By Mark E. Vogler
LAWRENCE — The group which initiated the unsuccessful petition to recall Mayor William Lantigua announced yesterday it was withdrawing the document while organizers "reserve the right to re-petition a recall as soon as possible."
"Since there has been no recall election, a new recall petition can be commenced immediately," leaders of It's Your Right said in a one-page letter filed with the city Election Division.
"We have concluded that the City Clerk has not followed the Lawrence City Charter provisions under Section 9.7(b) by not dating and signing the recall petition at the time it was made available to the organizers," group leaders Wayne Hayes and Rev. Edwin Rodriguez noted in the letter they submitted late yesterday afternoon.
"We are requesting that this withdrawal be made a part of the permanent record for the City of Lawrence so that future generations will better understand the process of free election, the letter said.
The "Notice Of Withdrawal Of Recall Petition Dated August 8, 2011" was filed at 4:38 p.m., just 22 minutes before closing of City Hall official business and the deadline for filing objections to last week's determination by the Board of Registrars that the campaign to remove Lantigua had failed by 866 signatures.
The letter, printed on DiFruscia Law Offices stationery, was prepared with assistance from attorneys Anthony R. DiFruscia, Robert O'Koniewski and Jack Wilson, Jr., the legal team working pro bono on behalf of It's Your Right. The letter was addressed to City Clerk William Maloney and the Board of Registrars.
Recall group leaders also noted their objection to many of the 5,483 signatures on the recall petition being listed on a website supporting the mayor, "which was has certainly been done for the purpose of intimidation and interfering with the Lawrence citizens' constitutional rights of free election."
"We intend to bring this matter to the proper authorities," it said.
In a brief interview outside of City Hall yesterday, Mayor Lantigua questioned the group's motives and suggested its leaders were resorting to unfair and possibly improper tactics to reenergize the failed recall effort.
"Even though the reasons that were used were unfounded, they embarked on a democratic process called 'recall' and they went through the process clean, but they failed," Lantigua said.
"And now they're asking for everything to be erased so they can do it again? I think the City Charter is not a document to be played with," he said.
The mayor was entitled to file his own objections to any of the signatures submitted to the Board of Registrars or the procedures used in signatures-gathering process. But he would not say whether he had filed any written challenges.
The city's bilingual election coordinator Rafael Tejeda said the letter submitted by It's Your Right would be reviewed by the Board of Registrars. It was not clear when the board's next meeting will be held.
City Attorney Charles Boddy called the withdrawal notice from the recall group "a bizarre tactic."
"It's ironic and an unexpected turnabout where they're challenging the process by which they collected the signatures," Boddy said in a telephone interview last night.
"That's something you would expect the mayor to bring about. It's tantamount to an admission on their part that their process was flawed. It's a very strange maneuver and I don't understand what advantage they're getting from this," he said.
The Board of Registrars would have to schedule a meeting to consider the request and any objections if the mayor filed any. Some of the people who signed the petition might also object to the withdrawal and would have the right to be heard, according to Boddy.
About 15 members of the recall group, led by Rev. Rodriguez, showed up at City Hall last night, expecting the Board of Registrars to consider their letter. But no meeting was posted or held inside City Council Chambers.
Rev. Rodriguez conducted a strategy session instead, in Campagnone Common, across the street from City Hall.
"There were more than 400 good ones (signatures) that they (the Election Division) rejected," Rodriguez said.
"Most people don't know their zip codes, and they were rejected for that and other reasons," he said.
But because the lack of the city clerk's signature made the petition invalid, Rodriguez said there was no point in raising objections.
Justin Crow complained about his name appearing on the Lantigua web site and said he planned to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission.
"He's violating federal election law by using those names on a campaign site to intimidate us," Crow said.
"I have to be worried about a bullet going through the window of my house now. He's counting on the fears of the people But I'm not afraid," he said.
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