A petition to recall Banning city councilman David Happe has been rejected by the city for failing to meet requirements in the Elections Code.
The petition was handed out to members of the city council at its Sept. 10 meeting by resident Diane Box.
At the time, a copy was not provided to the Record Gazette, and no announcement was made as to what was being handed out to the council.
Box told the Record Gazette that she does not reside in Happe’s district, and was simply the messenger; since the claim was rejected, she had no further comment.
According to the notice stated in the recall petition, a group of citizens claimed that “David Happe is destroying our City. Happe has repeatedly shown his willingness to sell us out to powerful developer interests, who have bankrolled his election campaign,” and claims that Happe is willing “to violate Banning’s carefully designed General Plan. His focus has not been on protecting the City, but on consistently accommodating developers.”
The claim decries Happe’s having voted in support of a zoning ordinance that would allow for construction of an 80-unit apartment complex, which the petition referred to as a “stack-and-pack” housing project, which also received votes of approval from councilmembers Colleen Wallace, whose district the project will be built in, and Daniela Andrade and Mayor Art Welch.
It claims that Happe “made disparaging remarks about Veterans who have received the Purple Heart,” in reference to comments made during the Aug. 7 city council meeting as the council was discussing a grand jury report regarding councilmember Don Peterson, who is a Purple Heart recipient.
The discussion at that point in time centered around Happe’s disgust that anonymous folks were posting vitriolic material on social media and, in Happe’s view, abusing the First Amendment.
“Our forefathers, they put their names on hemp parchment,” Happe pointed out. “They wrote their names. They were not anonymous. They wrote their names in blood,” he said, and referred to those posting “graffiti” and “garbage” anonymously on social media to attack members of the public as “cowards” too ashamed to reveal their identities.
Since it had been previously mentioned earlier in the meeting that Peterson has a Puple Heart, Happe tried to imply that those who have earned one have integrity.
“You want to bring up Purple Hearts, let’s have some Purple Hearts in this city,” he said, which stirred some protest from his antagonists.
“They put their name on the line,” Happe said.
A message to City Clerk Laurie Sampson from Councilman Peterson regarding proof of publication in the Business Journal of the petition requested that correspondence regarding the matter be referred to former councilman Jerry Westholder, who is in Happe’s district.
Westholder declined to be interviewed, though his family’s names are on the petition (one without a signature).
More than a dozen names on the petition did not provide cities or zip codes, which are required for the Registrar of Voters to perform verifications.
Five names printed on the petition are not legal names as registered with the Registrar’s office.
“Although the Notice contains 30 signatures, 27 signatures have not been counted towards the minimum proponent signature requirement” under the Elections Code, Acting Deputy City Clerk and Acting Deputy Elections Official Laurie Sampson writes in a response addressed to Diane Box. “Further, as discussed above … 1 of the 30 signatures is not a registered voter in District 4 of Banning,” and “5 of the 30 proponents have not printed their names on the Notice as their names are registered with the County of Riverside Registrar of Voters. Therefore, the Notice fails to meet the requirements of Elections Code Sections 11020© and 10220 with only three signatures (Notice 1, lines 2 and 3; Notice 2, line 1).”
In a statement to the Record Gazette, Councilman Happe said “The items brought up as reasons for recall were unfounded or made up — at least their perceptions of them,” he said. “I would love to address each item. In my opinion, the effort was a waste of city time and resources, and is nothing more than sour grapes.”
Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org , or by calling (951) 849-4586 x114.