As Recall effort of GDPUD Director Kathy Otermat Dies, the Message is Clear.
Voters said ‘no' to the unacceptable and unsustainable status quo at GDPUD and ‘yes' to fiscal responsibility and a new direction by voting for Director Bonnie McLane and Kathy Otermat over two incumbents and have said it again by refusing to support the recall effort. Even before the deadline on Monday night arrived, leading proponents of the recall effort admitted defeat. Bob Villalobos, who is one of the leaders of the recall movement, said they counted signatures over the weekend and were “substantially short” but declined to state the total number of unverified signatures gathered.
At the halfway point in signature gathering the recall group had less the 25% of the needed signature to qualify the measure for the ballot. This week Villalobos said, “The initial response was good, but it petered out after a while.” At the same time it became reported that the campaign was closely aligned with GDPUD management and staff, that it was not about misconduct of Otermat but about her conservative fiscal drive for the agency. Additionally there were many reports of misleading and fraudulent efforts made by the recall effort's proponents that may have violated the elections code. All this lead to a backlash against the effort that may be linked to what Villalobos called, "petered out."
“Well over half the people we talked to have no clue what was going on,” he said. “We had to spend time explaining it to people. A lot of them had a ‘Who cares attitude?’” Villalobos said when explaining the reasons for the recall effort to voters.
In a story six weeks ago, "Otermat recall drive on the slow path to Failure" it stated that the recall proponents will have to gather signatures 5 times faster in the second half of the drive then they have accomplished in the first half. The early results lead many to understand that the announcement this week was just a forgone conclusion.
The issue of the recall was Otermat's behavior related to investigating spending practices at the Divide water agency. Her actions that were the impetus of the recall effort were telegraphed to all voters before she was elected as "controlling in cost at the agency" was the principle plank of her platform in her successful run for the office. The fact that she lived up to her campaign promises in spite of some staff and fellow board members' hostilities made her membership as a board member an issue. Those that thought the agency was running fine wanted her out and those that thought the agency needed to be more transparent and fiscally constrained wanted her to stay.
There were not enough of those that wanted her to go, even with the alleged questionable tactics, to even qualify the issue to be put on the November ballot. The board is currently split between two fiscally conservative members and three status quo members. This recall effort has informed and galvanized many members of the community and the next election of board members will undoubtedly be effected by this failed, but contentious effort.
This was not the first time a recall effort was made on the Divide. On April 24, 1967 GDPUD voters recalled Clayton Renke and Burton Threlkel. They were replaced with Howard Price and William Bastien. Renke and Threlkel were accused of inefficiency and disregard for the districts’ financial conditions. Some locals said, "If the public really believed that Director Otermat was deserving of recalling she would be on her way out. Since no real facts were every found on a reason to recall this director other than she was not voting with the other 3 directors is a sure sign of changes needed at the District."
Georgetown Divide Public Utility District board member Kathy Otermat responded saying, “I’d like to thank the voters who chose not to sign the recall petition thus defeating the special interests that started this baseless recall."
“This confirms that the will of the people was made known in the 2010 elections, when voters said ‘no’ to the unacceptable and unsustainable status quo at GDPUD and ‘yes’ to fiscal responsibility and a new direction by voting for Director Bonnie McLane and myself over two incumbents."
“Although we are currently a minority on the board, we remain strong and organized with momentum on our side. I believe in November voters will demonstrate that they want the same by voting for two new directors with the courage to tackle the long-term fiscal challenges at GDPUD and put the best interests of the ratepayers before GDPUD management."
“The recall proponents used scare tactics and spread misinformation in order to persuade voters into signing while I have always armed myself with facts."
“I look forward to continuing to speak up for the financial interest of GDPUD’s 3,700 ratepayers to the best of my abilities.”
The next election is not the only thing on the horizon as many have asked for a Grand Jury investigation of the tactics used by the recall proponents. One community member wrote, "I just read Kathy's note re: the petitioners providing false information to persuade a signature. I just sent her details of some whopping lies told to me, my wife and neighbor by Gordon Shepherd. Three witnesses and half a dozen lies told to us in about 10 minutes. I hope these folks do get investigated. We are 3 people that would gladly testify truthfully regarding what was said which we now know is entirely false and can verify it. Several lies leads me to no trust at all for these folks. Mr. Villalobos is right - most people didn't know about the issues but after learning I am not in THEIR court at all. I went from a "Who cares?" attitude to "Stop these Bastards". I will actively campaign against anyone they endorse. Can't wait to see who's running."