Petitions for recall delivered

The Citizens for a Safe Fire District submitted more than 3,000 signatures for the recall of three Hualapai Valley Fire District board members on Thursday.

This is another step in the process that could possibly shake up the leadership of the fire district serving northern Kingman.

Mohave County Elections Director Allen Tempert confirmed the citizen's group submitted 1,230 signatures for the recall of Jimmie Bodenhamer, 1,132 signatures for the recall of Edward Schrum and 1,115 signatures for the recall of Gene Newman.

"The response from the public was overwhelming," said Mike Collins, the chairman of the citizen's group. "Every person that signed the petition is ready for a change in leadership at HVFD."

Bodenhamer and Schrum have looked over the petitions and feel the statements for recall were inaccurate. "The way they wrote this, I probably would have signed this if I didn't know the truth," Schrum said.

Both said they are pursuing legal action concerning libel.

"We're not just accepting this," Schrum said. "We're looking into legal action. We believe it is wrong, inaccurate and illegal."

Bodenhamer and Schrum also said district members have contacted them saying the petitioners knocked on the front door saying they are HVFD firefighters. Schrum said he believes it to be others misrepresenting themselves as HVFD firefighters.

The Elections Department along with several other governmental agencies will start going through the procedures of checking the sheets for errors and invalid signatures, Tempert said. There needs to be more than 700 signatures for each board member to start the recall process.

"It's a process that's going to take a long time," Tempert said. "This process could go to September or November."

Hualapai Valley Fire District Attorney Charlotte A. Wells agreed with Tempert's statement.

"They still have a long way to go," Wells said. "I have confidence they (the board members) will survive."

After looking over the submitted petitions, Wells said she doesn't believe there are enough signatures of residents in the fire district and plans to challenge the validity of the petitions.

"In my opinion, they are invalid," Wells said. "I believe, in the end, the recall will fail."

On Sept. 21, Citizens for a Safe Fire District applied for an official serial number from the Mohave County Elections Department for signature sheets of the recall petitions for Bodenhamer, Schrum, Newman and Jim McCarthy. McCarthy stepped down from his position last year.

They were appointed for the merged Hualapai Valley and Valle Vista fire districts last year. The group had to wait for board members to hold their offices for six months following the merger before proceeding with a recall, according to the Arizona Revised Statutes.

Gary Seieroe was selected on Aug. 23 to fill Patti Lewis' vacant seat. His term runs until Nov. 30, 2010.

Collins cited a need for new leadership to restore integrity and professionalism to the fire district as reason for the recall.

"We need to restore and rebuild the public's trust in our elected officials and provide the best possible service to its citizens," Collins said.

The Citizens for a Safe Fire District isn't the only group critical of the HVFD.

The United Professional Firefighters of Kingman have been critical of Hualapai Valley Fire Chief Wayne L. Eder and the HVFD board for more than a year.

"The citizens and firefighters have sent a clear message to the HVFD fire board," UPFFK President Robert Borker said. "We cannot afford to have an out of control fire chief and out of touch board placing public safety at risk any longer."