State Sen. Shirley Randleman sponsored a bill Mar. 11 that would allow the Town of Ronda to have the power to recall the town’s mayor.
The bill comes after several tense months between some citizens of the town and Mayor Victor Varela.
The senator and state Rep. Jeffrey Elmore filed simultaneous bills in the North Carolina House and Senate placing a referendum on this November’s ballot in Ronda. Senate Bill 247 and House Bill 270 would reverse a 1970s decision by the N.C. General Assembly removing the recall option from Ronda, if voters approve.
“The people of Ronda - not the General Assembly - should be the authority figure in deciding local elections,” said Elmore.
“I think issues like this should be settled at the ballot box,” said Varela.
The bill is split into three sections, each of which stipulates how the bill is to be administered.
Section 1 states that the election will be administered by the Wilkes County Board of Elections at Ronda’s next municipal election. On Nov. 5, 2013, the people of Ronda will find a question on their ballot: “for or against an amendment to allow recall from office of elected officials of the town upon voter petition and a vote of the registered voters of the town.”
Section 2 allows for the referendum in Section 1 to pass if a majority of voters cast in favor of the measure. If Section 1 is in favor, Section 3 passes; if not, Section 3 does not.
Section 3 amends “the Charter of the Town of Ronda, granted by the Municipal Board of Control on September 27, 1920” to allow the Mayor and members of the Board of Commissioners to be subject to removal following a sufficient recall petition and a majority of voters in favor of removal in a subsequent recall election.
“It is absurd that personal politics have intruded at such a level that people feel that recall capabilities should be awarded to little towns like this, where so many personal issues can really overshadow any major issues,” said Varela.
“I have won reelection by healthy margins both times. I have been a pretty popular mayor; I have gotten quite a lot done,” he said. “This is a deeply personal attack.”
The desire for recall stems from a battle that has been playing out in Ronda for months. In October 2012 residents signed a petition for the recall of Mayor Varela. Under Ronda’s charter and the 197’s General Assembly decision to revoke the town’s power to do so, the petition went unanswered.
The sentiment did not change, however, and after several tense months of town hall meetings and disagreements on both sides, Randleman and Elmore are moving to settle the issue for good.
“I think the senator and representative have gotten themselves way into a very local, personal issue,” said Varela.
“This is a local issue and should be decided by the citizens of Ronda,” said Randleman. She added “this bill allows for openness and transparency.”
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