Recall organizers should just give it up

“A good man always know his limitations,” Clint Eastwood said in his role as Dirty Harry in the classic cop movie, “Magnum Force.”

That can be good advice in all sorts of situations: walking away from a fight, folding with a bad hand in a poker game or, as Homer has gone through in the February controversy without end, ending the Homer recall kerfuffle. With a hearing officer on Dec. 1 spiking an ethics complaint against three former or current Homer City Council members, the people who led the recall and organized as Heartbeat of Homer should admit defeat, lay off their lawyers and call it quits. They should have done that last June, when the recall failed spectacularly in a near landslide of no votes.

Actually, the group should have admitted victory when they had it. When several Homer City Council members fumbled a well-intentioned resolution that wound up alienating many people in town, citizens rose up and spoke against Resolution 17-019, what some called an inclusivity resolution and others a sanctuary city action. The resolution died a quick death in a 5-1 defeat.

But a group of citizens couldn’t let it go. Aroused like a sleeping giant, they rose up and organized a recall against the three council members, Donna Aderhold, David Lewis and Catriona Reynolds, who sponsored the resolution. Never mind that two of them, Lewis and Reynolds, had terms ending in October, or that Lewis had announced he had no intention to run for re-election. Heartbeat of Homer formed, opened an office, printed signs and bumper stickers, and got their signatures.

The city clerk threw out one charge in the petition, and when the council members challenged the recall on free speech grounds, a judge gave the voters the benefit of the doubt and allowed them to judge if the grounds had merit. The voters said “no,” and by the size of the vote, not just “no,” but “heck no, you have no case” — with a cherry on top.

Heartbeat of Homer didn’t accept defeat and went on to challenge the vote by saying Aderhold, Lewis and Reynolds should have declared a conflict of interest and not voted on a resolution certifying the election. No one had raised this objection before the vote, not in written or spoken testimony at the meeting to certify the election. As Aderhold pointed out, all three voted to put the recall question on the ballot and set a special election and no one challenged a conflict of interest then. It makes no sense to challenge certification, since the effect would have been the same if that didn’t happen: the council members kept their seat.

An adminstrative law judge, Andrew Lebo, dismissed an initial ethics complaint filed by Heartbeat of Homer after its spokesperson, Sarah Vance, violated confidentiality when she sent a copy of the complaint to KBBI. Larry Zuccaro, another recall organizer, filed a complaint word-for-word the same as Heartbeat of Homer’s. It’s hard to follow the money here and see who is behind the recall, but as they say, if it smells like peanuts, think elephants. It’s probably just a coincidence that Heartbeat of Homer’s Anchorage attorney, Stacey Stone, also is the Alaska Republican Party’s legal counsel.

Now Lebo has dismissed Zuccaro’s complaint. He didn’t just dismiss it — he called it “borders on frivilous,” and said Zuccaro used the ethics code for political purposes. If you’re keeping score, Heartbeat of Homer or its backers have lost one election and two ethics complaints. Vance, who recently ran for Homer City Council, also got soundly defeated in the October election. Conservative principles have a place in Homer politics, and candidates with conservative principles can get elected here. It’s safe to say that, though, that Homer is pretty much done with the recall movement.

But the recall supporters still can’t let the issue go. In the council members’ lawsuit, Heartbeat of Homer wants them to pay legal costs, even though the city made a deal with the council members that it wouldn’t pursue those fees if the plaintiffs didn’t appeal and let the election proceed.

A good man knows his limitations, as do good women. The people who backed the recall movement had good intentions, and certainly should have the freedom to advocate for their ideas, but as for the recall itself? Call it quits. You have lost. Clean your uniforms and walk off the field with honor. You have worthier causes to fight.