PAHOKEE — Petitions bearing a sufficient number of residents’ signatures were delivered to city hall on Thursday, Nov. 12, by the chief of a citizens’ recall committee seeking to oust three members of the Pahokee City Commission.
Initially, however, chairwoman Annie Coore and Juan “Johnny” Gonzalez, a committee member, were told by interim city clerk Nohemi Polanco that she could not accept the boxful of petitions because she is not officially the city clerk, so she had to confer with City Manager Chandler Williamson, Gonzalez said.
Florida State Statute 100.3 and Pahokee ordinance direct that such petitions should be officially handed over to the city clerk, and then “immediately” transferred to the local, in this case, the Palm Beach County, Supervisor of Elections’ (PBCSOE) Office, for verification of signatures.
(Pahokee’s city clerk position has been vacant for months, and had been advertised for applicants; Williamson last reported that city commissioners had the respondents’ resumes and they were conducting their own reviews.)
So on Thursday, when Coore and Gonzalez were speaking with Polanco — according to Gonzalez and a summary email from fellow Pahokee citizen observer Catherine “Cate” Marvez (who had been a frequent speaker at the formerly in-person commission meetings) to committee members:
“The city manager was advised of the situation by the clerk, and he also refused to accept them (the petitions) initially. After a lengthy call to the city attorney and possible others, he reluctantly but politely accepted them. He did refuse to sign the receipt,” she wrote.
Gonzalez confirmed that, saying they had left the box of petitions at the city hall, and were given no receipt, so he took time/date-stamped photographs and a brief video of the box being accepted by Williamson. Then other committee members advised the PBCSOE’s Office by phone that they had delivered the petitions and met all requirements of F.S.S. 100.3. Also, Gonzalez and Coore both said, the committee has retained its own legal counsel.
Ashley Houlihan, legal counsel for the PBCSOE’s Office, stated Monday morning that as far as she was aware, the physical petitions had not yet been delivered to the PBCSOE; however, she confirmed receiving the communication that they are supposedly in transit.
As to the required number of 304 signatures (10% of the registered voters residing in the city) on each of the three petitions, Marvez said, “we received 24% over the required amount but that was reduced to 18% due to applications from residents not (living) in the voting precinct. It was a great turnout, and I am so proud of our citizens who are standing up for themselves and our city.”
According to one member of the committee who asked not to be named, the final number of signatures of people backing a referendum to recall the three commissioners were: Clara “Tasha” Murvin, vice mayor, 378; Mayor Keith W. Babb Jr., 368; and Commissioner Benny L. Everett III, 366.
Ms. Marvez had appended a postscript to her email: “IF YOU HEAR OF ANY RETALIATION, BULLYING, HARASSMENT OR SHUNNING BY THE COMMISSIONERS OR THEIR SUPPORTERS, PLEASE MAKE NOTE OF IT AND REPORT IT.”
Coore stated that exact thing had happened Friday and over the weekend. She said by phone Monday morning that Murvin had been calling some of the people who’d signed the petition to recall her, asking why they had done so.