Apache Junction residents angry about the dismissal of police Chief Glenn Walp initiated recall efforts Friday against Mayor John Insalaco and Councilman Jeff Serdy, bringing the one-week total of city recall bids to five.
Only council members Robin Barker and Chip Wilson do not face ongoing recall efforts, but according to one member of an organized group that supports Walp, everyone on the council should expect to face a recall.
“The group wants to recall a bunch of them,” said Walp advocate Noel Benoist, who requested the recall packet for Insalaco early Friday.
Three other recall petitions had been requested during the preceding week, for Vice Mayor R.E. Eck and councilmen Rick Dietz and Joe Severs.
However, the resident who initiated Dietz’s recall said it was unrelated to Walp, and Severs has been a staunch supporter of the outgoing chief.
Insalaco said he is glad it was Benoist who filed with the city to recall him, because the outspoken Walp supporter has a reputation for self-aggrandizement and speaks for a vocal minority within the city.
“Am I worried about Benoist? Not a bit,” the mayor said. “The silent majority outweighs the vocal minority.”
Benoist said a recall election would prove whether his opinion differs from most other city residents.
“It will give both sides a chance to voice their opinion and be counted,” he said.
Serdy said he was not surprised to hear about the recall campaign against him launched Friday, since it came fifth in a series of such efforts.
Filed by city resident Joseph Schnier, the recall request for Serdy stated reasons similar to those listed by the other residents, that he has failed to represent his constituents. None mention Walp specifically.
“I’m not upset,” Serdy said. “The public sentiment is not with these people.”
City Clerk Kathy Connelly said residents do not need a logical reason to force a recall election. All they need is to gather enough signatures of registered voters living in Apache Junction: 222 for a council member and 377 for the mayor.
Connelly said the recall petitioners would each have 120 days to turn in their petitions, after which the signatures would undergo a validation process and could ultimately force a new election.
The recall threats did not prevent city officials from appointing an interim replacement for Walp and moving forward with efforts to find a new police chief.
City Manager George Hoffman on Wednesday appointed Apache Junction police Capt. Thomas E. Kelly to serve as interim chief and said he will continue searching for a new permanent chief. Kelly formerly supervised the police department’s criminal investigations division.
Kelly officially takes on his new role today and is likely to serve as interim chief until mid-2008, when Hoffman expects the selection process will be concluded. Walp’s two-year contract expired Friday and was not renewed.
Hoffman announced Oct. 11 the city would not retain Walp, prompting several residents to openly criticize the decision and threaten to recall elected officials who supported it.
Councilman Severs made one last plea to city officials to retain Walp during a closed session Tuesday, but he was unable to convince them.
Serdy said the most frustrating aspect of the multiple recall efforts is that they reflect poorly on the city overall. He does not believe those behind it plan even to remain in the city.
“They’re going to burn the city on their way out, and then leave the rest of us to clean up the mess,” Serdy said.