Animal rule anger drives Director-elect recall threat

story by Michael Tilley
mtilley@thecitywire.com

Cheryl Gilmore, an advocate for new animal control laws in Fort Smith, has said she will work to recall Fort Smith City Director-elect Keith Lau as soon as the law allows because of Lau’s comments during a Dec. 18 Fort Smith Board of Directors meeting.

Lau told The City Wire that Gilmore’s planned recall is a reflection of the divisive environment that now surrounds city politics.

Gilmore said in an e-mail that Lau was “overhead speaking with other directors that come January 2013 when he takes office, he will get rid of this problem and issue.”

THE AMENDMENT ISSUE
The “problem and issues” involves a last-minute change by City Director Philip Merry Jr., that amended an animal control ordinance proposed by the Animal Services Advisory Board (ASAB). The Fort Smith Board has discussed animal control rules for more about two years, with several proposals put forth and rejected.

Merry's amendment, pushed during a Dec. 18 Board meeting, calls for a $100 fine plus court costs for a first offense with the fine waived if the pet owner opts for spay-and-neuter. The second offense would result in a $200 fine plus court costs. Should the pet owner choose spay-and-neuter at that time, the fine would be reduced to $50 plus court costs.

The amendment passed by a 4-3 votes, but without a five-vote plurality, required a second and third reading. The second reading was held Friday, and the third is planned for Dec. 27.

Gilmore is the former chair of the ASAB. She resigned July 18 after fallout from a lengthy and sarcastic e-mail she sent to Fort Smith Director Kevin Settle. Settle and Gilmore were part of a frank discussion during a July 9 study session. Gilmore’s e-mail was followed by a letter from ASAB vice-chair Nichole Morgan in which she was "deeply sorry" for the "uncalled for behavior" and "an excessively immature and petty reaction" from Gilmore.

NEW BOARD REVIEW?
Lau said in an interview with The City Wire during a break in the Dec. 18 meeting that he wants to revisit the amendment when a new Board is constituted in January. It’s possible that new Board members Lau and Director-elect Mike Lorenz will not support the amendment, meaning that it could be overturned within weeks of being approved.

"I thought the Animal Services committee brought a good ordinance and the detail about the fees in going back at the eleventh hour with a new motion which is very complex, one that’s penalizing first-time infractions, is really something that needed to be discussed in more detail," Lau said Dec. 18.

Gilmore’s ire is directed at Lau’s desire to reconsider the amendment, and because of that, on the day Lau is sworn in, Gilmore plans to “release a press release saying that I am calling for the recall of Lau after the six month requirement based on his behavior” at the Dec. 18 meeting.

Gilmore noted in her e-mail: “His lack of professionalism, lack of knowledge on the subject matter and blatent (sic) disregard for the santity (sic) of the current board of directors is apalling (sic). He was speaking loudly and publically (sic) and many citizens overheard this conversation.”

RECALL RULES
In the e-mail, Gilmore said she would need only 237 signatures of valid voters to initiate the recall. The law Gilmore cited appears to come straight from the website of the National Conference of State Legislatures, and does not completely match Arkansas’ recall law. The law Gilmore cited requires 35% of ballots cast in the most recent primary for the position.

However, Arkansas’ law states: “When petitions requesting the removal of any such officer, signed by qualified electors equal in number to thirty-five percent (35%) of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for that office at the preceding general municipal election at which the office was on the ballot, are filed with the city clerk, the clerk shall determine the sufficiency of the petitions within ten (10) days from the date of the filing;” (See complete listing of applicable Arkansas law at the end of this story.)

Because there has been a string of special elections for the Ward 1 seat to which Lau was elected, the last general election for the seat was in 1996, and Gilmore will need 2,048 valid signatures from “qualified” Fort Smith voters, according to information provided by Fort Smith City Administrator Ray Gosack. A qualified voter can be from any Fort Smith ward.

LAU STATEMENT
Lau issued the following statement to The City Wire about Gilmore’s recall plans.
“The fact  a citizen is calling for my recall based on hearsay, before I have even taken office is very concerning and  demonstrates the almost impossible political environment in which we live.

“I ran and was elected on a platform of fiscal responsibility, less micromanagement and not serving special interest groups. All of my comments during the December 18th board meeting were based on those three simple principles. If Ms. Gilmore feels my comments in any way deviated from my platform or if she promotes idealogies (sic) based on other principles, which better represent a leadership model for the citizens,  then I welcome a recall. Let the citizens of Fort Smith vote their beliefs.”

RECALL LAW APPLICABLE TO FORT SMITH

14-48-114.  Removal of mayor or directors.

(a) Any person holding the office of mayor and any person holding the office of member of the board of directors of any city organized under the provisions of this chapter shall be subject to removal from the office by the electors qualified to vote for a successor of the incumbent.


(b) The procedure to effect the removal of a person holding the office shall be as follows:


(1) When petitions requesting the removal of any such officer, signed by qualified electors equal in number to thirty-five percent (35%) of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for that office at the preceding general municipal election at which the office was on the ballot, are filed with the city clerk, the clerk shall determine the sufficiency of the petitions within ten (10) days from the date of the filing;



(2) If the petitions are deemed sufficient, the clerk shall certify them to the county board of election commissioners;



(3) The county board of election commissioners shall issue a proclamation in accordance with § 7-11-201 et seq., calling a special election on the question and shall fix a date for holding it not more than ninety (90) days from the date of the certification of the petitions by the clerk.



(4) At the election, the question shall be submitted to the electors in substantially the following form:

“FOR the removal of (name of officer) ............................... from the office of  (Mayor) (Director)

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AGAINST the removal of (name of officer) ................................. from the
office of (Mayor) (Director) ; and



(5)  (A) If a majority of the qualified electors voting on the question at the election shall vote for the removal of the officer, a vacancy shall exist in the office.


(B) If a majority of the qualified electors voting on the question at the election shall vote against the removal of the officer, the officer shall continue to serve during the term for which elected.

(c) No recall petition shall be filed against any officer until he or she shall have held his or her office for at least six (6) months.

Five Star Votes: 
Average: 4.5 (11 votes)

Comments

Exercising your rights is crazy?

It is crazy to get involved in civic affairs in Fort Smith. It is better to leave this dysfunctional city.

It appears y'all are

It appears y'all are launching a pre-emptive strike against a private citizen who wants only to see progress in our fair city.Just because y'all don't like her style, it seems. She won't be meek; but smart, open and honest. There are men-folk running this town who adhere to the old adage that a "woman's place is in the home". The good ol' boys (even the younger old men like K Settle)are behind the times. So I guess it is just a matter of time when their time is up. Hopefully when that time arrives they won't be directing a "ghost town".

Cheryl, When Can I Sign?

Going to the website and reading the contents and if the legal code mentioned on the website is correct, the low voter turnout in the last primary may actually be on her side.

Right tool. Wrong nail.

Keith isn't the director courting recall.

right tool. wrong nail.

Who's jumping the gun -the person calling for a recall before the official even takes office, or those responding to her? Merry made a unilateral decision and his cronies pushed it through without significant discussion or any input from the public. Isn't that how the old boys worked?

Right Tool. Right Call...Just

Do not confuse Merry's motion with anything other than citizen representation. Merry is trying to move on with a "citizen friendly" animal control ordinance. Don't confuse that with crony type politics and crony capitalism, something Kevin Settle attempts to do with "city only" trash pickup, the "Kevin Approved Uniform Contract", the continued huge salary packages at the convention center and A&P,the huge differences in our 2013 budget versus other, nearby comparable cities. And Merry didn't make a unilateral decision, there were other votes.

Instant Replay

Merry's actions are anything BUT citizen representation. Two citizen groups recommended other approaches. He felt he knew better despite all of their research and volunteer efforts. Jack, your chuckling from the sidelines is disgusting as you goad someone into doing your disruptive bidding. Each time you re-craft facts to fit your upheaval agenda, your motives continue to prove unpure. If you want to yell 'crony' then name names. Better yet, spare us all. Just call them up and hash it in a face to face meeting. Work out your personal grievances rather than take advantage of a disgruntled easy to manipulate hatchet woman. Again, if an ordinance cannot stand the scrutiny of two new sets of eyes, THEN MAYBE ITS A BAD ORDINANCE. Far better to get it off the books now than to kick it down the road with local families paying the consequences. I don't know Keith Lau, but admire him for speaking his mind and being upset by hijinks. I welcome his addition to the board and am anxious to see what he can do.

Other Cities have such ordinances

You are attempting to cloud the issue. Other cities have successful spay/neuter ordinances on the books with effective incentives/disincentives as appropriate. The fail safe of Mr. Merry's proposed ammendments is that the animal control officers/police have great discretion. So the ordinance is far from being draconian.

Clouded thinking

This isn't a spay/neuter ordinance! It's a dog roaming one and the rationale behind it is warped. But far from that, at a time when this City screams for teamwork with open and honest communications, Director Merry worked Ina underhanded fashion to pass this through and then its three readings before cooler heads could take an honest look at it. It all stinks like dog doo

TCW reaches out to other websites

http://www.topix.net/forum/city/fort-smith-ar/T9OFLMPUKFT2TIOM4#comments

Think again

The animal ordinance is a long comprehensive ordinance. Have you listened to the reading of it at the BOD meetings? The roaming of "intact" animals is an overarching issue. While opponents maintain that you cannot control all of the animals(or their owners for that matter), the supporters point out that it is not an all or nothing issue. The idea is to accomplish as much community animal control as possible. The police department and animal shelters cannot do it alone. The responsibility starts with the citizens. If they are wrecklessly irresponsible, fine them, if they don't know any better,induce them to get informed and do their part, if we all care about the animals, God's critters,then animal population control and protection from themselves are a moral obligation(they are the animals we are the superior species, yet sometime I doubt it)

You think too much

If you want to believe the problem is loose intact males stumbling upon loose fertile females, so be it. It can happen. But it simply can't explain why so, so, so, few animals are ever claimed at the humane society. You want to believe that if you rub someone's nose into their mistake they will learn from it. Anyone with the least amount of animal training will tell you that's not the way to properly teach and learn. Stay as grandiose in your flawed thinking as you like, but you have not isolated the problem, thus, your penalty solution is flawed at the onset.

Training Humans Not Animals

Humans understand getting their noses rubbed in it as you say. Animals don't. Fines and penalties deter undesirable behavior every day. If you get high enough and too many speeding tickets, guess what?...you slow down your driving. Loose intact animals roaming is a big problem. It has been 3 yrs, the same large loose dog roaming my neighborhood and getting people's pets upset while he turns over trash cans and messes on people's lawns. So what do you propose to do after animal control has caught the dog,the city attorney has sent the owners letters, the owners have paid fines and the problem continues. It slowed for awhile but is not a problem again. Perhaps if the fines were high enough to where payments were made for court costs and fines every week, then the reminder would be ever present. If you can fix this problem, I'll publish the address. Otherwise, your points are moot.

get informed

why don't you invest some time in understanding the process before you comment. If your dog is picked up now, you don't get a letter, you go to court. The problem is that a very small percentage of dogs are even picked up now. Check facts with the humane society as obviously you don't listen. A sterner fine will mean even less dogs are picked up. The dog that continues to roam in your neighborhood more than likely isn't continually let out by someone; it's been abandoned and is foraging for food. Roaming dogs are more inclined to be looking for food than reproducing. The problem is too few on staff to respond in time to catch the dog. Yet, Director Merry wants to reduce the budget for animal control. You say, train humans. Yet, Director Merry has not proposed a single piece of education and awareness besides a brochure about what he will do to you if he catches you putting your dog on a tether to get some fresh air and exercise.

priorities and pecking order

yes anon, other cities have spay/neuter ordinances on the books that work but they don't have the major problems facing their cities like those in fort smith! 13,000 jobs lost, 489 empty commercial buildings, projected loss of the 188th fighter group with another possible 1000 jobs lost, high water, sewer, and sanitation rates, a convention center that could lose another million taxpayer dollars this year, a bloated city budget of over 271 million dollars, a city survey that reflects lack of confidence in city management, high crime, and a dysfunctional board of directors that spends its time working on a minor problem when all of the above needs prompt attention! it makes a lot of sense to put the most important issues at the top of the list and when that problem is solved, work their way down the priority list! spay/neuter ordinances are pale in comparison to some of the other problems that are facing fort smith citizens.
yes anon, other cities have spay/neuter ordinances on the books that work but they don't have the major problems facing their cities like those in fort smith! 13,000 jobs lost, 489 empty commercial buildings, projected loss of the 188th fighter group with another possible 1000 jobs lost, high water, sewer, and sanitation rates, a convention center that could lose another million taxpayer dollars this year, a bloated city budget of over 271 million dollars, a city survey that reflects lack of confidence in city management, high crime, and a dysfunctional board of directors that spends its time working on a minor problem when all of the above needs prompt ...>> Read the entire comment.

Recall?

Why are the board members trying to push people out of the city. The people they are finding ways to penalize are the tax payers that pay the salaries. It's quite simple no tax payers no salaries

Historic Fort Smith Wild West Anything Goes

Iguess you are correct. Repeal all laws while we are at it. Then every careless man for himself will rush to Fort Smith, the land of freedom from responsibility and carefree living. Heck, the laws aren't enforced enough anyway, so go for it. Illegal gambling can take place as well, who needs a Casino anyway. Sell liquor on Sunday also. Get rid of all the "silly" rules. Suspend trash collection by the City,let do like in the old days with pigs and goats eating the stuff, it's natural and organic. Besides, we won't notice the odors when blended with the aromas from the chicken factories, the feed factory, the train diesel exhausts, the Oklahoma farmland and hot air politicians. Let's get back to history and truly be a historic town.

Quality of Life Concerns - Have you read the entire ordinance?

Several comments mention concern for quality of life about the first offense fines and the potential for large numbers of roaming animals without these fines. Isn't it interesting no comment has been made about the changes to section 4-119 which changed the number of dogs allowed to be owned, kept or harbored "within the corporate limits of the city" from 5 to 7 dogs before licensing as a kennel is required. Folks, that's ANYONE within the city may now keep up to 7 dogs on their property within the confines of the city without special licensing. (Note the new ordinance language allows kennels ONLY "within the zones permitted by the zoning code of the city, section 27-119 of the Code of Ordinances" yet section 27-119 is shown as "reserved" and has no language whatsoever in it limiting the zoning. The licensing cost to keep up 7 or more dogs is a mere $35 yet the new amendment attempts to fine every citizen who's dog happens to run out the door or gate $100 for the first offense. What really is behind all the changes and does increasing the number of "legal" dogs from 4 to 6 on one household's property without kennel licensing increase the quality of life for the neighbors? Maybe the directors should look to DECREASING the number of dogs allowed on a property within the city limits instead IF quality of life for all citizens is TRULY their concern.

Gilmore 'attacks' Keith Lau this time..

...more unacceptable behavior she says by yet another person who disagrees with her. Thanks to Dir Merry's ploy, it's like the toy is firmly in their teeth now so don't even try to pull it out.

Reasons for Disagreement

Lau and Company disagree superficially usingpolitical cliche for expedience. Don't forget, they are "the politicians". Ms. Gilmore and other concerned citizens are not seeking public office. They study alternatives to the status quo while the good old boys play the same old song. Watching Fort Smith crash and burn from the sidelines makes for cheap entertainment for those who can afford a ticket out of here. For the rest who are stuck here and take this place seriously, Fort Smith is a tragedy unfolding before our very eyes. When there is nothing left to exploit, the likes of Lau will up and leave.

office

Its funny Lau hasn't even taken the office yet and he is getting bashed. No wonder no one is willing to step up to the plate and try. There are SO many Na-sayers posting on here, but you don't see them running for director. If what the wire posted is true about the comments made by Lau, he sounds like he is just standing his ground and sticking with what he said is his priorities for when he takes office. You say "the good 'ol boys" all the time. Well if you don't think Merry is one of them as well as Weber being told what to do by her mother, you should pay more attention. Fort Smith has much bigger problems than stray animals. If we don't get a focus on jobs and security for our citizens, then the rest really doesn't matter. Just because D.C. can't get their act together doesn't mean we have to act the same. Merry has served his purpose and special interest group and shoved the changes down your throat just like Obamacare.........The only difference, we had to read the thing three times because of the vote. Get ready to spend time and money to fix this fiasco too.

Thick headed and Lockjawed

So let's just keep it going with the status quo. No progressive ideas, so no progress. The types of jobs and businesses you would want to attract would be manned by people with open minds. So far that rules out Fort Smith unfortunately. Quality of life is more than another rhetorical cliche, at least to outsiders who would sooner pass us enroute to other locales of growth and prosperity. Apparently,you don't understand who or what the good old boys really are.

the missing link

thank goodness for your insights. However could we have been so foolish, thick headed and lockjawed. We'll be dripping in riches now that the dog roaming law has passed.

"its the economy stupid"

the MAIN FOCUS of city leadership should be very clear to the city adminstrator, the mayor, and the BOD! its JOBS, JOBS, JOBS, business development along with a business friendly attitude at city hall and a safe city with a low crime rate! these are priorities for growth and quality of life while pet control is important but much lower on the do list. it is really puzzling to many why so much time has been spent dealing with dogs and cats when priorities have been ignored.

No Puzzle

The dogs and cats are a distraction and political football fake issue to the opponents of animal welfare reform. Anytime there is a call for change, the establishment will hype its opposition unless the issue is to enrich the municipal monopoly. It seems that simple.

Take a seat on the Crazy Train

Take a seat beside Cheryl and the rest of her "Merry" gang on the crazy train. Crash and burn because of Dogs and cats? Really? Have you lost you mind? At least Lau is talking budgets and economic development. I hope the new board members will stop the madness and get us focused on real issues like...JOBS!!