Will Flanagan recall, Fall River, Massachusetts (2012)
Reasons for recall
Robert Camara, a retired district fire chief, and Daniel Robillard led the recall effort. Recall organizers said they lacked confidence in Flanagan's ability to administer the city. He has been accused of mishandling the appointment of an interim fire chief and the firing of a longtime city planner, specifically by making “purely political appointments for individuals with little to no experience or qualifications.”
Regarding his appointment of Lt. Michael Coogan as interim fire chief, Flanagan said, "mistakes were made" and "on a personal level I can take blame for all this. I made a mistake, and hopefully that mistake was corrected. I fully admit throughout this controversy that I personally made a mistake...I hope that the public accepts my apology and recognizes that the mistake has been corrected and we can move on from it.” Coogan was removed as interim fire chief in December 2012 after only 13 days on the job due to lack of documentation for excused time off. Coogan's hiring, six months of paid leave, and subsequent retirement angered some residents. The matter of Coogan's hiring was a subject of investigation until Flanagan ended inquiries into the matter in May 2012. Recall supporter Robert Camara said, “now they’re going to drop everything. It’s an affirmation that nobody ever gets held accountable. Coogan got away with time off. Flanagan got away with making this appointment."
Path to the ballot
On December 15, a group of citizens submitted an affidavit with the signatures of 20 voters. One of the signatures had an incorrect address, so the citizens resubmitted their affidavit on December 16. The second affidavit also failed to meet legal requirements.
If an affidavit had been approved, recall organizers would have had 20 days to collect the signatures of 5% of the city's voters, or approximately 2,400 signatures. Recall organizers originally said they planned to re-submit the affidavit in April 2012, but they did not do so. On May 18, recall organizers submitted a third affidavit seeking to initiate recall proceedings. The petition was rejected on procedural grounds because the notary failed to get proper identification from some of those who filed the petition and because some of the grounds for recall listed on the petition were deemed "perjurous."
Recall effort stalls
As of February 2012, the recall effort was stalled because recall organizers had been unsuccessful in their attempts to overcome the city clerk's objections to their petition. City Clerk Alison Bouchard said the petitioners would have to wait 90 days after Flanagan’s January 2 re-election to submit a petition. Recall organizers argued that Flanagan has already been in office for two years. Bouchard also said the petition failed to meet requirements of special acts pertaining to Fall River recall petitions and of state law defining recall affidavits. She said, "Please be advised that this office does not have a sample of an affidavit and there has been no written ruling by this office on the applicability of the 90-day waiting period as requested in your letter. We can’t provide legal counsel.” In April 2012, recall organizers said they were still hoping to collect signatures in order to force a recall election. As of May 2012, the recall effort was still stalled due to medical problems plaguing organizer Robert Camara. A third attempt at submitting a recall affidavit was denied on May 18th. Recall organizers said they would assess whether people were willing to sign another recall petition. As of October 2012, the recall effort appeared to have been abandoned.
- Herald News, "Fall River group resubmits petition to recall Flanagan", December 17, 2011
- Herald News, "Fall River voters' effort to recall Flanagan hits another snag", May 4, 2012
- Herald News, "Mayor Flanagan's 'beer summit' respectful, but recall organizers unswayed", January 4, 2012
- Herald News, "Fall River Mayor Flanagan admits blame for Coogan debacle", April 27, 2012
- Herald News, "Former district fire chief Camara: Mayor swept 'Coogan-gate' under the rug", May 14, 2012
- Herald News, "Wrist surgery delays effort to recall Fall River mayor", April 12, 2012
- Herald News, "Fall River law dept. rejects third petition seeking to recall Mayor Flanagan", May 18, 2012
- Wicked Local, "Recall petition quest to oust Mayor Flanagan stalled, not dead", January 30, 2012
- Herald News, "Very different means to effect change in city government", April 25, 2012