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Council recall vote arranged

After all the controversy and political bickering, it soon will be up to city residents to decide whether their government is headed in the right direction.

A judge has set Dec. 6 as the day for voters to choose whether to retain Joe Bernardini, Mary Ann Lazowski and Mayor John Tucker as members of the City Council.

That is the same day residents will choose a replacement for outgoing member Luther Cason, who has chosen to run for the Hernando County Commission.

That means the City Council could, in theory, have four new faces after the vote, an unusually high turnover for one election.

Arrangements for the special recall vote were finalized Wednesday in an order by Circuit Judge William T. Swigert.

Candidates aiming to replace the council members who are recall targets must file papers at City Hall before 5 p.m. Nov. 16, said City Clerk Karen Phillips.

The situation is complicated, especially in Tucker's case.

Residents will vote whether to recall him and replace him for the remaining days of his term. Then, they will also vote whether to elect him to another four-year term.

The ballot, too, could be confusing.

Residents will vote separately on each of the three recall targets. Then, even if they have voted against recalling those members, they apparently will be allowed to make picks for who ought to succeed those members if the recall votes are successful.

Phillips said the city will make the ballot as simple and understandable as possible.

Absentee voting also might be affected by the complicated political situation, she said.

Because of the unusually short period between the November filing deadline and the December election, Phillips said she will ask council members to extend the deadline for absentee ballots 10 days beyond the election.

That decision would be made at the next regular council meeting.

The recall movement was triggered in part by opposition to City Manager Jim Malcolm, who has since resigned. It has been bolstered by the continuing controversy over whether former police Chief Ed Tincher ought to get his job back.

Malcolm fired Tincher in May. Tincher has filed an appeal with the city.

Recall supporters remain unhappy that Malcolm was ever hired. They also say city residents were misled about the real reasons for the Tincher firing.