My latest op-ed appeared in The Virginian-Pilot Wednesday. Those who are regular readers of this blog know how I feel about the removal provisions of Virginia Code § 24.2-233. I’ve cited it often when discussing the removal of certain elected officials in the area as well as in the attempt by Norfolk City Council to replace our existing recall procedures with this section of the code.
The citizens of Virginia Beach have no other choice than to rely on the Virginia code because that city’s charter doesn’t contain anything else. So they have a School Board member who is working in Saudi Arabia and won’t resign. Kerry Dougherty says in her column that Sandra Smith-Jones wants to use Skype to attend meetings. She has, according to a separate article, contacted school staff about attending an audit committee meeting via teleconference. She cannot participate in the meetings.
While Dougherty makes light of the situation, it really isn’t a laughing matter. The removal process puts the burden – rightly so – on the voters who elected Smith-Jones to take her out. But by requiring such a large number of signatures, it becomes almost an impossible task.
The legislature needs to look at this code section and modify it appropriately. Personally, I’d like to see the percentage of signatures required cut in half, from 10% to 5%. That should be sufficient to deter those from making knee-jerk reactions to elected’s behavior whileat the same time making the gathering of petitions reasonable.