Recall effort falls short in Avon after clerk declares group failed to obtain enough valid signatures

Avon residents have until Nov. 3 to protest the findings.

File photo: Avon town clerk Brenda Torres, right, counts survey ballots in April 2019. A survey designed to replicate a special election turned out 995 voters.
Chris Dillman | Vail Daily

Town of Avon Municipal Clerk Brenda Torres published three certificates of insufficiency this week declaring that the signatures filed by the Avon Recall Committee Oct. 12 did not include enough registered voters to hold a recall election.

Avon residents have until Nov. 3 to protest the findings.

In August, Torres approved petitions to recall councilmembers Amy Phillips, Sarah Smith Hymes and Tamra Underwood. It was later determined that Phillips would be ineligible for a recall since she was up for re-election on Nov. 3.

In seeking signatures to recall Underwood and Hymes, the Avon Recall Committee needed to obtain 496 signatures, which is 25 percent of the number of voters who turned out to elect them. The town clerk said the committee came 71 signatures short of being able to recall Underwood and 51 signatures short of being able to recall Hymes.

Searching for a cure

In protesting Torres’ decision, the recall committee will need to show that names which were unable to be located within the voter rolls are indeed there, or names which were deemed illegible are, in fact, Avon voters.

Support Local Journalism

Michael Cacioppo, who worked with the committee to gather signatures, says the group intends to “cure” the insufficiencies in the signatures. Cacioppo said he didn’t want to use the word protest.

“We have an opportunity to find those people, and have them re-sign (the petition) correctly,” Cacioppo said.

If the committee is able to do just that, it still could be 2021 before an election takes place.

“If they submit on Nov. 3, the town has four days to make a determination of sufficiency,” said town attorney Paul Wisor. “After we make that determination, there is a five-day protest period, at which time, it’s possible a protest would be filed, at which point we would go to a hearing officer, and that would take 30 days for that hearing officer to make a determination of sufficiency. If that hearing officer determined the petition was sufficient, then we would deliver to council, at their next regular meeting, that determination of sufficiency. Then the council would set an election, and that has to be between 30 and 90 days of that date.”

Already pondering next effort

While councilmember Amy Phillips is not subject to a recall because she is up for re-election, the certificate of insufficiency for Phillips was still filed as a formality, Wisor said.

To recall Phillips, it would have required 107 more signatures than Underwood and Hymes, as Phillips was elected during the much higher turnout year of 2016. Underwood and Hymes were elected in 2018.

Cacioppo says his group was given a wrong figure when they asked the town how many signatures would be needed to reach the requisite 25 percent voter total from 2018.

“Upon turning in approximately 620 signatures, a week later, they informed us that we didn’t need 479 signatures, that we needed 496 signatures,” Cacioppo said. “Now we’re not too happy about that.”

Cacioppo said in addition to attempting to cure their current petition through the protest process, his group is researching how much time would have to elapse before initiating another recall effort on Phillips, should she get re-elected in November.

“We can always initiate another recall effort,” Cacioppo said. “The question is could it be done three months after — if she were elected November the third — or could it be done six months after?”

Support Local Journalism