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Petition filed in Weatherford to oust 2 council members

Weatherford Mayor Pro Tem Clem Smith and Councilwoman Jan Barton are subjects of a recall petition filed Saturday.

Paige Grassman, who delivered the petition, said that only Smith and Barton are named on the petition because the rest of the council is immune to the action.

“I wanted the people to have a say about the job that our City Council is doing,” Grassman said. “There is no personal reason behind Barton and Smith. They weren’t singled out for anything other than they are the only two subject to recall.”

However, when Sid Johnson, owner of College Park Pack and Mail, filed documents in August requesting necessary forms for the petition drive, he cited Barton’s record of attendance at council and utility board meetings as indicating that she didn’t take her job seriously.

On Monday, Johnson said Barton was out of town on business during crucial meetings concerning the rising electric rates. He noted that Barton is a member of the city's utility board, but she missed meetings when she was out of town.

(Barton) was absent from her duties and responsibilities," Johnson said. "She decided her own personal business was more important."

He also said that Smith was targeted for recall, claiming the City Charter was not followed when he stepped down as mayor.

Smith, Johnson said, served as mayor when former Mayor Joe Tison left office in an unsuccessful bid to unseat State Rep. Phil King.

Johnson said that when the new mayor, Dennis Hooks, took office, Smith was supposed to resign completely from the council, but instead he went back to his old position as mayor pro tem.

"(Smith) violated the spirit, if not the rules, of the Charter," Johnson said.

Smith said Monday that he stood by his record and had no plans to step down.

Smith said he believes Johnson was behind the recall because of a “personal vendetta.” He accused Johnson and others involved in the effort of manipulating those that signed it.

“What they told the people who signed the recall is it will lower the light bill but getting rid of the two of us won’t change that,” Smith said.

Barton had earlier said she was flabbergasted.

“Of all things to say, that I don’t take my job seriously,” she said in the Aug. 13 issue of the Weatherford Telegram.

According to city records, Barton has missed 15 council meetings since Jan. 1, 2005. Smith has been absent six times, and Councilman Waymon Hamilton has missed seven meetings.

Barton missed four utility board meetings since being appointed in May of 2007. Hamilton has missed three.

Grassman said that she was motivated to become involved in the recall because a contract with an electric wholesaler caused Weatherford Electric rates to spike in July.

"Basically," she said, "my theory is that anyone who’s on the City Council who was part of the utility situation, whose involvement or lack of involvement (contributed to that incident) motivated me personally.

"We’re trying to make our local government aware that they need to be attendant to their positions, and if they’re not it’s possible that you can be removed from your seat. Basically the people I saw door-to-door were unhappy with what happened with the utilities and the way they were notified.”

Smith and Barton have until Thursday to submit their official responses to the petition.

City Secretary Laura Simonds is certifying the petition by checking that the signatures are of qualified voters, that the total of qualified signatures equals 35 percent of the number who voted in the last regular municipal election and that at least 10 percent of those signers voted in the May 2004 election, in which Barton and Smith were elected.

If the petition is certified and Barton and Smith do not resign, the city must petition Gov. Rick Perry to hold an emergency election within the time frame established in the City Charter. It must be conducted no fewer than 15 days and no more than 30 days from the time the petition was received. If the city takes no action on the petition, the Parker County Judge must fulfill the requirements of the City Charter.

If the Governor’s Office declines to allow an emergency election, the recall election will be placed on the next uniform Election Day, in May 2009.

Simonds said that an emergency election could cost taxpayers between $5,000 and $7,000.

“That’s an estimate based on what they’ve been running,” she said. “We had one last November that cost $5,714.”

Staff Writers Bill Miller and Aman Batheja contributed to this report. The Weatherford Telegram is a community newspaper owned by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.