(ran East, Beach, West)
Voters angered by the elimination of the town's police department without a referendum apparently have failed in an effort to force the recall from office of Mayor Harold Radcliffe and Commissioner Sandy Oestreich.
Deborah Clark, deputy administrator for the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office, verified Friday that there were not enough valid signatures on the recall petitions turned in to the North Redington Beach town clerk Wednesday.
Those petitions were forwarded to the county elections office Thursday, along with "demand" letters from voters who wanted their names removed from the petitions.
Originally, the petitions contained 189 signatures calling for Radcliffe's recall and 165 signatures for Oestreich's recall.
Twenty voters asked to be removed from the petition against Oestreich and 18 asked to be taken off the Radcliffe recall petition. Their letters were written by the public officials with the advice of their attorney and circulated by their supporters.
Clark's staff eliminated these names and also found a number of "invalid" signatures _ people who were residents but not registered voters in North Redington Beach, or people who vote and live elsewhere.
To be successful, the petition had to contain 166 valid signatures, according to the latest list of registered voters. Clark found there were only 161 valid signatures for Oestreich's recall and 151 valid recall signatures for Radcliffe.
As a result, there apparently will be no recall election and Radcliffe and Oestreich will be able to serve out the remainder of their terms.
The only way the recall effort could now be re-energized is if state law allows the organizers to continue to file signed petitions through the legal deadline, Aug. 15.
Rex Phelps, who has spearheaded the recall effort, said Thursday he has additional signatures and plans to submit them to the town clerk before Aug. 15. He maintains that the state election law does not prevent him from amending the recall petition.
Clark said if she receives additional petitions from the North Redington Beach town clerk, she will validate them, as she did this week. She said her office has no authority to rule whether additional petitions must be forwarded by the clerk.
However, town Clerk Helena Reid said she has been instructed by town attorney Ed Peck to "accept" any new petitions but to hold on to them until he can research their legality. The Florida Division of Elections apparently will be asked to rule on the matter.
"I'm just thrilled this is all over," said Oestreich Friday. "I realize that this is the other side of representative democracy, but when I saw the number of people on the petition, I thought, "I'm dead.' "
She also reacted angrily to a comment made by Phelps earlier this week accusing her of harassing residents who signed a previous recall petition.
"I made absolutely no phone calls and only three personal contacts with any signer of the petitions since the beginning of the recall effort," said Oestreich.
She said the process has been a "learning experience" during which she has discovered a "litany" of past official and unofficial actions that have angered voters. "Everybody has a pet peeve. I've learned my lesson," said Oestreich, who now thinks a referendum on the police issue should have occurred.