Vote on recall of mayor moves forward
January 6th 12:36 am | Carey Restino
An attempt to recall the mayor of Unalaska will move forward after petitioners successfully collected the signatures needed to certify their petition last week.
Mayor Frank Kelty is accused by petitioners of attempting to sole-source a land-use agreement for the Unalaska Marine Center, which Unalaska City Clerk Marjie Veeder deemed constituted grounds for a recall vote.
An initial attempt to have the petition certified failed Dec. 21 when Veeder ruled that the petition did not have the required 168 valid signatures from Unalaska voters. But the petitioners returned last week with 17 additional signatures, which the city clerk validated.
This means the recall election will move forward, with a vote being held sometime between Feb. 23 and March 26 as required by Alaska election policy.
Alaska laws on recall elections offer lenient rules regarding when a recall election is warranted, and do not require the petitioners to prove that their claims are valid. The city clerk or other official charged with validating the petition is directed by the state to approve petitions under the assumption that if the claim were true, it would be a violation of city policy.
The initial petition included four claims of violation of policy against Kelty, but Veeder rejected three of the claims as either not specific enough or as not actually violating code.
Kelty said Tuesday that it was disappointing to have to face a recall election over a claim he said is totally false. He said he doesn't have the power to negotiate contracts, that power rests in the city manager and city council's lap and requires a resolution from the council as well as other procedural steps.
The meeting in question, in the petition between Kelty and a representative from Matson Shipping, was held to discuss the company's wish to have the Unalaska city manager begin negotiations, he said. The city council then asked the city manager to discuss a Preferential Use Agreement with Matson, he said. The company also made a presentation to the city council last March, he said, to present their case. Negotiations of that agreement occurred in July, when the mayor was out of town, he noted.
However, the elected officials and city workers in Unalaska have faced some tumultuous times of late, with the hasty exodus of its former city manager following a controversial council member approval poll allegedly circulated by an off-duty police officer.
Kelty said he knows there are folks who are not happy with how things went, and he said those people are using the recall election to try to get him out of office two years before his term is up. He plans to start an education campaign now to explain that just because the recall election was approved doesn't mean the claim was proven to be true.
Kelty was first elected as mayor of the city in 1990 and served four consecutive terms. In all, he has served the city for some 40 years, in one capacity or another, as either an elected official or a city worker.
"It really hurts that it has to come to this," he said.