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145 sign petition to recall Roden

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe

Another recall petition landed at City Hall on Tuesday — this time for District 1 council member Kevin Roden.

According to City Secretary Jennifer Walters, the petition contained 145 signatures. Under the city charter, she has seven days to review them. At least 132 of the people who signed the petition must be qualified voters in the district for it to be certified. If that happens, Roden must either resign or face a recall election in May.

The City Council is already expected to order a recall election for District 4 council member Joey Hawkins next Tuesday. District 4 residents in southern Denton submitted two petitions to recall Hawkins. The first petition could not be certified, but the second one was.

The charter requires a five-member committee of petitioners list their grievance for the recall. The petition against Roden listed only one: his disregard of the citizens’ initiative to ban hydraulic fracturing in the city limits in 2014 and his subsequent vote to repeal the ban in 2015.

One of the grievances against Hawkins also listed his vote to repeal the ban.

So who is behind the recalls? That’s hard to say.

Ed and Carol Soph, part of the original leadership of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group, said the group has returned its attention to educational work. They briefly intervened as a co-defendant with the city in state and industry lawsuits against the ban, but their campaigns, Pass the Ban and Frack Free Denton, dissolved after the election. On social media, other Denton DAG leaders, Amber and Adam Briggle, have distanced themselves personally from the recall efforts.

The leaders of Blackland Prairie Rising Tide, who encouraged protests and other direct action at drill sites after the ban was nullified, said the group doesn’t get involved in local political campaigns and has nothing to do with the recall drives.

But the 2014 initiative to ban fracking mobilized dozens of volunteers who had a stake in the outcome of the election. Many have continued to question the City Council’s decision to repeal the ban in the face of lawsuits and legislative action.

Resident Jodi Ismert said she agreed to circulate the petition in District 1 after Doyle Cain, one of the petition committee members, asked for her help. Ismert doesn’t live in the district, but has become increasingly active since the ban was repealed.

Cain, who challenged Roden’s re-election bid last May, but lost, submitted the petition to the city. He was one of the five people serving as a committee of petitioners, as required under the charter.

“The voters of District 1 are disillusioned by the performance of their councilman and believe a change is needed,” Cain said in a statement.

The right to recall a council member under the city charter is for extraordinary circumstances, Roden said. Asking people to sign on for a recall because they disagreed with a vote isn’t productive, he said.

“This is destructive,” Roden said.

He said he has monitored comments on social media and he believes longtime critics of City Hall have capitalized on the grass-roots movement to push for recall.

“They [the critics] don’t want better representation — they want no representation,” Roden said.

If both recalls are successful, two of the seven council seats would remain empty until the November election.

David Zoltner said he signed the petition to recall Roden. A District 1 resident, he has pushed for more government transparency at City Hall.

He said he didn’t have a problem with the city’s repeal of the fracking ban. Instead, he signed the petition because of Roden’s stance on ethics reform.

“I’ve talked with him — he’s dead set against ethics reform,” Zoltner said. “That’s my only issue right now. He’s a nice guy, but he’s got to go.”

Roden said he looks forward to discussing the issues during the spring campaign.


PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.