When a group of Courtenay residents sought to recall a city council member this year, they only needed five certified signatures for a special election.

They gathered 16.

"We're a very small town," said Tiffiney Dick, city auditor for Courtenay, which has about 40 residents, located north of Jamestown.

As a result of the successful petition, John Bailey, a member of the Courtenay City Council, and Shane Moran, who chairs the recall committee, are headed for a special election on Oct. 16, administered by Stutsman County, according to interim county auditor Nicole Meland.

Bailey, who is accused of incompetency and conduct unbecoming of his office, is one of 11 targets of nine separate recall committees across North Dakota this year, said state elections specialist Lee Ann Oliver.

This compares to seven recall efforts in 2016, six in 2015 and five in 2014.

"So they've been going up about one a year," Oliver said.

Local political wrangling

Also among this year's recalls is Julie Johnson, who is in her second term as a member of the Kindred City Council. Voters ousted her Tuesday in a three-way election, setting up Jason DuBord to take her seat at Kindred's Oct. 4 city council meeting, according to city auditor Tabitha Arnaud. The popularion of Kindred, located southwest of Fargo, is 750.

In unofficial results, Johnson gathered 65 votes to DuBord's 92 and fellow challenger Robert Clarke's seven. Kindred's canvasing board will meet Monday. Johnson said she will fulfill her term until DuBord is sworn in.

She said she feels relieved after the election.

"It kind of feels good," she said Wednesday. "Overall, I didn't win the election but I feel overall the city of Kindred won because things are out in the open now."

Recall petitioners had accused Johnson of aggressive and divisive behavior. The Kindred City Council attracted media attention when Johnson and Kindred's mayor and former auditor wrangled at a meeting earlier this year, resulting in resignations from the latter two, though only the auditor eventually left.

Johnson said she did contact a state official and an attorney regarding ballots being provided in a timely manner for the election. Before the election, she reportedly said she would challenge its results if she lost.

"I think maybe I'm going to relax a little bit now," she said. "It's been a really long year."

Action moves west

Across the state in Arnegard, a city of about 150 people just west of Watford City, Niel Nelson, a member of the city council, resigned in August following an effort to oust him.

"It's a touchy situation," Arnegard city auditor Juelie Bancroft said.

Nelson submitted his letter of resignation to the city council, which the board accepted in mid-August. Nelson was elected with 22 write-in votes in the 2016 primary. Previously, he had also served as mayor.

The recall committee pitted against him cited concerns for his health and conduct in its petition, which Bancroft said was never submitted before its Oct. 23 deadline.

In McKenzie County, the Badlands Recall Committee is attempting to recall county commissioners Gene Veeder and Douglas Nordby. The group needs 1,149 signatures of qualified voters for each of the petitions, according to Erica Johnsrud, the county's auditor and treasurer.

Time expired for the recall petition of Commissioner Vawnita Best, who will be on the ballot in 2018. The other two petitions can be circulated for a period of one year. Nordby and Veeder won election last year.

Recall committee chair Brooks Kummer said petition circulators had a slow start with harvest, as most of them are farmers, but he estimates they have about 70 percent of the necessary signatures.

"We hope to be done by Nov. 1," he said, which would put a special election in February at the earliest.

The committee members have had three or four people who have expressed interest in running against the sitting commissioners should the recall requirements be met, according to Kummer, adding that petitioners launched their effort over the commissioners' handling of issues related to the removal effort of McKenzie County Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger, as well as failure to consider public opinion on local zoning changes, use of public funds and failure to consider public opinion when filling vacancies in county offices.

Meanwhile, Washburn petitioners have until Nov. 6 to file signatures for an election to recall City Commission President Larry Thomas. Kristi Jaeger, who chairs the recall committee, said the petition has gathered more than the required 99 signatures for a special election.

"Our committee will be meeting next week and then we'll decide if we're ready to submit the petition," Jaeger said Monday. "We have a few more citizens that want to sign but we haven't had the chance to meet up with them. We do plan to go ahead with the full recall process."

Thomas called the claims against him "totally fabricated." Allegations include open meeting law violations, a hostile work environment and disregard for others.

Some retain positions

The remainder of recall efforts in the state this year have failed.

Petitioners in Fargo failed to turn in signatures for a recall attempt of city commissioner Dave Piepkorn.

Mayoral recall efforts in Napoleon also failed due to a lack of necessary signatures. Petitioners would have needed to turn in 34 signatures for certification.

In LaMoure County and in Bismarck, enough signatures were respectively turned in but were invalidated after official scrutiny.

The recall of LaMoure County State's Attorney Tony Duffy would have needed 541 valid signatures, and recall of Bismarck Mayor Mike Seminary would have needed 1,898 valid signatures.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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