Judge says voters should decide recall

MINDEN - District Judge David Gamble ruled Wednesday that the voters of Indian Hills - not the court - should decide whether two trustees should be recalled.

After a 2-1/2-hour hearing, Gamble refused to issue a temporary restraining order to halt a July 18 election to recall Indian Hills General Improvement Trustees Joanne Riekenberg and Renee Haskell or to rule the petitions invalid.

Riekenberg and Haskell claimed they were improperly notified of the recall action by Clerk-Treasurer Barbara Reed and had no time to defend themselves against the allegations in the petition which they claim are fraudulent.

Reed testified that she missed the "two-day rule" which requires subjects of recall be notified two days after a notice of intent is filed. But she said she mailed out the notices to Haskell and Riekenberg on April 28, four days later. They claim letters did not arrive until May 12. Reed said the letters were posted April 28 or May 1 and she doesn't know why they were delivered so late.

Under questioning by Gamble, Riekenberg and Haskell admitted they learned about the recall effort on April 25 when they were contacted by a newspaper reporter. But the two said they were waiting for official notification from Reed's office.

"Whether the allegations are true, accurate and valid are questions our system leaves up to the voters the charges bring into play stricter scrutiny about the notice requirements which I would call substantially later than should have gone out," Gamble said.

But the judge said if he invalidated the recall election, he would apply a remedy of "a hammer blow to correct a bent piece of paper. The remedy doesn't fit the wrong."

"You are asking for an opportunity to defend yourselves during the petition process when you had one day's actual notice to go get a copy of the petition and defend yourself against it. Apparently, you chose not to," Gamble said.

"Although there was not exact compliance, there was substantial compliance with no subsequent detriment to the subjects of the recall. The petitions are sufficiently in order to call for a special election for purposes set forth in the recall petition," Gamble said.

Earlier, Gamble refused to continue the proceedings because Reed was facing a 5 p.m. deadline Wednesday for a legal advertisement announcing the recall election to be placed in The Record-Courier. The ad had to be published in the June 24 issue to meet legal requirements.

Reed estimated it would cost taxpayers about $2,000 to postpone the recall election.

Riekenberg, Haskell and former GID trustee Dick Fairfax were the target of recall petitions filed by Betty Stellway, Richard Horn and Rhonda and Ken Pascoe.

Fairfax resigned after the recall petitions were submitted, leaving Riekenberg and Haskell to face the recall.


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