Indian Hills trustees say they'll fight recall efforts

Two Indian Hills General Improvement District trustees, facing a July 18 recall vote, say they won't give up despite a judge's ruling that the effort to remove them from office is legal.

"Right now, my plan is to get some flyers out and post information," said Joanne Riekenberg. "I've lived here 21 years and I am trying to do my job. I didn't win that one, but I could still win by getting the people here to vote down the recall."

Riekenberg and Trustee Renee Haskell unsuccessfully sought a temporary restraining order to stop the election, claiming the petitions were invalid and the procedure flawed.

After a 2-1/2-hour hearing, District Judge David Gamble ruled Wednesday that the voters of Indian Hills - not the court - should decide whether two trustees should be recalled.

Riekenberg and Haskell claimed they were improperly notified of the recall action by Clerk-Treasurer Barbara Reed and had no time to defend themselves against the allegations in the petition which they claim are fraudulent.

Reed testified that she missed the "two-day rule" which requires subjects of recall be notified two days after a notice of intent is filed. But she said she mailed out the notices to Haskell and Riekenberg on April 28, four days later. They claim letters did not arrive until May 12. Reed said the letters were posted April 28 or May 1 and she doesn't know why they were delivered so late.

Under questioning by Gamble, Riekenberg and Haskell admitted they learned about the recall effort on April 25 when they were contacted by a newspaper reporter. But the two said they were waiting for official notification from Reed's office.

"Whether the allegations are true, accurate and valid are questions our system leaves up to the voters the charges bring into play stricter scrutiny about the notice requirements which I would call substantially later than should have gone out," Gamble said.

- Remedy too harsh. But the judge said if he invalidated the recall election, he would apply a remedy of "a hammer blow to correct a bent piece of paper. The remedy doesn't fit the wrong."

Gamble also pointed out that Riekenberg and Haskell were in fact notified by a newspaper reporter one day after the notice of intent was filed.

"You are asking for an opportunity to defend yourselves during the petition process when you had one day's actual notice to go get a copy of the petition and defend yourself against it. Apparently, you chose not to," Gamble said.

"Although there was not exact compliance, there was substantial compliance with no subsequent detriment to the subjects of the recall. The petitions are sufficiently in order to call for a special election for purposes set forth in the recall petition," Gamble said.

Earlier, Gamble refused to continue the proceedings because Reed was facing a 5 p.m. deadline Wednesday for a legal advertisement announcing the recall election to be placed in The Record-Courier. The ad must be published in today's edition to meet legal requirements.

Reed estimated it would cost taxpayers about $2,000 to postpone the recall election.

Riekenberg, Haskell and former GID trustee Dick Fairfax were the target of recall petitions filed by Betty Stellway, Richard Horn and Rhonda and Ken Pascoe. Fairfax resigned after the recall petitions were submitted leaving Riekenberg and Haskell to face the recall.

"Our intent with the hearing in District Court on Wednesday was to point out that the recall petition statements were false and misleading," Haskell said in a statement Thursday. "Although the judge ruled that it was up to the public to be educated and informed on the issues, I felt that the public had been mislead by signing a petition that had lies portrayed as facts."

Haskell and Riekenberg denied that their votes to place a community center on the November ballot would, in effect, lead to the project's defeat.

"This was decided so that all the residents of Indian Hills could vote on spending $1.5 million dollars, not 140 people making that decision for the other 3,000 residents who will be impacted," Haskell said.

Riekenberg said she felt the bench trial revealed that Indian Hills residents who created the petition were trying to mislead residents.

- Day in court. "I wanted my day in court," she said. "I do want to keep my trustee position. I urge the people to get out and vote and stop the lies. I do want to continue to serve these people. I'm frustrated for my taxpayers."

In testimony Wednesday, Haskell defended her attendance record at district meetings and denied that she sought a reduction in employee benefits, both issues in the recall petition.

Ken Pascoe testified that the recall language was written by Indian Hills resident Art Baer, one of the organizers of the effort.

Reed said polling places for the July 18 special election will be set up at the Ridgeview Estates Fire Station and the sheriff's substation in Sunridge. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Indian Hills residents must register by 9 p.m. Saturday, July 1, to vote. A petition to nominate other candidates for the office must be filed by June 27 at 5 p.m. in the clerk's office in the old Minden Inn, 1594 Esmeralda Ave.


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