As the local heat grew around the Town Council’s vote on whether to change the Tiverton Comprehensive Community Plan to accommodate the proposed Tiverton Glen multi-use development, promises of recall elections flared in town and online. Word of the first recall petition actually pulled does not target council members Jay Lambert or David Perry, who were the only two to vote in favor of the change.
Instead the target is Council Member Joseph Sousa. Writing on the Don’t Mall Tiverton Facebook page, petitioner Timothy Connick wrote on July 21 that the “tipping point” was a “disrespectful sarcastic unprofessional response” that Sousa sent to an email that Connick’s daughter had sent him.
According to Section 1209 of the Tiverton Home Rule Charter, which lays out the procedure for the recall of elected officials of the town, there is no time limit for gathering signatures. To trigger a special election at which electors can vote to recall Sousa, Connick will need signatures equaling 25% of the vote that the council member received in the last election, or 497 signatures of certified electors (i.e., residents who are registered to vote).
Once Connick turns in the petition, the Board of Canvassers will have seven days to review the signatures and notify Sousa of the election. A special election must then be held between 50 and 75 days later.
For Sousa to be removed from office, the total number of people voting in the special election must be 40% of his previous vote total, or 794, and a majority of them must vote to recall. If that happens, Section 403 of the Charter requires that the vacancy be filled by the person who received the next-highest amount of votes in the previous election. In this case, that would be Randy Lebeau.
Reached by phone this evening, Lebeau told Tiverton Fact Check that he is “absolutely” prepared to step into any vacancy on the council.