- The Washington Times - Friday, November 29, 2002

SALISBURY, Md. (AP) Salisbury University students are joining a petition drive to recall the city's elected lawmakers as the result of an ongoing spat over the fate of Police Chief Allan Webster.
The council called for Chief Webster to be fired in July and passed an ordinance last month ordering the police chief to comply with an investigation. Mayor Barrie Parsons Tilghman vetoed the bill, calling the investigation a "witch hunt." Council members have not listed specific charges against the chief.
Petition organizers say they need at least 800 more signatures to unseat three City Council members: Lavonzella Siggers, C.T. Webster and Rachel Polk. On Election Day, more than 1,300 residents signed petitions seeking recall elections for each lawmaker, and about 300 have provided signatures since then.
Mrs. Tilghman also would face a recall election if 2,900 sign another petition, which already has collected 1,500 signatures.
In order to win a recall election, more than 30 percent of registered voters in each district must sign a petition. In the recall election, voters would decide whether a candidate should remain in office. If the answer is no, remaining council members appoint a replacement.
The three council members spoke out against the recall effort at a meeting Monday night.
"You can threaten recall, you can make verbal threats, you can make physical threats," Miss Polk said. "But this council is going to address the business of the city. The pranks you have engaged in, they don't matter."
The university involvement comes partly as a result of recent council actions. Last week, the council tentatively endorsed new laws that would prevent more than two college students from sharing an off-campus house.
"They have absolutely no regards for the rights of students or our housing options," said senior Doug Church, who organized the petition drive held in the campus dining hall.
Council members say the petition effort already has cost the city $1,200 in legal fees, as city solicitor Paul Wilber researched how to implement a special recall election. The election would cost up to $14,000, the council says.
"Those who support a recall have every right to participate," said Mr. Webster. "But a better cheaper method is simply to vote in the next election on Nov. 4, 2003. Why not wait and save the taxpayers money?"
One petition organizer responded by pointing the finger back at the council. "If they want people to wait for next November, why are they trying to fire the police chief, whose contract is up in June?" she said.
Disputes over the chief, charter amendments and other subjects in the city government have cost Salisbury $104,000 in legal bills since July.
Meanwhile, Miss Siggers, the council president, ended a weeklong standoff Monday when she signed $870,000 in checks to pay all but one city bill a payment to Mr. Wilber.
Miss Siggers is refusing to pay Mr. Wilber until financial officials agree to pay $39,000 to Baltimore lawyer Steven Bers, hired in July to investigate the police chief.
Mr. Wilber, a Salisbury lawyer, has represented the city in the police chief investigation and issued several legal opinions critical of council initiatives in recent months.


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