Voters will get a chance to replace Keene Mayor John Ackermann in November if the recall effort that began Wednesday moves to the next stage.
“I understand that the petition has been turned in,” City Administrator Bill Guinn said, adding that the next general election will be in November.
Twenty signatures are required to initiate a recall election. Keene resident Liesl Hoover, who submitted the necessary paper work — along with the signatures — on Wednesday morning, said she didn’t have any problem finding voters willing to put their names on the recall petition. City Secretary Keesha Lay was verifying signatures on Wednesday afternoon and said organizers will have 30 days to gather additional signatures once she confirms that the initial 20 names represent registered voters.
Ackermann has been at the center of controversy since April when he began butting heads with Guinn and Keith Jilge, the economic development director. Guinn and Jilge are to be the subjects of executive session discussion at today’s 7 p.m. city council meeting. Unlike a May 16 city council executive session addressing personnel items, this agenda includes “the appointment, employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline or dismissal,” of Guinn and Jilge.
“This time the language has been racheted up to termination,” Guinn said. “They went back to language that is very antagonistic and negative. No one has approached me and said ‘it’s time for you to go.’ Makes me think there’s a personal agenda.
“I’m so flat-out tired of this. Frankly, this is the last time we’re going through this. At some point it’s harassment.”
Guinn is considering hiring an attorney to help safeguard his interests, he said. Jilge retained counsel in the spring.
Although the clash between the city’s top administrators and the mayor have taken the spotlight, Guinn said in a Wednesday telephone interview, that serious issues are at play. He charged Ackermann with attempting to subvert the charter and use provisions of a 1997 ordinance that pre-dates the current Keene charter to get rid of him and Jilge. Jilge has challenged the value of a proposed new business and also publicly questioned Ackermann’s handling of Keene’s emergency management procedures.
Under the charter, the city administrator is a buffer between the mayor and staff members. Although he, Ackermann, Jilge and the city attorney recently met to draft a letter saying, in effect, that Ackermann would abide by the charter, when the letter went out to department heads, the wording was different, Guinn said.
“They’re basically jacking with the charter adopted by the people,” Guinn said. “If you’re not going to follow the charter you have to explain it to the people.”
Meanwhile, Hoover is eager to start adding names to the recall list. She needs to come up with about 380 more, she said. Should the voters oust Ackermann, the mayor pro tem, Dale Janes, would serve in his place until November 2014, Guinn said.
“It was not hard to get that first 20,” names, Hoover said, adding that she is confident of getting the necessary 20 percent of voters to sign off on the recall. “I think we’re going to reach it.”
Ackermann did not return calls seeking comment on Tuesday or Wednesday.