County Commissioners Discuss Recall Proposal

BARNSTABLE – Barnstable County Commissioners’ Chairman Leo Cakounes presented a tentative proposal for recalling elected county officials Wednesday.

The proposal from Cakounes, which would create a recall provision in the Home Rule Charter, comes after a petition from the Assembly of Delegates was rejected by the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office.

Cakounes said he would not support the recall of members of the Assembly of Delegates as they only serve two-year terms, but that he would be in favor of recalling County Commissioners, who serve four-year terms.

Cakounes’s proposal would allow for the recall of a County Commissioner after they have served one year. If the public is unhappy with the commissioner after 12 months they could seek a recall by gathering signatures from residents across the county.

“That will put that seat that the person happens to occupy into the regular biannual state election,” Cakounes said.

Having the recall elections take place during state elections would not cost the county any money.

“Basically this would give the voters the opportunity, if they so desired, to have a recall position that would cut a four-year term into a two-year term,” he said.

Cakounes said not tying recalls to the state elections could cost the county upwards of $200,000.

The recent special election in 11 towns for the new Cape Cod Regional Technical High School cost $90,000. A countywide recall election would include all 15 towns and would require two votes, a partisan primary election and general election, which would more than double the cost of the school vote.

Cakounes would also not support any recall provision which would not allow the person being recalled to run again.

“A recall petition cannot be used to remove someone from a seat and not give them the right to run again,” Cakounes said.

Discussions of creating a recall provision for county officials began last year by the Assembly of Delegates in response to several controversial statements and tweets by County Commissioner Ron Beaty.

Since his election in the fall of 2016 to the county’s executive board, Beaty has earned admirers and enemies for his relentless pursuit of open meeting law violations, even against his own commission.

He picked a very public fight with fellow Republican and 5th Barnstable District State Representative Randy Hunt over a parking space.

Beaty took some public heat for a proposal to bait and kill great white sharks off the Cape’s shores.

He also criticized the #MeToo movement on social media which has been used to raise awareness about sexual assault and abuse.

And most recently, he attacked a survivor of the Florida school shooting on Twitter.

Beaty said he does support the mechanism of a recall, but not on whim.

“I would think it would have to be for a very good reason that you recall an elected official after the voters already made their will known by electing that person,” Beaty said.

Examples given by Beaty would include some kind of maleficence, breaking a law or a previously undisclosed conflict of interest.

“I think the reasons beyond it really have to be serious,” he said. “That’s my only concern.”

Cakounes said that a recall for a legal reason or just not showing up and performing the duty would not require as many resident signatures.

“At some point someone has to come up with an idea of what are we going to require for signatures and are those signatures going to reflect every single town,” Cakounes said.

County Commissioner Mary Pat Flynn, who is not opposed to a recall, said a lot of homework needs to be done to create a recall provision for the Home Rule Charter.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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