A group of Annapolis residents is launching an effort to recall one of the city's aldermen after he floated the idea of stripping the mayor of some powers.
The recall petition targets Alderman Ross Arnett, who last week won re-election as a Democrat representing the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis.
Arnett's proposal to convert the capital city's form of government to one that treats the mayor more as a member of the City Council made national news, and he said Wednesday that it also triggered so many negative phone calls that he had to disconnect his home phone.
Arnett's comments about pursuing a different form of government came after Republican Mike Pantelides defeated incumbent Democrat Josh Cohen in the mayoral election by a narrow margin that required a count of absentee ballots.
"His judgment in deciding to bring this issue up after a difficult election, after an election in which the mayor was ousted, just tells me and the group of people that are banding together with me on this that he's really out of touch," said Bob Jones, a retired technology executive from Eastport who is an organizer of the recall effort.
Jones, a Democrat who is coordinating the recall effort along with Republican Nick Roper, said people he's talked to around Eastport are "just up in arms over it."
Arnett said he was disappointed to hear about the recall effort but said his constituents have a right to pursue it if they're not happy.
Arnett said he regretted the timing of his statements about pursuing a different form of government. But he maintains that the idea is still worth exploring at some point. Arnett also tried to change Annapolis' form of government earlier in Cohen's term.
"I really regret the timing. I really regret not thinking about how this could be twisted. I think the thing to do now is to let the new mayor take his seat, sit down and work with us and get down to business," Arnett said.
Arnett and Pantelides both said they've talked about the issue and are on good terms.
"I respect Ross and I think he can be an ally on the budget," Pantelides said.
Before the recall effort was announced, members of the Annapolis Republican Central Committee decided at a meeting Tuesday night not to launch their own recall effort. Such an effort "should come from the citizens," said central committee Chairman Bill Day.
State Republican Party Executive Director Joe Cluster said a recall would be difficult and might not help Pantelides build bridges with the Annapolis City Council, which will have seven Democrats and one Republican.
"The Republican Party needs to rise above this," he said.
Under Annapolis code, a recall petition must be signed by 30 percent of the voters in an alderman's ward. Then the recall would be put to voters in a special election. If the elected official is recalled, the seat would be filled by a special election or by the central committee, depending on how much time is left in the term, according to the city's charter.
Arnett is retired from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and previously was president of the Eastport Civic Association. He was first elected to the council in 2007 to replace Cohen, who left his seat as alderman to serve on the Anne Arundel County Council.
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