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Judge rules against Homer City Council members in recall case

City of Homer

An Anchorage Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday against three Homer City Council members seeking to halt a recall election next month. Council members Donna Aderhold, David Lewis and Catriona Reynolds are subjects of a recall election sparked over two resolutions they crafted and sponsored.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska represented the three members and sued the city over the certification of the three recall petitions. The ACLU argued that the grounds for recall were not sufficient and suppressed their right to freedom of speech.

Superior Court Judge Erin Marston ruled that City Clerk Jo Johnson’s role in certifying the petitions was “ministerial” and the First Amendment does not protect elected officials from the recall process. Marston also added that it’s the voters who decide if the stated legal grounds for recall are sufficient, and the clerk certifies petitions if the allegations would warrant a recall if found true.

ACLU Alaska Spokesman Casey Reynolds said it’s disappointed with the ruling.

“We at the ACLU fight for free speech whenever we see it being infringed, and we saw that happening here. But we’re still reviewing the decision and its details, and we’re conferring with our clients,” Reynolds said.

He said the ACLU will decide whether to appeal the ruling within 48 hours.

City Attorney Eric Sanders said the city is pleased with the decision to put the issue to the voters.

“The judge evaluated some fairly lengthy briefs and oral argument, and after all of that, issued a written decision that confirmed that the clerk did in fact make the right decision,” Sanders said.

Sanders declined to comment on the potential appeal from the ACLU.

Pro-recall group and political action committee Heartbeat of Homer intervened in the case. Spokeswoman Sarah Vance explained the group wants every voter to have an equal voice at the ballot box. Vance said the group will stay active leading up to the special election.

“Heartbeat of Homer is prepared to take whatever actions necessary to ensure these three council members will no longer serve as our elected officials,” Vance said. “They’ve broken their trust with us as constituents that is beyond repair.”

Vance said the lawsuit brought against the city is further proof that the council members are unfit for office and added the group would intervene in an appeals case.

The special election is scheduled for June 13. 

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