three grounds for recall during an election held last year to recall three Haines Borough Assembly members. The recall failed at the polls and the assembly members retained their seats.

State recall laws generally fall within a spectrum that ranges from a legal standpoint on one side to a political standpoint on the other.

“Washington requires a recall petitioner to verify under oath that she or he has knowledge of the facts underlying the asserted grounds for recall and the recall charges are submitted to the court for a sufficiency review,” attorney John Sedor wrote in legal review for the Alaska Division of Elections. “At the other end of the spectrum…is recall as a political process. Under this view, there is little judicial or administrative oversight in the recall process and all doubts are ‘resolved in favor of placing the recall questions before voters.’”

Alaska falls into the middle of that spectrum, Sedor argued.

The AML resolution, along with the resolution passed by the borough assembly, says Alaska sets a “low bar” when determining grounds for recall.

Wasserman said the request is meant to clarify the recall process for everyone, not to protect elected officials.

“It’s fairer for the public so they know exactly how and why to start a recall petition and its better for those being recalled to know what their position can be and why they’re being recalled,” Wasserman said. “This is not something to protect local government.”

The Homer and Anchorage assemblies have passed similar resolutions.


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