Plans to recall Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman are gaining support among groups that have been long disgruntled with the town.
For months, opponents of the outspoken mayor — who gets high marks on town surveys — have been debating whether to try to oust him.
Now, the efforts are ramping up. Fred Phillis of Gilbert and a member of the Valley Business Owners (and Concerned Citizens) group has pulled new recall paperwork that he plans to file in coming weeks.
“He’s demonstrated beyond any doubt that he is unfit to hold office,” Phillis said of Berman. “He’s got a history of bad behavior contrary to citizens of Gilbert that goes all the way back to his support of the transit tax.”
The transit tax, known as Proposition 400 and approved by voters in 2004, was opposed by area legislative leaders, who argued the town would only get 28 cents return on every $1 of tax, but supported by town leaders, who advocated for the additional money for transportation projects.
Supporters of Berman scoff at the recall threat as just one more way to “nip” at the Town Council and attempt to make members look bad in future elections. The recall, they argue, will only end up costing the town taxpayers $100,000 for a special election.
“I think what they’re trying to do is cause disruption and create instability,” said Vice Mayor Steve Urie, who added that people enjoy Berman’s character and outspoken nature.
But Phillis argues that enough residents are upset about a variety of town issues, including zoning decisions, the town’s refusal to provide fire service to county island residents, an ordinance that would have made uncontrolled wasting of water a misdemeanor, a free two-year truck loan the town accepted for Berman from a local dealer, and comments he’s made about his opponents.
Relations between Legislative District 22 Republican committee members and town leaders has eroded during the past half decade, leading up to an effort in 2006 in which Berman supported opponents running against the town’s legislators. In the spring, District 22 committee members supported opponents of council members, who won re-election.
Councilman Dave Crozier said those targeting the mayor are among a group that have been making it their goal to force the town and the mayor to spend money and look bad, so they can regain control.
“Referendums and recalls are a very necessary safety valve and should be used for extreme cases,” Crozier said. “But they’re easily abused. I think all they’re trying to do is cost the town money, and cost Steve Berman money.”
But resident Jerry Lanci said he supports the recall after he felt let down by the town when a firetruck was turned around after his son Brandon, then 14, was injured in a motorcycle crash near a county island.
“He has lost touch with the people of Gilbert,” he said of Berman. “He’s created policies that are jeopardizing the people of Gilbert and public safety.”
Berman could not be reached for comment.