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Comparing How Cities Remove Elected Officials From Office (August 2013)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

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The National University System Institute for Policy Research (NUSIPR) is releasing today a research paper that outlines how other large US cities with a “Strong Mayor” form of government handle the issue of removing an elected official from office.

They found that 7 out of the 12 largest cities have a means OTHER than recall to remove an elected official from office. These include provisions under New York law that would allow the Governor and 2/3 of the New York State Senate remove a Mayor of New York City and the provision in the Los Angeles City Charter that empower the City Clerk with the responsibility to seek action from the State Attorney General and state courts if the Mayor of that City is incapacitated. Research found that in other instances, such as in the City of Houston, the power to remove a Mayor rests with 2/3 of the City Council as well as with the people through a separate right to recall.

NUSIPR’s President Erik Bruvold stated, “The recent events in the City of San Diego have underscored a serious issue with the City’s Charter. Baring a felony conviction, resignation, or death San Diegans can only remove an elected official through a citizen’s recall.” He went on to note, “That is potentially paralyzing for a City that invests as much executive power as it has in the office of the Mayor. If there was a San Diego Mayor that become permanently incapacitated and unable to resign, it could take up to 8 months to try to carry out a recall with no clear guidance under the charter or state law as how to seek alternative courses of relief. In my opinion, after the current crisis settles down, the City Council needs to consider augmenting the Charter to provide for a second alternative to its current recall system.”