RACINE — A recall election aimed at ousting Alderman Jim Kaplan could be scheduled soon.
City Clerk Janice Johnson-Martin on Wednesday confirmed that signatures collected by a group of people looking to remove the alderman from his Fourth District seat had been certified by her office, with at least the minimum required 243 valid signatures.
Asked by The Journal Times how many signatures there were in total, Johnson-Martin refused to provide an answer.
“I am busy. I am not going to take time to do that. They have the 243 and that is all I am required to confirm,” she said.
Following state Government Accountability Board guidelines, the next step in the process will be for City Council to set a recall election date, something it could do as soon as its next meeting on Tuesday.
Under state law, the election date must be set for about six weeks after the date petitions are deemed sufficient.
The only way the council might not set an election date next week is if Kaplan challenges enough signatures to bring the number of unchallenged signatures below 243.
According to Kaplan he has until July 15 — 10 business days after the petitions were certified by the clerk — to go over the signatures, and that’s what he’ll be doing.
An initial challenge
Racine resident Oscar Bueno began circulating petitions in early May to recall Kaplan for what he called the alderman’s “abuse of power.” On June 11, he filed petitions in the City Clerk’s office containing an estimated 312 signatures.
During the weeks that followed, Johnson-Martin reviewed the petitions as part of her role as city clerk, eventually deeming that several signatures were not sufficient. The clerk could not provide an exact number Wednesday but it was enough to bring the number of signatures below the 243 threshold, GAB Spokesman Reid Magney said.
“Initially (she) contacted us about questions she had about some of the signatures. We provided some guidance to her. At some point (she) may have determined that there were not enough sufficient signatures at which point we heard from the recall committee,” Magney said.
Some of the issues raised about signatures and petition sheets were problems with incomplete dates and addresses, Magney said. There were also some questions about whether some of the signers lived in the district.
The GAB advised the group about its ability to rehabilitate signatures by providing — via signed affidavits — the missing information, he said. That is what Bueno and those who helped him circulate the petitions did.
Magney did not have information about when Johnson-Martin and the recall group contacted the GAB, how many signatures were initially deemed insufficient by the clerk or how many affidavits were filed.
After an initial interview Wednesday afternoon, an additional attempt to reach Johnson-Martin to obtain that information was unsuccessful, and Bueno said he wasn’t sure.
“I think it is a total waste of money,” Kaplan said of the recall effort Wednesday, adding that he has no idea why the group still wanted to recall him.
Among Bueno’s complaints against Kaplan is an allegation that the alderman abused his power when he opposed giving a liquor license to a tavern called the R & B Latin Club that wants to open at 1600 Douglas Ave.
“The license was approved by Public Safety and Licensing (Committee). It was approved by the City Council. When you get your way why would you waste Racine taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars with an unnecessary recall. And I am up for election next April,” Kaplan said. “It seems really selfish to me.”
Asked about the issue, Bueno said the recall is about more than the bar.
“We talked to people in the district ... they thought he was not doing his job right,” he said.