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7,900 sign for RVTD recall

6,810 of the signers must be verified voters for an election to be set

A dozen supporters of a Rogue Valley Transportation District board member recall triumphantly handed over brown grocery boxes filled with petitions bearing more than 7,900 signatures at the county's election department Monday.

It will take the county 10 days to determine if enough signatures belong to registered voters to put a recall of five RVTD board members on the ballot.

They need 6,810.

And they believe they have it.

I think it's great there was that many citizens who felt the need to get this on the ballot, said Nick Brown, a 21-year-old physics major at Southern Oregon University, after he plunked down a box on the counter. I felt the board wasn't acting in the best interest of the citizens with what they've done with (General Manager) Sherrin (Coleman) and how they've spent money.

Recall supporters filed recall papers with the county in July. Since then, they have piled petitions on Igloo coolers in Lithia Park during the Ashland Fourth of July celebration, set up a booth at the county fair, hung out at post offices and traveled door-to-door to gather signatures. They even opened a headquarters behind Costco, all in their quest to recall five of seven board members.

They started out attempting to recall six but one, board member Stan Druben, since has resigned. Still targeted for recall are Eva Avery, Susan McKenzie, Kay Harrison, Carol Bennett and Mary Wooding.

If the signatures are verified, a special election will be held, probably on Nov. 19, said County Clerk Kathy Beckett. The election will cost about &

36;80,000.

Recall supporters said they hope board members resign so the district doesn't have to pay for the election.

But board members who returned calls Monday said that's not their plan.

Board members maintain, they've always worked in the best interest of the district.

I love this valley and I love the district, said Eva Avery, the chairwoman of the board. I feel what we are doing is the best thing for the district. That's why I am staying there now and will try to remain there.

Wooding said she's tried to work with the recall group to make a better transportation district, but they won't communicate with her.

I went into this because I wanted to make the district better, said Wooding, a five-year board member. Most of the members of the board are people who ran because they care about transportation.

I will be very happy when this is over.

It was the board's abrupt June decision not to renew Coleman's contract that galvanized the recall effort. But recall supporters also complain about other board decisions, such as hiring of consultants, and the interactions of the contentious group.

People are really questioning the integrity of the five people on the board, said Connie Skillman, spokeswoman for the recall group. What we are hearing is people are just fed up. They are fed up with the board's conduct and the misspending of the tax dollars and acting outside of the public meeting laws.

Julie Brown, chief petitioner for the group, said the biggest reason it has support is that the board hasn't answered the community's questions.

Why have they not wanted to renew (Sherrin Coleman's) contract? she asked. And there was the question about bringing Valley Lift in house ... when it costs the district a lot more money every year. Why?

As recall backers dropped off petitions Monday, they were accompanied by Edwin Chapman, the one board member not targeted. Chapman not only signed recall papers but has vowed to vote to unseat his colleagues.

They are unwilling to talk. to work, to do their job, Chapman said. I have quit trying to deal with them on a professional level because they are not professional.

But on one issue, Chapman's sentiments echoed those of his colleagues.

I'll just be glad when we get back to work, he said. There's a lot to do.

Reach reporter Dani Dodge at 776-4471, or e-mail