Disgruntled Calaveras County voters have now initiated five proceedings seeking to recall county officials in less than four months.
Jeremy Maddux and Joan Wilson, respectively, served District 4 Calaveras County Supervisor Dennis Mills and District 1 Supervisor Gary Tofanelli recall notices at the Board of Supervisors meeting last week.
As recently covered by the Enterprise, each group represented by Maddux and Wilson obtained more than the required 20 signatures to obtain certification and permit them to seek the additional signatures necessary to justify recall elections.
Mills and Tofanelli are two of the three supervisors who on Jan. 10 voted in favor of enacting a commercial cannabis ban.
“The recall won’t make the June primary,” Mills said.
Tofanelli declined to comment when asked for a response.
Both Mills and Tofanelli began their current tenures on the board at the start of 2016.
Rebecca Turner, county registrar of voters, said proponents have up to a week to submit the notices of intent with proof of service to the elections office. Proponents also have to obtain proof the notices of intent have been put in a local publication, according to the state’s recall manual.
Once the elections office receives the copies and proof of public notification, the elections department has 10 days to clear the petitions for signature gathering.
If the elections department certifies a petition for signature gathering, proponents have 90 days to gather signatures from 25 percent of the registered voters in each district to force a recall election.
Lauren Milmore, a Calaveras Unified School District parent, filed two notices in October of her intent to circulate recall petitions. The notices name Area 1 representative and board of trustees President Sherri Reusche and Area 3 trustee Dennis Dunnigan as members notified of potential recalls.
In her response to the notice, Reusche called Milmore’s accusations “false and unsubstantiated.”
Dunnigan said in his response that he was “being held accountable for the correction of programs and policies that preceded (my) service by years, if not decades.”
Re-elected in 2016, Reusche has served on the board for the past 14 years. The board appointed her to replace Karan Bowsher as president after Bowsher stepped down last year. Reusche’s term expires in 2020. Voters also first elected Dunnigan in 2016.
A private investigator presented District 3 Supervisor Jack Garamendi with a copy of a recall notice at his residence in October. Garamendi won election to the seat in June 2016 against no opposition.
Turner said the Calaveras County Elections Department recently certified the Garamendi recall petition for circulation. Proponents now have until April 19 to collect 1,319 signatures.
Calaveras County has a long history of attempts to recall office holders. Most that involved county supervisors have been successful.
District 5 Supervisor Clyde Clapp won a recall election in November 2016 to replace former board member Steve Kearney after voters recalled him. Petitioners for Kearney’s recall took issue with his vote to allow a proposed asphalt plant near Valley Springs to avoid obtaining a conditional use permit. A total of 1,934 District 5 residents then voted to recall Kearney, while 1,207 voted for him. Clapp won the board seat with 922 votes. The operators of the asphalt plant eventually withdrew their application and opened a plant in Carson Hill south of Angels Camp.
Former District 5 Supervisor Darren Spellman previously faced two recall attempts, in 2011 and 2012. Amid a flurry of accusations and counter-accusations about personal vendettas, the first attempt failed to secure enough petition signatures for ballot placement. Recall organizers of the second attempt ended their drive when they failed to obtain enough signatures to force a recall. Spellman finished out his last term in 2014.
Former Angel’s Camp mayor and City Councilman Jack Lynch survived a short-lived recall effort in 2011 that lasted only two months before the leader of the bid withdrew his attempt.
County voters recalled District 3 Supervisor Michael McRay in 1993, largely due to his support for a road plan linking the Meadowmont subdivision and Arnold. Merita Callaway won his seat in the resulting replacement election, starting her first term of a 22-year stretch on the board. Last month, she announced her intent to run for the District 3 seat currently held by Michael Oliveira.
In 1978, Supervisor John Tiscornia lost his District 1 board seat after a recall. The late John Lodato won his seat.
“County ordinances are too restrictive and a result of hasty overreaction by the Board of Supervisors,” Lodato stated to the Enterprise at the time. “Land development and construction people are a vital part of the economy of Calaveras County. It’s time the board recognizes this fact and stopped trying to legislate them out of existence. I oppose making the board a full-time body. We don’t need it and we can’t afford it. I don’t like the idea of professional board members. I prefer laypeople from various backgrounds with wisdom and common sense.”
“I have taken a strong stand against poor planning and bad land development in Calaveras County,” Tiscornia said in his defense at the time. “Ordinances depend on particular facts and circumstances.”
Tiscornia had won his seat in 1975, after a recall of Supervisor Marion Wimberly. Wimberly, referred to as a “so-called phantom candidate” by Enterprise reporting at the time, resigned after his recall notice.
When asked by the Enterprise how much time he expected to devote to county business, Tiscornia responded with the candor and brevity characteristic of that political period.
“The time it takes to do the job.”