EDA officials don’t respond to recall
By Reggie Ellis
exeter – The effort to recall two local officials will move on without their input. Last Thursday, April 6 was the deadline for the Tulare County Elections Office to notify those in favor of the recall if two Exeter District Ambulance board members had filed responses to the recall papers served to them at the March 23.
Board members Tony Miller and Darinda Kunkel had seven days from the date they were served the notice of intent to recall to file responses with the Elections Office, according to the recall guide prepared by the Secretary of State’s office in 2014 that is still being used by Tulare County.That deadline of March 30 then started another seven-day countdown for the Elections Office to serve one of the 10 proponents who signed the notice of intent to recall petition. That deadline passed on April 6.
The notices, which were published in the March 29 edition of the Sun-Gazette, were separate but similar claiming that Miller and Kunkel were colluding with one another and neither was acting “in the best interest of EDA.”
“Darinda Kunkel and I are not in collusion,” Miller told the Sun-Gazette. He pointed out that he and Kunkel were on opposing sides of the vote over retroactive resolutions for past violations of the district’s own policy regarding withdrawals from the Local Agencies Investment Fund (LAIF), or reserve account. He said they also differed on a vote to have EDA’s attorney draw up a new, less stringent policy for the LAIF.
In the case of Kunkel, the petition claimed that she was biased in her decision making and pointed out that her friend, Linda Miller, was an employee at the district and that she voted on matters pertaining to her employment.
“I don’t know what I did and I don’t understand this at all,” said Kunkel, whose husband John previously served on the board from 2002-2009. “For those who have never been a board member, it is hard to understand why I can’t comment but these are personnel issues that I am unable to talk about.”
In the case of Miller, the grounds for recall were much more substantial. The petition claimed that Miller has an “obvious personal agenda against previous management and current employees” and that he “will use political corruption and abuse of power for personal gain.” The petition claims he has removed public documents from the premises and allegations of blackmailing a former district employee.
“Since taking office Mr. Miller has had numerous formal complaints filed against him for hostile work environment, some which included physical threats that were made to a former employee,” the notice states.
The petition refers to an independent investigation into a conversation between Miller and former EMT Michael Hansen, who accused the board member of blackmailing him to falsify a letter about other employees or lose his job if he refused. Ultimately, the report concluded that Hansen was more credible than Miller and that Hansen’s allegations of blackmail were sustained.
Miller said that, “Allegations of blackmail were never proven, they were just allegations. Blackmail is a crime and I have never been investigated by the police department.”
Miller was also chastised for nepotism and cronyism because his wife, Linda Miller, is a billing clerk with the district and he himself is a member of the same union that represents EDA employees. “We feel it is a conflict of interest that Mr. Miller’s wife, Linda, is an employee in the office and that Mr. Miller is a Teamsters Shop steward, which is the union which currently represents EDA employees. Mr. Miller has voted on union matters which directly benefit his wife and the union he works for. Nepotism, cronyism and the potential for future votes that will directly affect his wife and the union are possible.”
Both Miller and Kunkel said if the public has questions about their intentions they can attend all of the board meetings and request any document, with the exception of those regarding personnel issues, negotiations, or incomplete investigations.
“All of our meetings are open to the public and most of our records are public records, so I have nothing to hide,” Miller concluded.
Proponents of the recall now have until April 16 to file the actual recall petition they will circulate to get the needed 1,639 signatures to force a recall election. But because April 16 falls on a Sunday, the group must file the petition form by Friday, April 14. Two blank copies of the petition will then be “carefully reviewed for uniformity correctness and will be compared to the notice of intention and publication to assure accuracy in text, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, format, etc.”
If the forms have discrepancies with the original notice of intent to recall, it will be rejected. This initiates a 10-day correction notification period and 10-day filing period for corrected petitions, which is repeated until the elections official finds that no alterations are required.
Once the Elections Office approves the form proponents will need to gather 1,639 signatures, or 25% of the total number of voters registered in the ambulance district. They will have 90 days from the date the form is approved to gather the needed signatures. If the Elections Office determines that enough signatures are valid, registered voters, an elections official will call the Exeter District Ambulance to order an election more than 88 days but less than 125 days from the date the recall petition was filed. If the petitioners fail to collect enough valid signatures, the entire recall process will restart.