Supervisors Steve Kearney faces recall campaign

Steve Kearney

Critics of District 5 Supervisor Steve Kearney have filed notice that they intend to circulate a petition to have him recalled from office.

The notice, which was filed Thursday, cites as reasons for the recall Kearney’s votes to allow a controversial asphalt plant to operate without a conditional use permit and environmental studies and to allow a developer to back out of an agreement to pay for a left turn lane on Olive Orchard Road at Highway 26.

Kearney could not immediately be reached by phone on Monday morning. However, he said in an emailed media release that he believes those responsible are part of a small group of “elites” and that the group is guilty of “inflicting economic terrorism” on Calaveras County.

Kearney said in his media release that he wants to bring “jobs and economic growth” to the county. He also rejected as “untrue” the allegation that he approved the plant without requiring environmental study. He said that environmental studies on air pollution issues are still required before the plant can get clearance from the local air pollution control district.

Critics of the plant, however, had hoped for studies to address broader issues including any risks to the Calaveras River, which runs next to the plant, and impacts from truck traffic. Those broader issues would have been considered in environmental impact studies that county staff had recommended as part of the process for awarding a conditional use permit.

The Calaveras County Planning Commission rejected that recommendation. When several residents appealed the commission’s decision to the board of supervisors, Kearney was part of a 3-0 vote that rejected the appeal, allowing the plant proposed by Ford Construction and CB Asphalt at a quarry just below Hogan Dam on the Calaveras River to proceed without a conditional use permit and a full environmental impact report.

As for Olive Orchard Road, Kearney said that he only voted to let Developer Ryan Voorhees off the hook to pay for improvements after the California Department of Transportation removed its requirement that the work be done.

Supervisor District 5, which includes the Rancho Calaveras housing development southwest of Valley Springs, has long been a hotbed for recall petitions. Former Supervisor Terri Bailey faced recall campaigns in 1996 and 2000. Both failed.

Clyde Clapp, the man who served Bailey with recall documents in 2000, is the same person who last week served a similar notice to Kearney.

“This one will be easier,” Clapp said. “The last one (Clapp was involved with in 2000) was real hard because we were pulling from Copper. This one is all Rancho Calaveras.”

When Bailey was supervisor, District 5 included Copperopolis. Now, as a result of population growth in northwestern Calaveras County, it is a more compact area stretching from Rancho Calaveras west to the county line.

Clapp was not involved in the more recent recall efforts against District 5 Supervisor Darren Spellman, who served from 2011 to 2014. Those efforts, too, failed to get a recall election on the ballot.

Janice Bassett, one of the 25 signers of the recall notice against Kearney, said she was also involved in the Spellman recall campaign.

“It was very poorly organized,” she said of the Spellman recall effort. “It was very poorly executed. We have a much better shot this time. We have been organizing for months.”

Calaveras County Elections Coordinator Robin Glanville said that recall backers must obtain 1,238 valid signatures of registered voters in District 5. That amount is 25 percent of the total of 4,954 voters in the district.

Several steps must happen, however, before the anti-Kearney campaign can begin circulating petitions. First, Kearney has until Thursday to file a response of up to 200 words to the recall petition notice. Then, recall campaign representatives have ten days to draft a petition that includes the response and meets state standards.

That petition form then will go to county election officials for review. Once the form gets approved, the recall campaign will have 60 days to gather the required number of signatures.

Clapp estimated that his group will obtain 1,800 signatures to be safe and allow for any the might be found invalid.

Calaveras County Clerk-Recorder Rebecca Turner said that if recall backers meet all deadlines and succeed in getting the required signatures, it is still possible that a recall election could be on the November ballot. If the campaign obtains enough signatures and those signatures are determined to be valid after July 1, however, the recall would instead be held as a special election sometime after the November general election.

Bassett said that the organization pursuing the recall is Calaveras Citizens for Responsible Government.

Both Bassett and Clapp rejected the idea that they are part of a small job-killing cabal of elitists. Instead, they say that the recall represents popular sentiment in District 4.

“Nine hundred people signed the petition opposing the asphalt plant already,” Clapp said. “We will probably be on the streets (with recall petitions) by the end of April.”

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