Recall effort targeting Ferguson's mayor hits snag

AP News
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Posted: Jun 09, 2015 5:19 PM

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A push to oust Ferguson's mayor hit a snag Tuesday after a group pressing for his removal in the wake of last summer's police shooting death of Michael Brown failed to turn in enough valid signatures.

Eric Fey, the Democratic director of elections for the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners, said that board's review of petitions submitted May 28 in seeking James Knowles III's removal found they fell more than 800 authentic signatures short of the 1,814 needed for the recall.

But the matter may not be over. Ferguson's charter gives activist group Ground Level Support two days to tell the city if they plan to seek additional signatures, then 10 days to make that happen.

A message left Tuesday by The Associated Press with the group was not immediately returned.

Knowles has said he has no plans to step down.

"We understand the rights of the petitioners and their recall efforts," he said in a statement Tuesday. "But for as long as I am mayor, I will continue to work with (city) council and staff to bring together the citizens of Ferguson, and to move our community forward with the many reforms and initiatives that we have been working on for several months."

Knowles, who is white, was criticized for comments he made following last August's shooting death of Brown, a black, unarmed 18-year-old, by white police officer Darren Wilson, including a denial that the largely black St. Louis suburb of 21,000 residents was racially divided.

A county grand jury and the Justice Department cleared Wilson, who later resigned. But a Justice Department report criticized the police and municipal court for raising money by ticketing the poor. The report led to the departure of five city employees.

Fey said that of 2,131 recall petition lines examined by election commissioners, 19 were instantly rejected as blank. Sixty-five had no address, another 65 included a printed name instead of a signature, 562 weren't registered voters in the county and 366 weren't registered voters in Ferguson. Thirty-two signatures were duplicates and 18 didn't match those on file by the election board.

Also Tuesday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that a top candidate to become Ferguson's interim city manager stepped down in 2012 as overseer of the Phoenix suburb of Glendale, Arizona, a year before an external audit accused him of misleading that 226,000-resident city's council.

The audit found that Ed Beasley and his employees purposely deceived Glendale's governing board about soaring expenses tied to an early retirement program initially created to help solve a budget shortfall, the newspaper said. The audit also faulted Beasley for payments to two high-level executives.

Beasley did not have a working telephone number and could not be reached for comment.