Efforts to recall Ellisville City Council members who helped approve a Walmart Superstore last week could be stymied by the city’s election calendar, recall organizers said Tuesday.
The Ellisville Article 9 Alliance, a group dedicated to the ouster of city council members who helped approve a Walmart Superstore, met Tuesday for the second time to organize signature collection efforts meant to initiate a recall. Those efforts come following the council’s decision last week to approve a tax increment financing district for the Walmart project as well as a relocation policy for residents at Clarkchester Apartments, which occupies part of the space designated for the store.
Despite those approvals, group organizer and Clarkchester tenant Liz Schmidt said that although the project advanced, construction of the store still isn’t guaranteed.
“So the wheels have been set in the motion,” Schmidt said. “It’s not to say this plan won’t fall apart for one reason or another, but it’s going to be more difficult to stop it.”
Schmidt said problems could arise due to zoning variances or even discoveries about the land, such as concerns related to toxic pollutants, she said. Until that time, however, the group is pushing to collect residents’ signatures that could put the question of recalling select city council members before voters.
Exactly when that could happen has yet to be determined, Schmidt said, in part because of a possible discrepancy about when a recall election can be scheduled.
A member of the St. Louis County Board of Elections said Ellisville could host a special election at any time. Schmidt said she has been unable to determine from Ellisville city staff whether a recall would need to take place on an existing election date.
Because of mandates within the city charter that specify the timeframe an official can be recalled in, Schmidt said the group has a narrow window of opportunity; the city charter says an official cannot be recalled his or her first 120 days in office, nor can they be recalled within 180 days from that official’s next election.
Because of that clause, Schmidt said, immediate efforts will be centered around Council members Dawn Anglin and Troy Pieper, who are eligible for recall currently since they were not re-elected in April. Council members Roze Acup, Matt Pirrello and Linda Reel, meanwhile, will not be eligible for recall until August.
“The procedure, if you don’t do it well, can blow up in your face,” Schmidt said. “It’s fraught with land mines.”
In order to adhere to those requirements, Schmidt said she will push for a special election on Tuesday, October 2— a date which “fell right in the middle” of the permitted recall window, she said, unlike the elections scheduled for November.
Earlier this year, City Administrator Kevin Bookout estimated that the cost of adding a recall to existing city ballots would cost the city between $500 and $1,000. Those numbers would no doubt increase for a special election, which would include expenses for printing ballots, paying election judges, tabulating votes and more.
Schmidt acknowledged that adding the recall to existing ballots would be less expensive, but said that may not be feasible because of the charter’s calendar requirements and shouldn’t deter the group’s efforts.
“It saves them some money, but excuse me, this isn’t discount democracy,” Schmidt said.
In addition to collecting signatures required to put a recall before voters, Schmidt said she will seek clarification this week from the county election board’s legal counsel regarding the city’s autonomy in setting a special election.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article misstated the Ellisville City Council members immediately eligible for recall.