ENID, Okla. — Enid City Commission voted 5-1 Tuesday night to set Feb. 9, 2021, as the date for the recall election for Ward 3 Commissioner Ben Ezzell, pending his hearing objecting the recall petition's sufficiency on Oct. 6.
The recall election would be held at the same time as the election for Ezzell’s successor on the commission, as his second and final four-year term expires in May. Whoever wins the recall election would immediately serve out the three-month remainder of his term before the successor takes office on May 3.
Enid Mayor George Pankonin motioned to remove the item from the table. Ezzell was the sole nay vote, while Ward 2 Commissioner Derwin Norwood was absent Tuesday.
“Nothing has changed since last time,” Ezzell said.
Commissioners at Aug. 18’s meeting had unanimously tabled the vote deciding on either Nov. 3 or Feb. 9 as the election date because Ezzell’s hearing protesting the recall petition’s sufficiency was previously set for Sept. 8. He filed his motion of objection the day before, on Aug. 17, in Garfield County District Court.
A November recall election then became no longer possible due to Garfield County Election Board rules requiring 75-day notice, which was Aug. 19, the day after the meeting.
On Sept. 8, the original date of the hearing, Blaine County Associate District Judge Allison Lafferty filed a motion for continuance to Oct. 6, when she will rule on Ezzell’s motion of objection. She reset the date last month after she was reassigned and had notified all parties.
Ezzell's filing has named Pankonin and City Clerk Alissa Lack as defendants. Both have answered summons as representatives of the city of Enid. Tony Puckett, of Oklahoma City, is listed as their attorney.
Representatives of the recall group Enid Freedom Fighters also filed a motion last week to intervene as defendants in the hearing, with Enid attorney Stephen Jones representing the group. Lafferty is expected to rule on that motion, as well.
City Attorney Carol Lahman will not represent the city because she will testify as a witness in the hearing.
“It does no harm to set the election now,” Lahman told commissioners Tuesday. “The judge can always determine that (the petition is) not sufficient. And if the judge does that, the judge can also say the election should not occur.”
The latest the election board would require notice for Feb. 9’s election is Nov. 20. Candidate filing period for the recall will last from Dec. 7-9.
Lahman said the Freedom Fighters also can still file a new recall petition before the city’s resolution becomes operative Oct. 15.
The group submitted the recall petition of 204 signatures, collected within 48 hours, to the city Aug. 4. Sixty-nine signatures, 30% of the most recent ward election, were required for a recall to be held. Lack on Aug. 14 verified 87 of the 204 were sufficiently affirmed by petition circulators and were registered voters, and disqualified 69 others.
Their petition calls for Ezzell’s recall for reasons including, among others: “Conduct unbecoming of an elected official”; “dividing our community by threatening use of force and advocating fines against law abiding, healthy citizens”; and “disrespecting our police department and failing to heed the advice of our police chief.”
Commissioners also approved a revised pay plan in a collective bargaining agreement for the local firefighters union during the meeting, which includes increasing the last, 11th pay increase step from 2.5% to 4%.
With the pay increase, the highest income for firefighters would come to $19.76 per hour, or $57,549.23 annually; drivers would come to $21.74/hour, or $63,304.16 annually; lieutenants $23.91/hour, $69,634.55 annually, and so on.
Pay increase steps would be set at 5% from steps 2-5 and 4% from steps 6-11.
Commissioners also voted to approve purchasing more than $90,000 worth of Safariland ballistic vests, concealable carriers and plates for Enid Police Department, from Baysinger Uniform and Equipment. EPD previously budgeted $45,000 for the replacements and applied for a grant to cover the rest of the costs. That grant amount has yet to be announced.