Allison Petrone
Norman Mayor Breea Clark will not face a recall election, but Ward 3 Councilmember, Alison Petrone will after signature totals were verified Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (NonDoc)

Norman Mayor Breea Clark will not face a recall election after more than 3,600 submitted signatures were invalidated in the effort by Unite Norman. However, the group did gather enough signatures to force a recall election for Ward 3 Councilwoman Alison Petrone, Norman City Clerk Brenda Hall announced Monday.

To trigger a recall election of Clark, 25 percent of registered voters across Norman were required to sign the petition. Unite Norman gathered 18,154 signatures. Of those, at least 17.4 percent were determined to be invalid by 5:45 p.m. Monday.

Signatures were found to be invalid for reasons such as not being a registered Norman voter, duplicate entries, unverifiable name, or a name not matching the registered address, Hall said.

“While the lengthy verification process for the mayoral petition is not yet complete, we have made enough progress to determine that there are insufficient signatures to meet the requirement to proceed with an election,” Hall said in a press release. “Our staff will continue to work overtime to complete the final verification process for this petition.”

Clark said she is glad the process is over in a statement posted to her Facebook page.

“My family and I are glad this process is over, and I want to thank them as well as our friends and residents for their unwavering support,” she wrote. “I will continue to work tirelessly for our city and its residents as I have always done. At this crucial time, I want to encourage our residents to move past the divisiveness and focus on working together to create a better future for our city. There is much to be done in Norman, and it’s time to get to work.”

Alison Petrone will face recall

Ward 3 Councilwoman Alison Petrone will face a recall election, likely early next year.  Ward 3 encompasses much of west Norman. Petrone, a lawyer and small business owner, defeated Richard Bailey in March 2019 to win her council seat.

The Ward 3 recall petition required signatures from 25 percent of voters registered in Ward 3 — or 2,573 signatures — to be valid. In total, 3,444 signatures were submitted for Petrone, and 2,580 were verified as eligible voters.

The Norman City Council will now decide when to place Petrone’s recall election on a ballot for the final voter decision, Hall said.

A text message to Petrone was not returned by the publication of this story. Neither was a call and a text to Clark.

Group formed out of frustration with police funding

Unite Norman formed in the wake of the City Council’s decision to redirect more than $850,000 of a planned increase for the Norman Police Department budget to other city services. Despite that decision, the police department’s budget is still larger than the previous fiscal year, but residents who were frustrated by the decision — and a separate failed proposal to cut $4.5 million from the department — decided to pursue the recall efforts.

The group said when it turned in signatures last month it collected more than 20,500 signatures since mid-July in its effort to recall Clark, but not enough of them were valid, according to Hall.

The Norman Fraternal Order of Police released statements on the signature counts late Monday.

“We are excited the citizens of Norman will have a chance to decide if Councilwoman Petrone stays in office. We can’t wait until voters render their decision on an official who has denigrated police officers and threatened our funding,” said Robert Wasoski, president of the Norman FOP. “It’s time for change in Norman, and we are looking forward to having new leadership which truly represents the people of our city.”

Wasoski, however, was not pleased by the mayoral count.

“We are disappointed citizens will not have a chance to render judgment on the performance of Mayor Breea Clark,” Wasoski said. “However, we will never stop working to ensure Norman has political leadership that respects and prioritizes police officers, just as we fight to protect the community every day.”

Leaders of Unite Norman also distributed a press release claiming that the signature count is “far from over” and that legal challenges may be considered.

“The city’s press release cites that in the mayor’s recall effort, some signatures may not match the registered voters’ registered addresses,” the release noted before turning to an all-caps statement. “HOWEVER, LEGAL PRECEDENT IN OKLAHOMA STRONGLY SHOWS that — if challenged — those signatures will likely count, if those citizens reside in Norman, regardless of any prior address used on their voter registration form.”

Unite Norman had originally sought to recall four city council members. But the group did not get the required signatures to recall Ward 1 Councilwoman Kate Bierman and Ward 7 Councilman Stephen Holman. Councilwoman Sereta Wilson resigned prior to signatures being submitted against her.

(Update: This story was updated at 6:40 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14, to include additional information.)