LESHARA – The date for a special election in Leshara to determine if two village board members remain in their positions is up in the air.
On Sept. 18, Michael Pettinger of Leshara filed two recall petition forms in the Saunders County Clerk’s office. One is to recall Leshara Village Board Member Dale Johnson and the other targeted Board Member Dennis Beers. Pettinger’s reasons focused on issues with following the Open Meetings Act and village spending.
Pettinger gathered the required signatures from 35 percent of the registered voters in the village and returned the petition to Saunders County Election Commissioner Patti Lindgren within the time period set by state statutes. The petitions were certified and returned to Johnson and Beers on Nov. 20 and to the Leshara village board the next day, according to Lindgren.
The Leshara village board held a special meeting on Dec. 13 to set the date for the special election. According to minutes of the meeting, filed on Dec. 16 with the Saunders County Clerk, all four members of the village board – Beers, Johnson, Mel Ruhe-Langfeldt and Miranda Moisent-Hlavac – were in attendance. Village Attorney Maureen Freeman-Caddy attended by phone and advised the board that changes in the state law passed earlier in the year shortened the time frame in which a special election can be set after a recall petition has been certified.
As a result, the village board would have to set the election for Feb. 11. However, Feb. 11 falls after the 80-day time limit set for a special election following the completion of a recall petition.
The village board voted unanimously to set the date for Feb. 4, which does not meet the state requirement that a special election must be set on the first Tuesday after the second Monday in the month.
After receiving the information from the Leshara village board, Lindgren informed village officials that the Feb. 4 special election does not meet state statutes, and as a result she does not have the authority to hold the election on that date.
“There’s not recall election happening right now,” Lindgren said.
The state statutes say if the governing body fails to set a recall election within the time required, the election may be ordered by the district court. Lindgren said the statute is unclear as to who must file the request with the court.