Election commission approves recall petition for Crossville council members

Wyatt and Harris.
Wyatt and Harris.

CROSSVILLE – An effort to recall two Crossville city council members key in City Manager David Rutherford’s recent ouster has taken a major step forward.

In a special called meeting Tuesday afternoon, the Cumberland County Election Commission approved language for petitions for recall efforts against Danny Wyatt and Pam Harris, giving proponents the go-ahead to begin gathering signatures.

The man behind the recall effort, Crossville’s Howard Burnette, arguably has his work cut out for him. He needs to collect 2,225 signatures from registered city voters by a June 24 deadline in order to get the recall questions on the Nov. 8 ballot.

According to Jill Davis, election administrator, only 2,300 city voters voted in the last city election.

Election officials told the UCBJ that Burnette would not attempt to get the signatures turned in early – there’s a May 6 deadline required to get the question on the Aug. 4 ballot.

The November ballot already includes two Crossville city council seats currently held by Pedro (Pete) Souza and Jesse Kerley. Under the Crossville charter, should either the Wyatt or Harris recall be successful, the council will appoint replacements that will serve until the next general election ballot. There is a chance that four council seats could be turned over with the November ballot. Only Mayor James Mayberry’s position is not at risk.

Souza said citizens are rallying against Wyatt and Harris given their efforts in removing Rutherford from office, and the petition approval is just the latest fallout. The council voted last week to suspend him; a formal vote for his official removal is set for Thursday. Since Kerley is on the ballot in November, his name was not included in the recall, those behind the effort said.

RELATED: First fallout comes in Crossville city manager suspension

“My gut feeling is that come November, the composition of the city council will be greatly altered,” Souza told the UCBJ. “There’s a community effort to send a message to these people.

“This is the first time since I’ve been here that the community is engaged. And I’m going to keep it that way,” he added.

For a recall to be successful, 66 percent must vote in favor.

Jim Young is a contributor to the UCBJ. He can be reached at jimyoungreporter@gmail.com.

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