City finds administrator petition fails to generate verifiable signatures

(Sheridan, Wyo.) — The City has found that a petition circulating to allow for a special election on the hire of a city administrator did not meet statutory requirements , and therefore the original ordinance is retroactively effective as of Dec. 18, 2015. "I always (went) for inclusion rather than exclusion, if at all possible," Jim Harmon, Finance and Administrative Services Director and City Clerk/Treasurer said of the process to certify signatures on the petition. "My conclusions are that the petition does not meet the statutory requirement for the number of required voters. It falls short of the required 529 ... I cannot therefore certify it to the council," Harmon said. City Attorney Greg Von Krosigk told the Sheridan City Council at a regular meeting Monday that the petition had 553 signatures, 529 of which would have to be verified as from registered voters within the City of Sheridan to make it certifiable. The verification process showed that 78 names did not meet requirements or could not be verified, meaning the petition fell short of meeting statutory requirements. "So, from a legal perspective, what do you do now? The matter of whether this petition goes to a ballot or not is not a decision you take action on tonight," Von Krosigk told the council. "If the petition qualified ... It is the burden on the city council to suspend Ordinance 21-58 and commence sending the matter to a ballot. "If Mr. Harmond cannot certify to you that the petition meets requirements ... there is nothing left for you to do. The ordinance becomes effective 60 days from the date of the last publication. That date is Dec. 18, 2015." In an effort to provide the most objective review, the City of Sheridan decided to have a four-level review of all signatures, Von Krosigk said. First, Harmon did a review of all 553 signatures, verifying 475 of them. He was unable to verify 78 names, which he then re-reviewed himself. The second tier of review occurred when the list of names was sent to Public Works Director Nic Bateson. "Mr. Bateson and his staff reviewed those 78 names and used the data available in his office — things like utility bills — and took a crack at verifying those names," Von Krosigk said. On the third level of review, the Chief of Police used the data in his office, and his staff and department to see which, if any, of those 78 names could be verified as qualified electors. "We probably were safe stopping there. That is a pretty in-depth review," Von Krosigk said. However, the City forwarded the list to the Sheridan County Clerk's Office to "help us verify those names that we couldn't verify on first blush," he said. None were able to verify enough names to make the petition valid, he said. "At the end of that review, there were 78 names that (the City) was unable to verify as qualified electors in the City of Sheridan," he said. "Ordinance 21-58 is effective as of Dec. 18 and you all (the Council) don't need to do anything else." *Feature photo Vicki Taylor collects signatures on the petition outside the Post Office this fall. Paul Birkholz / Pitchengine Communites* #dally #news