Avon recall election to take place with general election in November
As the date of the election draws near, tensions continue to mount among the Town Council as well as between the town and the recall committee
After a year of legal woes, public opinions and a whole lot of back-and-forth, the town of Avon has set a date for the recall election of Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes and Council member Tamra Underwood.
Registered Avon voters will be given the opportunity to vote on whether to recall Smith Hymes and Underwood on Tuesday, Nov. 2, during the coordinated Eagle County general election.
According to the report in the Town Council packet for the Aug. 10 meeting, hosting the recall election in coordination with the Eagle County general election will save the town around $12,000 to $15,000. At the meeting, Paul Wisor, the town attorney, said that hosting the election in coordination would save a lot of staff time on the town’s part.
Not only will voters be voting on the recall, but they will also vote on the council member’s replacements, should the recall be successful. If no candidates run for replacements, and the recall proves successful, the seats will remain vacant.
The ballot question for the individual recalls of Smith Hymes and Underwood will contain a 200-word summary of the reasons for the recall, provided by the Avon Recall Committee.
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In this summary, the committee cites that the council members have been “acting contrary to Avon residents’ desires,” referencing the Hahnewald Barn controversy. It also cites that the council members have “not eliminated a 2% Avon real estate transfer tax,” calling the tax a “huge additional tax” that could cause real estate sales to fall through.
Both Smith Hymes and Underwood will have the opportunity to provide a 300-word justification of why they should stay in office for the ballot. They have until Aug. 27 to submit their summaries.
All aspiring candidates can now pick up a nomination petition from the town. Interested residents have until Aug. 27 to obtain 10 signatures for the petition. On the petition, candidates running to succeed Smith Hymes and Underwood, should they be recalled, must identify which seat they are seeking to fill. If there are any discrepancies or problems with the petitions. Candidates will have until Sept. 3 to amend and resubmit them.
Recall committee speaks out
At Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, four members of the Avon Recall Committee spoke out, expressing their dissatisfaction with how the town has handled the recall.
“We did our homework, we were simply asking for a recall. You denied all of our tries. You delayed, said we were wrong in our numbers, we got even more numbers for you. Still, you delayed. The result? Avon voters were denied their opportunity to vote,” said Paul Jenick, one of the members of the recall committee. “Shame on all of you for putting us through the ringer to get to this point. The recall is a win for Colorado voters, all Colorado voters.”
Tom Ruemmler, one of the Recall Committee members who spoke at the meeting, took time to address “false information out there.”
“You’ve been violating our voter rights, over and over again. And that’s what this petition is about; it has nothing to do with gender or getting in the back door,” Ruemmler said, referring to statements previously made by council members and former council members that the recall was an effort to remove the female members of council and a way for candidates who were previously not voted in to get elected.
“I’m not going to re-run; I don’t want to be associated with people that have this type of ethics and morals. The other people that I know that ran before, they don’t want to be associated with them either,” Ruemmler said.
Ruemmler said that the recall was “based on abuse of power and that abuse of power continued on throughout the recall process,” making claims of misdemeanors made by members of council and the town.
Todd Roehr, a member of the recall committee, called the town of Avon a “corrupt governmental body.”
Money spent, money gone
Additionally, several members of the recall committee claimed that the town sued the recall committee.
“This thing has been delayed eight months because you violated the law and delayed the petition by suing the individual petition members, scaring the hell out of them. What type of thing are we operating here?” Ruemmler said.
“I was served with legal court papers, suing me for $100,000,” Jenick said, stating that he received the papers on Dec. 2, 2020.
Recall committee member Tamera Sturgill said that her legal fees were ten-times the amount quoted in the Vail Daily, referring to an estimate made by Wisor that the town has incurred $6,300 in litigation fees.
“I’m outraged that I’m paying for this process twice. Once through my taxes that pay for legal council for this town and then again for my own legal fees,” Sturgill said.
Roehr stated that the “true cost of delaying elections for over a year are at least $150,000, and counting.”
According to an email from Wisor, the only legal action pursued by the town was “the lawsuit seeking Declaratory Judgment to determine the correct method for determining the signatures required to trigger a recall election.”
Wisor is referring to the complaint filed by the town on Dec. 1, 2020, which lists the five members of the Avon Recall Committee as the defendants. However, according to Wisor, the town did not seek monetary damages in this matter, simply a legal answer.
The reason, Wisor wrote, that the members were individually served and listed as the defendants is because “the Avon Recall Committee was not, and is not, a registered entity with Colorado Secretary of State.”
“In order to avoid future arguments that the Town’s service of process was ineffective, the Town served all the members of the Avon Recall Committee,” Wisor added. “Once the proceedings began, the members of the Avon Recall Committee stipulated the Avon Recall Committee could be the named party in the Declaratory Judgment lawsuit, at which point the individual members of the Avon Recall Committee were dismissed from the action.”
Wisor wrote that the $100,000 referenced by the members of the Recall Committee on Tuesday night refers to a note on the complaint filing which reads, “This civil action is subject to Simplified Procedure under C.R.C.P. 16.1 because the damages sought by Plaintiff do not exceed $100,000.00.”
Wisor said that note simply refers to the “mechanism by which a legal action can be pursued in a quicker manner.”
Tensions mount among council
Both Underwood and Smith Hymes have been recused thus far from discussing any agenda items with regard to the recall at the Town Council meetings. However, at the end of Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, both were able to discuss the matter in the time dedicated to mayor and council comments.
Underwood, getting emotional, expressed her frustration at public comments made during the meeting, and that those public claims went unanswered from the other people in the room, gesturing to her fellow council members.
“I bust my butt up here every other week for everyone in the town,” Underwood said. “For none of you to say anything or stand by my side during this circus, it’s appalling.”
Underwood’s comments quickly devolved into a spat between herself and Council member Chico Thuon. Both Thuon and Underwood began yelling about council conduct — particularly with reference to standing up for one another against the public and what constitutes what Thuon referred to as “an attack.”
After emotions settled slightly, Smith Hymes spoke up, stating that it is very difficult to not be allowed to participate in the discussions around the recall.
“We’re forced to sit here and listen to the people who have subjected us to this,” Smith Hymes said, adding that it feels “extremely unfair they can come up and say whatever they want.”
Smith Hymes took it further adding that she and Underwood would “love to get some support, in public, from our fellow council members,” particularly because, “we have all supported the real estate transfer tax, so to single us out is wrong and it could very well be any of us that they could choose to put through this.”
Mayor Pro Tem Amy Phillips did speak up at the end of the council comments, stating that “the number of things that have been misconstrued or lied about are phenomenal or astronomical,” and that the recall election was “ridiculous and unjustified.”
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.