LAWRENCE – The effort to recall Mayor Daniel Rivera landed in Superior Court a second time this week, when the group seeking to remove him asked the court to restore all 3,079 signatures that the city's Board of Registrars invalidated from its petitions, which would be enough to put the recall back on track.
The group, the Committee for Transparency in Government, argued that after restoring the signatures and resuscitating the recall, the court should order the City Council to schedule a referendum in which voters would either reject the recall or endorse it and elect a new mayor.
The group argued election clerks who advised the registrars to remove the names were poorly trained in determining the criteria for certifying signatures on the petitions.
The suit alleges the clerks “relied solely upon information they received from Bridgette, who was answering the telephone call they placed to the Secretary of State” for guidance on whether to certify the signatures of voters who supplied addresses on the recall petitions that differed from addresses on their voter cards, presumably because they moved after registering to vote. Bridgette is not further identified.
The registrars invalidated 1,250 signatures signed by people who provided addresses different from those on their voter cards.
The recall group asked the court to restore another 200 signatures it said the registrars invalidated even though the addresses next to them on the recall petitions matched those on the voter cards, and asked the court to restore 147 signatures that were illegible.
After a hearing on the recall group's objections last month, the registrars voted 4-0 to uphold their earlier decision to strike the 3,079 names from the recall petitions.
That left the recall campaign 655 signatures short of the 5,645 needed to hold a referendum to recall a mayor.
Louis Farrah, a Lawrence funeral director who is the lawyer representing the recall group, asked the court for an expedited review of its suit because he said a lengthy trial might not produce a ruling by the end of the year, the deadline for scheduling a recall referendum. The Lawrence City Charter says mayors cannot be recalled during the last year of their terms, which for Rivera begins Jan. 1, 2017.
The recall group is led by Rafael Gomez, a local businessman. He did not return phone calls Friday.
Rivera referred questions on the suit to his lawyer, Sal Tabit.
Tabit said although the suit is against the registrars and City Clerk William Maloney and does not name Rivera as a defendant, he said Rivera would ask the court's permission to argue that the objections it raises are not sufficient to overturn the registrars' rulings invalidating the signatures.
“We're confident that this will ultimately be either thrown out or decided in the mayor's favor, as every other action has been,” Tabit said.
In an earlier ruling on another suit filed by Rivera last year, the Superior Court ordered the registrars to hear his challenges to signatures on the voter affidavits that are required to obtain petitions seeking to recall mayors. The registrars eventually rejected Rivera's challenges and issued the recall petitions to the Foundation for Transparency in Government.
Nick Petrakis, the chairman of the Board of Registrars, could not be reached Friday.