Judge to rule Thursday in Omaha mayor recall case

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Associated Press

Posted on December 22, 2010 at 2:02 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 22 at 2:05 PM

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A Douglas County district judge said he'll rule Thursday on the validity of a recall effort against Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle.

A recall petition with more than 37,000 signatures was submitted last month, and Douglas County elections workers verified 28,720 of the signatures — enough to force a vote on whether Suttle can keep his job.

But the Democratic mayor has asked a judge to throw out the petition, arguing Mayor Suttle Recall Committee committed fraud.

Testimony in the case began Monday and wrapped up Wednesday. District Judge Peter Bataillon said he'll announce his decision Thursday afternoon.

Of the more than 37,000 signatures collected by the recall group, 28,720 were deemed valid. The group needed 26,643 to force a recall vote, so the judge would have to invalidate at least 2,077 signatures to cancel the election.

Meanwhile, the Omaha City Council voted Tuesday to set the recall election for Jan. 25. Under state law, the council was required to set the vote for 30-45 days after being notified of the verified petition.

If voters decided to remove Suttle from office, a second election would be held in 90-150 days to find his replacement. A candidate would need to get half of the votes cast or a runoff election would be held, according to the county election commissioner.

If the recall fails, Suttle couldn't face another recall attempt for one year.

Suttle, a former city councilman and public works director, took office in spring 2009. He has said he won't resign.

In seeking Suttle's ouster, the recall group cited "excessive taxes, broken promises and union deals that cost taxpayers millions and threaten Omaha's economic future."

His spokeswoman, Aida Amoura Rezac, defended Suttle's job as mayor.

"The mayor stepped up to the plate and made tough decisions to protect the best interest of the people he serves," Rezac said Tuesday. "Mayor Suttle stands by his record of bringing fiscal stability to Omaha, streamlining city operations, restoring the city's AAA bond rating, saving taxpayers millions of dollars and providing real job opportunities for the unemployed in our community."

Omaha voters have successfully replaced their mayor through the recall process before. In 1987, voters ousted Mike Boyle, who had a long-running feud with the police department and was criticized for erratic behavior.

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