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Gold Hill recall without merit

The three recall targets areamong the few doing their jobs

We have traditionally opposed recalls of elected officials over political differences, because we believe they should be used only to remove officeholders who have committed egregious acts. If you simply don't like a public official's politics, well, that's what regular elections are for.

In the case of the attempted recall of three council members in Gold Hill, our opposition goes far beyond the philosophical. The targets of that effort are not only innocent of any wrongdoing, they appear to be among the few elected or appointed officials in the town willing to stand up and fulfill their obligations.

The three council members are Gus Wolf, Donna Silva and Jan Fish, whose misdeeds consist of demanding accountability of the city's police department and its chief. Those seem like grounds for praise, not dismissal.

The police department and Chief Dean Muchow certainly deserve scrutiny. Among the problems that have been identified: Muchow allegedly failed to place a police levy on the 2005 ballot, used city credit cards 40 times in a four-month period to buy meals for himself and others and charged $1,200 in cell phone calls to the city in a three-month period.

Beyond that are the well-publicized felony theft and criminal trespass charges filed against Muchow in Union, where he was previously the police chief. Citizens have also raised allegations about improper actions by the department's other officer and reserves. It seems from here that the council would be negligent if it did not demand accountability. But, instead, Mayor Sherry Young, Councilwoman Kathleen Price and other recall proponents have falsely labeled the three targeted council members as not being supportive of the police department. In fact, it appears Young, Price and the others want a police department that can operate with no rules, backed by a council that is willing to turn a blind eye to any transgression.

There are already some questionable practices in the city regarding oversight of the police department. Complaints filed against the department or its officers are funneled through the mayor, who has the discretion whether to investigate. Not surprisingly, few are investigated.

Small-town police chiefs wield a considerable amount of power. Often, as in Gold Hill, there is no city administrator and therefore no direct supervisor. That means they answer to their city councils.

And that means the city councils must be vigilant and ask tough questions, which is exactly what the three targeted council members have tried to do. Gold Hill residents need to recognize that this is not a case of council members stepping in where they don't belong. Instead, they have been acting in the best interests of the city by demanding that the police chief meet expectations that are taken for granted in most municipalities.

Mayor Young and Councilwoman Price have said the recall is a referendum on what kind of government residents of Gold Hill want. We agree &

8212; and if they want a government that is responsible and accountable for its actions, they will vote no on all three recalls.