JOSEPH - A Joseph City Council member accused of antagonistic speech and disparaging comments at public meetings is now the subject of a recall petition drive.
Jennifer Ballard, who has served on the council for two years, is the subject of the recall effort, which was launched by chief petitioner Walter J. Smith of Joseph.
Ballard was the subject of controversy earlier this year when she was removed from the volunteer Wallowa County Planning Commission by a unanimous vote of the three members of the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners.
"Her language was inappropriate for a public official in a public meeting," commissioner Dan DeBoie said in March at the time the action was taken. DeBoie said he was especially offended by comments she had made about Indians and gay people at a Feb. 24 meeting. The controversial Ballard was also twice called on the carpet by the Joseph council, once in response to three complaints from Joseph citizens and once for things she had said at a Joseph council meeting.
"I think it's totally outrageous," Ballard said when she heard about the petition. "I think it's an attempt to silence free speech and representation of all the people of Joseph."
After the petition is turned in to Wallowa County Clerk Charlotte McIver, she has 10 days under the Oregon constitution to verify the signatures. If they are verified, Ballard will have five days to either submit a statement of justification, which will appear on the ballot, or a statement of resignation.
Ballard was the only candidate listed on the Joseph ballot for three open city council positions in the November 2002 election, when she was elected. For the 2004 general election this November, a total of 12 candidates have filed for three Joseph councilor positions, including Ballard's husband George, plus three more for mayor.
Smith filed the prospective petition with the Wallowa County Clerk July 20, and must collect 75 valid signatures of Joseph voters and turn them into the clerk by 5 p.m. Monday.
"I didn't get aggressive about collecting signatures until this week," Smith said. He reported that he and eight other Joseph residents had already collected 80 names on the recall petition as of Friday, with several of the petition collectors yet to turn in their signatures.
Smith, who taught political science at the University of California for 18 years, is married to Joseph councilor Shelley Curtiss. Smith said, however, that his wife has nothing to do with the recall and had even tried to dissuade him from going forward with it.
"I have a strong interest in politics, especially decent politics," Smith said about his motivation about the recall. "I have observed Joseph City Council for over a year and decided this should be done so the city council could do its job. - Ballard is a disruptive influence and has presented many obstacles to the council."