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Recall

Recall signatures submitted for Lincoln mayor

Rep. Jason Dockter

Rep. Jason Dockter, R-Bismarck, co-sponsor of HB1245, smiles last month after the bill giving city councils veto power over a mayor's vote was successful during a House floor vote of 90-1 at the state Capitol in Bismarck. File photo 

Petitioners on Wednesday submitted 219 signatures to recall Lincoln Mayor Robert Johnston and hold a special election. At least 110 valid signatures are needed to proceed with a recall election.

Mary Marvel, Lincoln's city auditor, said she has 30 days to verify the signatures, making sure that those who signed are of legal voting age and reside in Lincoln. 

Organizers of the petition drive cite credibility, misuse of the mayor's position and handling of city funds as the reason for the recall effort. 

There has been contention between Johnston and at least three council members since October on groundwater and drainage issues and the mayor's plan to work with the Burleigh County Highway Department.

Johnston vetoed the other council members' vote to clear a drainage easement to Apple Creek near the Cenex Convenience store for $20,000. When council member Toni Zainhofsky tried to introduce a city ordinance to allow council members to override a mayor's veto, Johnston also vetoed that.

The controversy led to the state House's approval of a measure to allow city council forms of government to override a mayor's veto with a two-thirds vote. The measure is now being considered in the state Senate.

The veto override ordinance passed at the March 5 Lincoln City Council meeting without any objections from Johnston, who noted it would likely pass in the Legislature.

Under state law, the city auditor must call the special election 90 to 100 days after petition signatures are verified. Johnston would also have the option to resign within 10 days after the special election is called.

Marvel said she has not decided on an election date or deadline for new candidates for the position at this time.

"Once I go through these, I can decide when the election will be," she said.

(Reach LeAnn Eckroth at 701-250-8264 or leann.eckroth@bismarcktribune.com.)

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