Updated: Thursday, 27 May 2010, 10:51 AM EDT
Published : Friday, 12 Feb 2010, 7:06 PM EST
PORTSMOUTH, VA - A petition drive to recall Portsmouth Mayor James Holley appears to be making progress.
Organizers claim to have 1,500 more signatures than are needed. WAVY.com has followed the petition drive since Holley racked up thousands of taxpayer dollars for lavish expenses.
His former secretary claimed she had questionable job responsibilities. And If he were recalled, it wouldn't be the first time. Holley was recalled in 1987 after his involvement in a hate-mail scandal.
Today Mayor Holley spoke only to WAVY.com about the petition effort against him, and says he believes he may be out, but it won't be without a fight. "They think I'm no good...because of everything else that's going on, I guess so."
The final straw to gather petitions appears to be when the City Council voted 6-1 for Holley to resign after he was scolded for using his assistant for personal errands.
Only Holley voted himself to stay, and told a council chamber full of people on August 12th 2009, "You put me here, and when I leave from here, you will take me from here, and it won't be from a resignation."
When petition organizer Bob Marcus heard that, he had had enough. "The problem we have six of seven council members who have asked him to resign. He has refused to do it," Marcus said. "His attitude is the people put me in and the people can take me out, and we are willing to oblige him on that. "
Marcus claims to have 8,200 signatures for Holley's recall when only 6,700 are needed. The 6,700 is 30 percentof the voter turnout for the Gubernatorial election last November.
The city code calls for the 30 percent threshold.
"We've gathered so many more because maybe some could be convicted felons, or who have lost their right to vote, or who maybe visiting from Chesapeake and say 'hey I'd like to sign a petition' and who do not actually live in Portsmouth...we have collected so many more so there will be no question," Marcus said.
If the registrar and the court determine there are enough signatures, Holley then has five days to resign, or face the recall election.
Holley says he will fight. WAVY.com asked if he was planning on staying in office:
"Yes," he responded.
Do you have any plans to resign? "None," said Holley.
Are you running for re-election in two years? "Two years is a long time," Holley added.
They want you out before then, "apparently that is true," Holley said.
According to Portsmouth City Code, the Chief Circuit Judge then has 30-40 days from the petition approval date to set the recall election. A replacement candidate has until 10 days before that date to announce intentions to run, and must have 6,700 signatures of Portsmouth residents.
That could be a very difficult task.
"We have plenty of people ready to make that happen," says Marcus. One candidate has expressed interest in running, but told that to WAVY.com on extreme background and we will not reveal that name until the candidate announces the intention to run.
Holley seems to have a quiet confidence he will not be recalled. When asked if he thinks he will still be Mayor at the end of the year, hesaid, "No comment."
He then got in his corvette and drove away.
One of the big legal questions remains: can this recall election occur on the same date as the Portsmouth City Council elections set for May 4th?
According to Portsmouth city code it would appear the chief circuit judge could make that happen. Virginia is also a Federal Voting Rights Act state. It is unsure at this time if the judge's decision for the election could be appealed to a federal court.
Putting the election on May 4 with the other elections would seem to mollify critics, since all Portsmouth residents are going to the polls anyway on that date.
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