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A petition to recall commissioner hits milestone of 5,000

GRANTS PASS — The political action committee seeking to recall Josephine County Commissioner Sandi Cassanelli has surpassed the minimum number of signatures needed to get the issue on a ballot.

"It's not easy to get 5,000 signatures, but we got there," said Jan Battersby, of Citizens for Positive Government. "We still need more, so there's a cushion."

County Clerk Art Harvey recommends petitioners collect 20 percent extra signatures (in this instance, about 1,000), in case some are fraudulent or cannot be verified. The committee has until Nov. 8 to submit the petitions to the Clerk's Office for verification, but members hope to turn them in by Oct. 15.

Battersby said in addition to stationing volunteers at the post office, the Growers' Market and in the Sears parking lot, the committee has launched a door-to-door campaign to gather signatures.

Grants Pass resident Ed Bowers is chief petitioner for the recall. The petitioners' statement as to the reasons Cassanelli should be recalled include allegations of unprofessional and harassing conduct; lack of support for the Sheriff's Office, veterans, the animal shelter and economic development activities; "denigrating" behavior toward representatives of other governing bodies and nongovernmental organizations; and disclosing confidential personnel matters in public.

Cassanelli supporter Mark Seligman left a post on the recall's Facebook page that read (unedited): "(B)owers you are challenged to a debate once you get your signatures i have a moderator and am applying for a town hall meeting there will be 5 topics or questions i will ask you and vice versa, the public will have time to ask questions, there will be opening and closing statements, if you dont accept we will have one anyway, but i prefer you be there so the public will clearly see both sides contact me on this asap." Bowers said he will not debate Seligman. The recall effort is in the hands of voters, who will decide whether Cassanelli should stay or go.

During a commissioners meeting earlier this week, Seligman proposed holding a public meeting on the recall at the Anne Basker Auditorium. In the past, the county has hosted town hall meetings on topics such as earthquake preparedness and waived the fee to rent the facility. Commissioners have to sign off on use of the auditorium.

Commissioner Don Reedy believes Seligman was looking for an endorsement from commissioners, something he was unwilling to do.

"I have no problem with his use of the auditorium if he wants to rent it, but this (the recall) is a citizen action and the petitioners are exercising their rights under state law," Reedy said. "I don't think the commissioners should be involved in any stage of the process. We need to keep our distance, especially when one of the commissioners in the subject of the potential recall."

Commissioner Simon Hare said the issue likely will come up during an upcoming commissioners meeting with legal counsel. He said with election season coming soon, there should be a policy in place to make it clear commissioners are not endorsing particular candidates if they choose to rent the facility.

Stacy D. Stumbo is a reporter at the Grants Pass Daily Courier. Reach her at 541-474-3806 or sstumbo@thedailycourier.com.