Recall petition of Oakdale mayor still 350 signatures shy
OAKDALE, La. (AP) — A group seeking to recall the mayor of a central Louisiana city is about 350 signatures shy of reaching its goal.
The Community to Recall Oakdale Mayor Gene Paul and Force a Special Election has until July to turn in 936 valid signatures of registered voters in Oakdale to trigger the election, The American Press reported.
“We have until July, but we really don’t want it to take that long because the longer it drags out, the harder it is on everybody involved,” said Bridget Benoit Perkins, the group’s chairwoman.
Perkins said the number of signatures received so far sends a strong message that Oakdale residents are unhappy with the city’s current leadership and recent discovery of more than $897,000 in misappropriated public funds.
An investigative audit released by the state in January accuses former city clerk Melissa Schaefer of using electronic transfers to divert city funds to herself, using city checks to divert city funds to herself and using city funds to pay two personal credit card accounts. Additional allegations of misuse of funds could be forthcoming as the investigation continues.
Schafer, who was clerk for 19 years, died before the state investigation was completed.
Perkins said the group feels the mayor is responsible for overseeing city employees and that the missing funds should have been detected sooner.
Paul said he relied on Schafer and former city certified public accountant Royce Scimemi to have the city’s best interests and fulfill their duties overseeing the city’s finances. The city is currently pursuing lawsuits against Schaefer’s family and Scimemi to recoup some of the lost money.
Perkins said she has been pleased with the response from the community.
“I think the community by large is ready to get him out of office,” she said. “I think they are ready for a change.”
Most of the current signatures were acquired from people contacting the group asking to sign the petition. Others were obtained by members going door to door.
The Allen Parish Registrar of Voters Office must certify the signatures within 15 working days once the petition is submitted. Once certified, the petition will be forwarded to the governor who has 15 days to call a recall election.