State rules apply for removing county officials
Recent handling of the sheriff’s resignation by the Ward County Commission has led to some public disgruntlement with their elected officials. The word “recall” has even been brought up. But just what would it take to recall a county commissioner?
According to state law, citizens thinking about recall would need to obtain 6,927 signatures from eligible Ward County voters on petitions, based on 25 percent of the November 2016 general election turnout listed with the North Dakota Secretary of State.
There are a few other factors that also would have to be considered.
Circulators have a year from the time the Secretary of State approves the petition until they must collect the necessary signatures and file with the county auditor’s office. However, if citizens want to petition to recall Commissioner Chairman Larry Louser or Commissioner John Fjeldahl, they would need to act quickly. The law states a commissioner whose position is within a year of appearing on a regularly scheduled ballot cannot be recalled. Louser’s and Fjeldahl’s seats will be up in the November 2018 election, making them immune from recall after November 2017.
Commissioners Alan Walter and Shelly Weppler were re-elected and Jim Rostad elected to four-year terms in November 2016.
A recall petition does not have to state a reason. It must include a listing of the names and addresses of no fewer than five qualified voters in the county who would serve as the sponsoring committee. Sponsoring committee members must complete and sign affidavits attesting to their qualifications as a voter. Petition circulators also must be qualified voters of the county.
For each commissioner, a separate recall petition would be needed.
Once a sponsoring committee files a petition, the county auditor has 30 days to review the signatures. If found valid, the auditor would call a special election. The commissioner being recalled would automatically be placed on the ballot unless he or she resigns within 10 days of the auditor’s certification of the petitions. Other candidates would need to file using the normal filing process by the 64th day before the scheduled recall election.
Members of the public have been stirred up since the Ward County Commission on April 13 agreed to pay $75,000 to Sheriff Steve Kukowski in a settlement that included his resignation and agreement not to sue the county. Kukowski had faced a removal proceeding initiated by a former governor. The proceeding was canceled with his resignation. Upon the county’s acceptance of Kukowski’s resignation, a special prosecutor asked the court to dismiss misdemeanor charges against the sheriff that related to problems at the jail.