A political action committee called End Corruption in Gilbert filed papers Wednesday to begin a recall campaign against Mayor Steve Berman.
The committee planned to begin posting 50 signs overnight stating "End Corruption in Gilbert" and "Recall Mayor Berman."
The group, led by Gilbert resident Fred Phillis, a member of the Valley Business Owners (and Concerned Citizens), which has succeeded in putting several referendums on the ballot, said Berman is a bad leader who doesn't act "mayoral."
But Berman argues that the campaign is personal and frivolous, and that the recall, which could be on a ballot as early as September, will only encourage voters to support him during the March 2009 town election.
A petition filed to begin the recall campaign states, "By his behavior - and by placing his personal interests above the interests of the public - Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman has conclusively demonstrated that he is unfit to hold public office."
"Berman represents corruption on a personal and public scale that far exceeds anything we've seen in the East Valley in the last 10 years," Phillis said.
The group has no specific candidates for a replacement, but Phillis said residents supporting the recall want "anybody but Berman, with the possible exception of O.J. Simpson."
The petition, promised late last year, was filed not long after an interview between Berman and a KNXV-TV (Channel 15) reporter became heated when the reporter asked Berman if the town had violated law by allowing Big League Dreams to help plan for an athletic park proposal the company ended up bidding for and now operates.
The committee has 120 days to collect the 891 signatures needed to get the recall on the ballot.
Berman said Phillis and other members of his group have begun the campaign by criticizing him for a variety of issues that the entire Town Council voted on - not just the mayor. Among those are a decision not to provide fire service to a county island mobile home that burned while still spending $8 million to annex residents into town, and Berman accepting a two-year free truck lease from a local car dealer.
But Berman argues Phillis is "grandstanding," and that referendum issues the group put on a previous ballot were defeated. He said he has $36,000 and 5,000 signs ready to go for any election.
"I didn't run for God," Berman said of the criticisms. "I ran for mayor."
Berman arrived at the Gilbert Civic Center on Wednesday not long after Phillis had filed his paperwork - and an exchange occurred as Phillis headed to his car.
"You don't have the (guts to run against me). You're a rotten piece of (expletive) like you've always been," Berman said to Phillis.
Phillis replied, "Go take your medication."