The campaign working against the recall of 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall achieved a critical victory that will likely put the recall election on the November ballot.
At the June 18 meeting, the Board of Supervisors passed in a 3 to 2 vote the decision that will allow County Clerk Kenneth Pettit to set the recall election date.
Petit has publicly stated that he favors putting the recall election on the regular November ballot.
Marshall, along with 1st District Supervisor Naomi Schwartz and 2ndDistrict Supervisor Susan Rose, voted for allowing Pettit to decide the date.
The decision came after months of legal battle between groups for the recall and against the recall in what began as a dispute over the pledge of allegiance in an October Santa Ynez Valley General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC).
No On Recall campaign manager Das Williams said the estimated cost of a special election would save taxpayers roughly $200,000, while the results of recall election would be monumental.
“It allows for greater inclusion in the election. It also serves taxpayers by eliminating the cost of a special election,” he said. “This is the largest political fight ever in the county. The student vote will be important in thwarting the attempt to remove one of the most environmentally active leaders we have.”
Recall campaign director Lammy Johnstone-Kockler said the board’s decision is representative of political manipulation.
“We did things by the letter. We feel they should follow the same rules we did,” she said. “I have never heard of someone voting on her own recall issue. [Marshall] claimed she would not vote on this issue herself, but she does not have the dignity to even walk away and let somebody else decide.”
Johnstone-Kockler also said William’s notion of a November election saving taxpayer money is wrong. She said a special election would only cost $50,000 and the money spent on hiring lawyers to wrangle recall-related legal issued was the real financial drain. She said she also hopes everybody who feels strongly about the recall will vote in the November.
“If you register here and you believe in the community, vote,” she said. “If [Marshall] wins, she wins. If she loses, she loses. She’s already lost in the courts anyway.”
The Pledge, Petitions and Politics
When Joe Olla, Santa Ynez Valley GPAC Chairman, led the pledge of allegiance at the Oct. 17 GPAC meeting, Marshall fired him on the grounds that he failed to consult with the committee before introducing the pledge to the agenda and therefore violated standard meeting protocol.
“I never said he could not bring the flag, nor did I forbid the recital of the pledge of allegiance,” Marshall said in October 2001. “I expected Mr. Olla, as chair of GPAC, would follow normal committee procedure and present the idea to committee members.”
Marshall’s opponents used the GPAC meeting incident as the catalyst for the launch of a recall campaign that would continue throughout the 2001-2002 school year.
On Oct. 23, the day she had intended to hold a press conference addressing the issue, Marshall was served with a petition of intent to recall signed by 20 of her constituents, including several UCSB students. They claimed Marshall violated her oath of office, created hostility between the northern southern parts of Santa Barbara County and undermined the future of agriculture in the county.
Jonathan Kalinski, then chair of the UCSB College Republicans and one of the petition’s original signers, said the recall was a response to Marshall neglecting many 3rd District residents.
“[The recall] is not unnecessary. What makes it necessary is when you take your oath of office and ignore 5,000 of your constituents,” he said. “The great part of democracy is that we don’t have to wait for the next election in four years to take action; we can do it now.”
Marshall called the petition an “abuse of the recall process.”
“My opponents are welcome to oppose me in the next regularly scheduled election. However, this recall will waste taxpayers’ money and divide us when unity and mutual support are what both our country and our county need,” she said in a statement. “I ask fair-minded residents to reject it.”
By late January, recall supporters gathered the 8,914 signatures required to place the recall on the summer ballot. However, Marshall’s supporters at the No On Recall campaign filed suit on grounds that the paid signature-gatherers collected signatures illegally.
Fighting the Recall in Court
No On Recall filed a lawsuit on March 14, 2002 claiming the recall supporters had illegally collected one-third to one-half of the 13,000 signatures. In the days just after the suit was filed, Williams said the signature gatherers hired by conservative North County residents used improper tactics.
“Some petitioners are saying that the recall is good for Marshall. Others have told the students that they are signing for clean water, and then the petitioners will flip the page and tell the students that they have to sign another section, which is the Gail Marshall recall petition,” he said. “This is a deliberate attempt to deceive voters.”
Johnstone-Kockler said Williams’ criticisms are unfounded and the real crime is registering students as voters within Santa Barbara County.
“There’s something wrong if men and women going to prestigious school like UCSB do not know what they are signing,” she said. “The real transient voters are the students. You’ve got kids in Isla Vista getting registered, and within seven months, they are moving. This is illegal.”
Reaction to the dispute at UCSB was mixed. College Republican Chair Jeff Farrah, one of the original 20 signers, said the tactics employed by the recall campaign were ethical.
“I’ve been approached myself and each time the petitioner represented the recall correctly,” he said. “If there’s anything dishonest, it’s the No On Recall people telling students [the recall is] costing $300,000 or that it’s disenfranchising students.”
Both sides of the issue accuse the other of manipulating the rules of politics for their own benefit. Recall supporters also filed a lawsuit, saying that halting the count is strategically designed to delay the recall process. Recall attorney Phillip Seymour, however, claims the countersuit is an attempt by recall supporters to hinder the efforts of the No On Recall campaign.
“These people are abusing the lawsuit for tactical reasons, because the motion freezes [everything],” Seymour said.
Judge Thomas Anderle ruled on May 22 – nearly six months after the recall efforts began – that the signatures collected for the recall were valid and that written declarations from residents who said signature-gatherers had misrepresented their intentions were insufficient evidence.
“This matter needs to be resolved in an election,” Anderle said, “not a courtroom.”