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Thomas recall try grinds "to a halt,' one organizer says

(ran S edition)

Nearly two months after it started, a campaign to force a recall election for City Commissioner Fred Thomas has, in the words of one organizer, pretty much ground "to a halt."

When last contacted by the Times, campaign leader Lindsay Colton said a petition drive that would officially launch the effort was to begin in two weeks.

Four weeks have passed since then.

The recall campaign's offices at 911 Court St. were bare Friday except for a phone resting on the carpeted floor..

A financial statement filed by the group lists $674 in contributions, none of it spent. The statement said $600 of the total came from Colton's husband, Greg.

Since announcing its campaign Aug. 31 on the steps of City Hall, the Committee to Recall Fred Thomas has not held a meeting, according to committee member Buddy Rogero.

Rogero declined to comment further, referring questions to Ron Stuart, the committee's treasurer and a public relations professional who helped launch the effort.

Stuart last week declined to comment about the recall campaign. And Colton, who is chairwoman of the committee, did not return phone messages.

The only person willing to comment was Helen Wheelis, a committee member whose role is to recruit volunteers. She said she has been out of town for a month and has "no idea" about the campaign's status.

But she added that a lawsuit filed by Thomas shortly before she left town had a "chilling effect" on the all-volunteer campaign. The lawsuit contends that Stuart violated several provisions of Florida's recall election laws when he paid for newspaper ads critical of Thomas.

The commissioner also has pledged to take further legal action as soon as the group files recall petitions against him.