RECALL EFFORT FAILS: Cortez residents vote overwhelmingly to keep mayor, city councilors in office

Journal/Sam Green
Sue Hasz feeds her ballot into the voting machine at the Montezuma County Annex on Tuesday morning. Voters went to the polls Tuesday to cast their ballots in the city of Cortez’s first recall election. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green Sue Hasz feeds her ballot into the voting machine at the Montezuma County Annex on Tuesday morning. Voters went to the polls Tuesday to cast their ballots in the city of Cortez’s first recall election.

The Cortez mayor and city council are here to stay.

After a turnout of 1,611 votes, or 28.4 percent of registered voters, an effort to recall the mayor and four city councilors proved unsuccessful when polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Up for recall on the ballot were Mayor Dan Porter and councilors Donna Foster, Matt Keefauver, Robert Rime and Betty Swank.

Roughly 82 percent of voters sided with the incumbent mayor and councilors while more than 17 percent voted to have the officials recalled. The number of residents who voted in favor of the recall Tuesday was less than the number of people who signed petitions supporting the recall this past winter.

Porter said he is thrilled by the news.

“When this first started, I told the paper that the citizens would see through what this recall was about, and they did,” Porter said. “And I’m glad they believe in us like we believe in them.”

Keefauver said the victory is “huge.”

“I think we’re glad to get it behind us and get on with city business, and we’re just thrilled that the people of Cortez came out to support us in the way that they did,” Keefauver said.

Foster said the results are “awesome.”

“I’m glad that the people spoke once again,” Foster said. “I continue to love the community and the people who are in it.”

Swank said she wants to thank her fellow councilors, particularly Porter and Keefauver, for their efforts. She also wants to thank voters.

“I do appreciate them not recalling us, and I’m going to continue to try to do my best to be fair to everyone and make wise decisions,” Swank said.

Rime could not be reached for comment before deadline Wednesday.

Pro-recall organization Save Our City spokesperson Jodie Henley said she feels the organization was outspent in campaign funds.

“I’m proud of what we did,” Henley said. “If we opened the eyes of one person — and I think we opened the eyes of many — then we did what we set out to do.”

Several voters interviewed at the polls said they opposed the recall effort.

“I think it’s a waste of money,” Cortez resident Beverly Lawrence said about the election. “They (recall proponents) went forward with this process without having any candidates on the ballot. ... We voted for these people (city council members) because we thought they were going to be competent, so I’m disgusted.”

Recall supporters at the polls said the city council spends too much money and an example should be made to other government officials.

Justin Dodson, the singular replacement candidate in the election, gathered 187 votes. He ran on a platform of cleaning up garbage, methamphetamine use and graffiti in the city. He said he was not a proponent of the recall effort, but wanted to fill Porter’s seat on the council so the school principal could focus on education.

Most voters — 1,216 — cast their votes by mail, while 395 visited two polling locations Tuesday.

The city doesn’t know how much money the election will cost yet.

Recall supporters say they initiated the election because of overuse of emergency ordinances, waste of tax money and overreliance on the advice of city staff.

The largest issue for recall supporters was city involvement in the Flaugh-Clark subdivision, which included the expenditure of more than $325,000 in public funds for street and infrastructure — an expense typically left up to the developer.

City officials have said they made concessions to the developer in an effort to secure a future thoroughfare to the larger Brandon’s Gate Subdivision.

Porter and Keefauver, both re-elected for second terms, are serving four-year terms that end in 2014. Foster, also re-elected, is serving a two-year term and will be term limited out next year. Councilors Swank and Rime will be up for re-election next year.

The next regular municipal election is scheduled for April 2012.

Voting results, with “yes” meaning a city council member should be recalled and “no” meaning the councilor should not, follow:

Mayor Dan Porter — 277 yes (17.32 percent); 1,322 no (82.68 percent).

Councilor Donna Foster — 275 yes (17.13 percent; 1,330 no (82.87 percent).

Councilor Matt Keefauver — 283 yes (17.62 percent); 1,323 no (82.38 percent).

Councilor Robert Rime — 290 yes (18.11 percent); 1,311 no (81.88 percent).

Councilor Betty Swank — 291 yes (18.18 percent); 1,310 no (81.82 percent).

Votes for Justin Dodson to replace Porter — 187.

Reach Reid Wright at reidw@cortezjournal.com.

Journal/Sam Green
Herma Watson checks the voter registration for Beverly Lawrence on Tuesday morning at the Montezuma County Annex. Cortez residents voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to keep Mayor Dan Porter and four city councilors in office. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green Herma Watson checks the voter registration for Beverly Lawrence on Tuesday morning at the Montezuma County Annex. Cortez residents voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to keep Mayor Dan Porter and four city councilors in office.

Journal/ Sam Green
Mayor Dan Porter receives a high five from Marsha Norton when Cortez City Council Member Matt Keefauver announces election results Tuesday night at Pepperheads. Porter and Keefauver easily retained their seats in the recall election. Enlargephoto

Journal/ Sam Green Mayor Dan Porter receives a high five from Marsha Norton when Cortez City Council Member Matt Keefauver announces election results Tuesday night at Pepperheads. Porter and Keefauver easily retained their seats in the recall election.

Journal/Sam Green
Rocky Moss, Krystal and Wayne Brown and Cara Rieb encourage residents to vote no on the recall Tuesday at the corner of Main and Harrison streets. An effort to recall Cortez Mayor Dan Porter and four city councilors failed in Tuesday’s election. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green Rocky Moss, Krystal and Wayne Brown and Cara Rieb encourage residents to vote no on the recall Tuesday at the corner of Main and Harrison streets. An effort to recall Cortez Mayor Dan Porter and four city councilors failed in Tuesday’s election.