Driggs residents will know within the next two weeks if Mayor Hyrum Johnson will face a recall election organized by some Driggs citizens. Even if city petitioners gather enough signatures by Dec. 9, they would have to do more than just win a majority of the votes in order to remove the mayor from office.
Under Idaho law, those wanting to force Johnson from office will also have to beat the number of votes that the mayor received in the last election. In 2013, he beat George Mosher 154 votes to 143. That means the recall effort needs 155 citizens to vote to recall the mayor and they need to get more votes than those voting for him to remain in office.
Driggs resident Steve Kerbs has run ads calling for Johnson’s recall in the Jackson Hole Daily, which cited reasons for the effort such as: “He is disrespectful of the public and the right of the citizens of Driggs to participate in their government,” and “He has burned bridges where cooperation and communication should prevail.”
In response to a request for comment, Mayor Johnson sent this email response to the TVN:
“I understand that you feel it warrants coverage,” he wrote, “though from my end I don’t see any value in feeding a fire which is most likely dying, and had no substance in the first place.”
As of Nov. 23, Kerbs said there were around 80 signatures on the petition, halfway to the goal of 151. He said he has been going door-to-door asking for signatures. Citizens have to be registered to vote in Driggs to sign the petition.
When he goes to people’s homes asking for support, Kerbs said he has a sheet with specifics on each of his group’s grievances. One such example was the way that the city accepted public comment at a council meeting over whether a resort hotel at Huntsman Springs should be built.
The city opened public comment after nearly two and a half hours of staff reports and several speakers from Huntsman Springs. At 9:40 p.m. when comments began, Johnson laid out the rules for the public hearing, limiting each speaker to three minutes.
The TVN reported him as saying, “I have a kitchen timer and I’m not afraid to use it.”
The sheet also cites a quote published by the TVN from an email from Johnson to Valley Advocates for Responsible Development as characterizing public comment on the Huntsman development gathered by the group as “monotonous” and that “the general quality/usability of them is poor—a sad result of your disingenuous approach to ‘informing the public.’”
Kerbs also cites Johnson’s delaying of the renewal of the service contract between the city and the Teton County Sheriff’s Office as another reason for the recall. Kerbs' complaints also include the fact that the city had to vote multiple times to approve the new development at Huntsman Springs because of technicalities.
However, one of the central issues to the recall effort is the recent effort by the city to pass a nuisance ordinance. Originally, the ordinance was much broader, but it has been narrowed by the work of a citizen committee, which includes Kerbs.
“I like being left alone,” he said, “and so do a lot of older [residents].”
The revised ordinance was read for the first time at a council meeting on Nov. 17. He said even if that particular ordinance dies, he thinks the recall is still necessary.
“The days of us sitting and doing nothing and letting small government do their thing are over,” he said.
Kerbs tried to get the recall question on the fall ballot, but was unable to get the number required by the deadline. If the petition were successful, a special election would be called for March 8.