SINTON – A group petitioning for the recall of three City Council members said Tuesday it has garnered enough signatures and plans to file a petition soon.
The recall attempt underscores a tumultuous period in Sinton politics. The petition began circulating about the same time the three council members unsuccessfully tried to fire City Manager Jackie Knox and city secretary Betty Wood, saying Knox created an atmosphere of distrust and wasn’t effectively communicating with them.
The members are Mayor Eloy Lopez, Linda Guzman-Alaniz and Michelle Soliz.
Sandra Coates, a member of the committee pushing for the recall, said the petition has garnered at least the 500 signatures required by the city charter.
Committee member Kelly Rigotti, who discussed the petition at a council meeting Tuesday night, would not say how many signatures had been obtained or what day the petition would be filed. The group is exercising caution, she said, because supporters of the recall drive have had their vehicles vandalized and received threatening notes.
If the signatures are filed and verified by the city secretary, the three council members will have five days to resign or face an automatic recall election, according to the city charter. The last day to order a November election was Monday, according to the secretary of state’s office. The next election date is in 2013.
Rigotti provided a written statement outlining reasons for the recall drive. They include:
The council members displayed unfamiliarity with the city charter.
They conducted council business outside public meetings in violation of state law.
They didn’t follow an attorney’s advice when they voted to override decisions of two city boards.
They didn’t provide satisfactory reasons for trying to fire the city manager and secretary.
They promised to replace city employees with friends or family members.
They have acted unprofessionally in council meetings, including yelling and storming out.
They voted to hire attorney Juan Perales against the wishes of citizens.
Lopez said the petitioners are bitter about the decisions to try to fire Knox and to hire Perales.
Rigotti’s statement claims Perales didn’t meet standards of the city charter, which includes requirements that the attorney have a practice within the city. She also produced documents suggesting Perales owes thousands in back taxes to Nueces County and the IRS.
“I just think it’s totally unrelated to the recall,” Perales said.
Guzman-Alaniz had little comment.
“It’s their opinion,” she said. “That’s what I feel.”
Soliz did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.
The move to fire Knox and Wood displeased the crowd at a council meeting in April, when citizens spoke in support of both longtime city employees.
Lopez, Guzman-Alaniz and Soliz were at odds with Knox over the Sinton school district’s plan to build two wind turbines at the high school. They wanted the project to move forward, but two city boards had rejected it after hearing concerns including noise, aesthetics and the expense. The district sued the city to try to move the project forward, but a district judge dismissed the suit.