TOWER CITY, N.D. — A petition calling for the recall of the mayor has been started in a small town on the far western border of Cass County along Interstate 94 with the mayor accused of a variety of allegations.
Tower City Mayor Scott Salberg could be on a special election recall ballot this year, although the town's city auditor, Jody Haseleu, didn't return numerous phone calls and an email to verify that enough valid signatures had been turned into her office.
Salberg also didn't return numerous calls this past week.
However, according to a petition approved by North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger's office, a sponsoring committee of five city residents said they were undertaking the recall vote for Salberg and listed the reasons as poor performance of duties, failure to enforce city ordinances, allowing harassment of other city officials at meetings, removal of city records from the file and failure to conduct all city business in an open forum.
Chairman of the recall committee, Maryln Halland, said he didn't want to comment more on the reasons, but recommended calling who he said was the main organizer of the petition drive, Randy Crist, who is also on the committee. However, Crist didn't answer numerous calls to his phone. Others on the committee are Lynn Schneekloth, David Petersen and Janice Richman.
For a recall election, the committee needed 25 percent of the voters in the last election in which Salberg was on the ballot to get a recall special election..
According to the Cass County auditor's office, which runs elections for Tower City and others in the county, Salberg won election in June of 2016 with 71 votes compared to 39 for Marilyn Halland.
The town of 257 people has had a high turnout of voters in the past two city elections with more than 75 percent voting.
The Forum had been told the recall election would be discussed at a meeting of the five-member city council on Tuesday night, April 9.
However, the rather chaotic meeting never included recall discussion, instead focusing mostly on a long-simmering dispute between two neighbors over whether a city street was really a street.
Filled with a small town political feel, the meeting was often interrupted by the 10 city residents attending as visitors talking over each other, offering comments without being called upon and sometimes raising their voices.
Council member Stacey Lilja was the only one commenting on the fight between neighbors as she said she was just trying to settle the battle that had been going on for years.
Halland, who almost won a council seat in the last city election in June of 2018 on a write-in, said after the meeting that the fight between neighbors was an indication of how "nothing ever gets done around here" and why they were working on the recall.
Jaeger said once his office approves the petition format, they leave the rest of a recall election up to the city itself, including verification of the signatures on the petition. Once signatures are found to be valid, he said the city auditor must call a special election no sooner than 95 days and no longer than 105 days.
He also said mayoral recalls are "more common than you might think." Since 2001, he said there have been 22 recall petitions for mayors statewide. It was in 2001, he said, that the law was changed to require petitions for recall to be reviewed by his office for the proper format.
According to Jaeger's website, the last mayor recall vote was just last month in Arnegard in far western North Dakota where Mayor Virginia Elliot survived a recall by a 63-47 vote margin.
Jaeger added that for a recall to be successful, there has to be another candidate on the ballot. If the other candidate wins, then the mayor is ousted.
"A recall election is not an up or down vote on one person," he said.