Avon voters reject recalls of Sarah Smith Hymes and Tamra Underwood | VailDaily.com

Avon voters reject recalls of Sarah Smith Hymes and Tamra Underwood

Voters got the final say in a recall process that has lasted well over a year

Avon voters rejected recalls of the town’s mayor and a council member in unofficial results released Tuesday night.
Ali Longwell/Vail Daily archive

Avon residents let their votes speak loudly Tuesday night, rejecting recalls of Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes and Avon Town Council member Tamra Underwood.

As of 9 p.m. Tuesday, 73% voted against recalling both Smith Hymes and Underwood.

In its justification for the recall, the Avon Recall Committee cited that both council members have acted “contrary to Avon residents’ desires.” Specifically, the committee referenced the council members’ role in the Hahnewald Barn controversy and their failure to eliminate Avon’s 2% real estate transfer tax. The statement provided on the ballot called this a “huge additional tax” that could cause real estate sales to fall through.

In their responses on the ballot, both candidates highlighted their service on council and in the town. Both Smith Hymes and Underwood were elected to Town Council in November 2018 and have one year left in their terms. This is Smith Hymes’ second term on council.

Of the grounds for recall, Smith Hymes called them “baseless” and wrote that “policy differences shouldn’t be grounds for recall.”

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Underwood wrote that “the work I’ve carried out alongside my fellow council members is far greater and more substantive than the issues I’m being attacked for.”

Following the initial results on Tuesday night, Underwood and Smith Hymes both expressed their gratitude to the Avon voters for rejecting the recall.

“I would say that over the last 15 months, I’ve felt every kind of emotion, and tonight, it’s probably mostly gratitude that Avon voters saw through a mean-spirited and baseless tactic to air their grievances,” Underwood said. “I’m really grateful that the Avon voters agreed that recall mania has no place in our community.”

“I’m sure that many of the people that voted against the recall don’t agree with everything that I do — I know that and I hear it all the time — but they know that the general election process needs to be respected and the results speak to that as well,” Smith Hymes said. “It’s reassuring that the community recognizes that.”

Smith Hymes said that her time serving on the council has been a “tremendous experience.” And, she added that in rejecting the recall, she hopes it sends a message to future candidates that “your community will support you if you are elected in a general election and that we are not going to tolerate frivolous, baseless recalls.”

From petition to election, the effort to recall Underwood and Smith Hymes had quite the journey — and one that, in the end, will have cost the town over $90,000. The recall effort began well over a year ago, and after making its way through the district court, voters had the final say on Tuesday.

Timeline of events

A crowd gathered at the Avon Town Council to discuss the recall July 13 in Avon.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily archive

The Avon Recall Committee was formed in July 2020 by a group of Avon citizens to recall council members Amy Phillips and Underwood and Mayor Smith Hymes. Three recall petitions were submitted in August, and the first signatures were submitted to the town clerk on Oct. 12, 2020. Phillips, however, was up for re-election in November 2020 and thus, per state statute and Avon’s Home Rule Charter, could not be subject to a recall election at that time.

Over a week later, on Oct. 22, 2020, the town of Avon Municipal Clerk Brenda Torres ruled that the committee did not submit enough signatures to trigger the election. The committee submitted additional signatures on Nov. 2, 2020, which the town clerk again deemed were insufficient — thus beginning the dispute that would make its way to the district court.

The crux of the disagreement between the Avon Recall Committee and the town was over the interpretation of the number of signatures required to initiate a recall election, as outlined in the Colorado Constitution and Colorado Revised Statutes.

The Avon Recall Committee submitted 452 valid voter signatures to recall Underwood and 462 valid voter signatures to recall Hymes on Nov. 2. It was the town’s view that these were less than the 496 voter signatures required to trigger a recall election. The committee held that only 330 signatures were required to trigger the recall election.

Ultimately, the town filed a complaint with the Eagle County District Court on Dec. 1, 2020, requesting a judgment on the number of signatures required. In this complaint, the town also held that the committee’s interpretation violated voters’ First and 14th amendment rights in failing to count undervotes — or votes not cast.

However, on June 23, District Court Judge Russell Granger sided with the Avon Recall Committee and held that the town had to hold a recall election for both council members. Immediately following the judge’s decision, the Town Council voted to appeal the judge’s decision under the legal advice of the then-town attorney Paul Wisor. However, council member Chico Thuon had a change of heart that swayed the council’s vote and led to a withdrawal of the appeal a week later.

Now, with Smith Hymes and Underwood likely to remain in office, they can turn their attention to the future, and past the recall.

“I am really looking forward to having all of the hours — you can’t imagine the hundreds and hundreds of hours that have been spent on this,” Smith Hymes said. “I’m really happy to not have to allocate time to the recall, and I can focus that time on the town and my other responsibilities in life — I teach and I have small businesses and I have an elderly mother and all these other responsibilities that have been deprived of the time they deserve because of the focus we have had to give to this recall.”

For Underwood, the events of the recall may take some time to recover from.

To be honest, I’m going to have a hangover on this for quite a while,“ she said. ”I concede that it hurts and it’s going to take a while.“

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