Effort to recall Morro Bay mayor fails to gain enough signatures for ballot

nwilson@thetribunenews.comJanuary 16, 2014 

Jamie Irons

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — The Tribune Buy Photo

Morro Bay Mayor Jamie Irons will not face a recall this year because the group that sought his ouster came up short of obtaining the required 1,754 signatures among registered voters.

A group that opposed Irons, called Morro Bay Forward, collected about 1,600 signatures, according to an estimate by Bill Peirce, who acted as secretary.

The deadline to file the petition with Morro Bay’s city clerk was Thursday at 5 p.m.

The petition required collecting signatures totaling about 25 percent of the city’s 7,015 registered voters to trigger placement on the ballot, likely for the June election if it had been successful.

“We were faced with darkness coming on earlier in the day and the Christmas holiday period when a lot of people were out of town,” Peirce said. “We had good reception from the houses we were able to get to.”

Irons responded Thursday by saying he is thankful to those who supported him through the recall process and hopes to move on to focus on city business.

“I’ve worked hard to not let this distract me,” Irons said. “I’ve been focusing on the daily business of the city, and we need to let this pass and start looking at the opportunities for Morro Bay ahead of us.”

In a news release, Peirce said the recall group received feedback from more than 3,500 people and that “we are confident that if we had attempted the recall in the spring, we would have been successful.”

The group of opponents made several complaints against Irons, including his push to remove former City Manager Andrea Lueker and former City Attorney Rob Schultz, as well as his support for the relocation of the sewer plant, which they say will cost the city millions of dollars.

Irons has defended his actions, noting that two other council members, Noah Smukler and Christine Johnson, agreed to move forward with employment discussions about Lueker and Schultz that ultimately led to their resignations.

“I publicly asked my fellow council members to consider whether or not we had the right people in the key positions of city manager and city attorney,” Irons wrote in a recent commentary published in The Tribune. “After careful deliberation over three months, this question was answered when the council negotiated separation agreements with both employees.”

Irons’ formal response on the sewer plant, filed with the city clerk Sept. 30, stated that the state Coastal Commission would not have approved its location near the ocean and disputed that a project elsewhere could cost the city an extra $40 million.

“Everything I have done has been done thoughtfully and with respect for the employees involved and the long-term best interest of the community,” Irons said.

Peirce estimated that about 150 people were part of Morro Bay Forward’s email list and up to 60 at a time collected signatures.

The statement claimed that Morro Bay residents were “universally upset that the mayor never gave any reasons why he fired the two employees that most residents perceived as running our city well.”

Irons hasn’t publicly given a reason for wanting Schultz and Lueker gone, but as part of the separation agreements between the city and the former employees, the parties aren’t allowed to disparage or make negative comments about each other.

Irons’ term is up in June, and he plans to run again for mayor, he said Thursday.

Peirce said he didn’t know whether the group would actively campaign against Irons but that the committee that supported his recall is “still there.”

Irons said he disputes the accuracy of some of the claims made against him in the recall attempt, including that he edited staff reports after presentation to the council. He did acknowledge, however, that he’d questioned the accuracy and content of some staff reports.

“A challenge ahead of me is to make sure all the information is out there and that people have the facts,” Irons said. “Facts are what I want to focus on.”

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