A grassroots group Friday filed petitions seeking to recall the mayor and four Norman city councilors.
Unite Norman said it is seeking to recall City Council members Kate Bierman, Alison Petrone, Sereta Wilson, Stephen Holman and Mayor Breea Clark because those elected officials voted to take $865,000 out of the Norman Police Department’s budget and allocate it instead for community programs and for a city auditor team. The decision eliminated nine unfilled police officer positions. Recalls cannot be filed for wards which have taken office in less than six months.
Petitioners have until Aug. 14 to return signatures from 25% of the registered voters for each public official. City Clerk Brenda Hall said the last time she reviewed the numbers, it would require 18,124 signatures for the mayor. She did not immediately have the number for each ward.
If petitioners are successful, an election would be scheduled in January — one month before those same officials would face a regularly slated election.
Four members of Unite Norman — construction company owner Chris Dragg, local real estate developer Sassan Moghadam, Unite Norman Co-Chair Russell Smith and retired NPD officer Jim Spearman — filed the petition with the city clerk.
Unite Norman’s website says members also are concerned that the city leaders have disrespected the police department, discouraged job creation and generally abused public trust.
Unite Norman has formed under an existing 501c4, which belongs to Norman resident and political consultant Pat McFerron. He said he wanted to help because of the council’s recent actions.
“It’s pretty amazing when you see national news stations talking about defunding the police movement and they highlight 10 cities, and it’s Baltimore, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit and Norman?” he said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
McFerron said in his 30-year career working with the Oklahoma City MAPS project and dozens of political campaigns, he’s never seen anything like the movement underway to recall these officials.
“I’ve been involved in every facet of campaigning in Oklahoma City — and all those (causes) have had great supporters and advocates — but nothing like this,” he said. “Seeing 600 people in 95 degree (temperatures) outside and asking how they can get involved and get back control of what they think is a rogue city council, there’s an incredible passion for this city among its residents who are concerned about the path it’s going down.”
People have already begun to visit signing stations, which include Liberty Coin and Gold, 3340 W. Main Street, the Mane Man Hair Salon III, 129 24th Avenue NW, and Castleberry and Associates, 540 Merchant Drive.
UNITE NORMAN’S STRUCTURE
The seven-member United Norman citizen committee, which Smith said is still growing, has declined to disclose any additional identities. A GoFundMe account indicates the group already had raised more than $31,000 Friday afternoon.
McFerron said the group does not have to disclose its members nor reveal an income and expenditure report. Donations are not tax deductible.
McFerron said the group faces a “very, very high burden” in collecting the required number of signatures to push the Norman leaders from office.
In Ward 1, Bierman said she trusted her record and her voters “to discern for themselves whether or not to sign the petition.”
In Ward 3, Petrone said she understood some residents are upset with the city’s mandatory mask policy, but she did not take the decision lightly.
“Voting against passing the ordinance meant possible increased suffering and continued job losses should the spread of the virus overwhelm our healthcare system, requiring another shutdown,” Petrone said.
In Ward 5, Wilson said she was disappointed to see “a few hijacking the narrative and taking advantage of a pandemic, which is an inherently fearful time for everyone," she said. "My hope is the hard work I’ve done for our city and Ward 5 speaks for itself.”
Holman and Clark did not immediately respond to a request for comment.