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Ernie Troiano and Bill Davenport recall, Wildwood, New Jersey, 2009

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A vote on whether to recall Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. and Commissioner Bill Davenport took place in Cape May County for voters in the City of Wildwood on December 8, 2009, where both recall elections were approved.[1][2]
Ernie Troiano recall
Result Votes Percentage
Approveda Yes 624 56.17%
No 487 43.83%
Total votes 1111 100.00%
Voter turnout  %

Bill Davenport recall
Result Votes Percentage
Approveda Yes 649 58.00%
No 470 42.00%
Total votes 1119 100.00%
Voter turnout  %

[3] The recall effort started in December 2008 when City Clerk Chris Wood approved a petition form for circulation. Anthony Totah Jr., Kathleen Mills, John Roat, Adele Hunter, Douglas Jones and Roseanne Tull are the six residents that make up the recall committee.[1]

Gary DeMarzo was the sole member of the City Commission who was not being petitioned for recall. DeMarzo said the recall was an opportunity for residents to vocalize their frustration with frivolous spending, questionable decision-making and poor communication on the part of his fellow commissioners.[1]

Candidates for the mayor’s job began to surface in the midst of the recall election effort. John Roat, one of the candidates for the position, compared a candidate’s forum held on November 25, 2009 to a job interview. Roat planned to appear on the ballot as do other hopefuls include Al Brannen, Edward Harshaw and Ernesto Salvatico. Joining them on the ballot will be Davenport and Troiano. According to Troiano during the forum: “I want to continue to be your mayor.” Each candidate was given three minutes to introduce himself.[4]

In the aftermath of the election that recalled both politicians, residents shared their opinions of the need to change certain methods in local policies, focusing on taxes. According to resident Ginny Caruso, the amount of taxes that add up is too much: “$7,000 a year and it’s killing me. We need a change. Everything has to change.” Rick Shaftan, a local activist, echoed the sentiments of Caruso, stating: “People are pissed off about taxes, and they are pissed off because they are being told that if you want to cut taxes you have to get rid of your town and they’re not having it.”[5]

Reason for Recall

The Troiano Administration resulted in a dramatic increase in taxes and fees in spite of an abundant increase in ratables. Since Ernie Troiano has become Mayor the Local Tax Levy (LTL) has gone from $7,561,470.04 to $20,405768.00 in seven years. A $12,844,297.96 increase (159% ). This put the community in an economic crisis.

Path to the ballot

The petition drive to collect signatures to qualify the recall for the ballot had a rocky path with much litigation.

On June 3, City Clerk Chris Wood declared the petition void. The recall committee submitted the petitions on May 19 with 792 signatures to remove Troiano and 790 for Davenport. At the time, city officials said, recall supporters needed 615 signatures of registered voters to qualify the petitions. However, Wood said that through their verification of the petitions they found: at least 50 multiple signatures, required boxes that were not marked, signatures that didn't match and a petition circulator may not have been a resident.[6] Additionally, city officials realized that the 615 signature requirement was incorrect and should have been higher, 697.[7]

Superior Court hearing

After the recall petitions were declared void and discrepancies in the number of voter signatures required, Daniel Gallagher, the recall committees attorney, challenged the city's findings. On July 13, 2009 Superior Court Judge Raymond Batten heard preliminary arguments from lawyers on both sides of the issue.[8]

Gallagher argued that the petitioners had no reason to believe Wood, the city clerk, was incorrect when he told them 615 signatures were required. However, Colin Bell, the attorney representing Bill Davenport, said that that does not excuse the fact that the state law is clearly stated in the New Jersey Constitution. "You can't change the rules of the game. The rules of the game require 697 signatures," Bell said.[9]

Judge orders signature re-validated

On July l7, Superior Court Judge Raymond Batten ruled:

  • City Clerk Chris Wood improperly excluded valid signatures. Wood is required to now add those signatures back to the count.
  • Wood told the recall committee in December 2008 that they'd need 615 signatures on each recall petition. After the signatures were collected and filed, Wood said that the recall group really needed 697 signatures on each petition. The judge said that he is powerless to retroactively change that higher number.
  • Batten also said that evidence challenging the status of any rejected or reinstated signatures can be provided at hearings that will begin Monday, August 3.
  • Final counts will not be available until after that hearing.[10]

Conflict of interest?

During the hearing, Judge Batten said that City Clerk Wood, who scrutizined the signature is a "person whose salary is set by the two people being recalled."

Evidence in Batten's court also showed that Wood provided information about who had signed the recall petitions to Ernie Troiano during a critical 10-day period in May 2009, although, Batten said, "the statute specifically provides that petitions should be provided to the challenged officials after – not before or during – [the] 10-day review period."

Six candidates

On October 15, 2009, six candidates filed their petitions for candidacy of the two seats targeted for recall with the City Clerk’s office. Included among those six were Davenport and Troiano. According to reports, the recall ballot during the election will ask voters if they want to recall the mayor and the commissioner. If voters vote yes on the recall, they will select from the list of candidates, including the two recalled officials. However, in the other scenario, if the majority of voters do not recall Troiano and Davenport, the two automatically retain their seats on the three-member commission.[11]

See also

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