July 1, 2020 11:00:43 AM
With District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders refusing to resign from the board over his recent racist remarks, some officials who have urged him to step down, including Supervisors Trip Hairston of District 2 and Leroy Brooks of District 5, say one way to force his removal is through a citizen petition.
There is not an ongoing petition to push for Sanders' removal, despite calls for his resignation. A petition would have to originate in District 1, which includes the town of Caledonia and part of North Columbus.
According to state law, the governor has the authority to remove any elected officials "knowingly or willfully failing, neglecting, or refusing" to fulfill their duty in their official capacity. To kick off that process, constituents who elected this official must launch a removal petition and gather enough signatures for the governor to consider the removal. Public officials can only be subjected to a removal petition if they have served at least a year of their term.
Sanders, re-elected last November, is less than a year into his sixth four-year term as supervisor. In his case, when he has served for more than a year, at least 51 percent of District 1 voters must sign the petition urging for his removal for Gov. Tate Reeves to consider the case.
If petitioners were to gather enough signatures, the petition would be sent to the county registrar for certification or election commissioners for examination. When the petition reached Reeves' desk, his office must provide Sanders with photocopies of the petition within 10 days, and notify him of the opportunity to make his case at a public hearing at the county courthouse.
At the hearing, three chancery judges, who reside outside the county and are appointed by Reeves, would form a removal council to determine whether there is basis for Sanders' removal.
If the council decided there is not enough basis for his removal, the petition would be automatically dismissed and no new petitions can be filed within a year from the dismissal. If the evidence is sufficient, a special removal election must be held, where the majority of the voters would determine Sanders' fate.
Yue Stella Yu is the local government reporter for The Dispatch. Reach her at 662-328-2424 (ext 106) or follow her on Twitter @StellaYu_Mizzou
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