ORANGE — The Committee to Recall Mayor Dwayne Warren held a public meeting at the artfullbean cafe on Jefferson Street in the city’s Valley section on Saturday, Sept. 22.
On Wednesday, Aug. 8, Joyce Lanier, the Orange city clerk, approved a petition to recall Warren that had been filed by Orange Board of Education member Tyrone Tarver, along with Karen Wells and Katalin Gordon. They were given less than 160 days to obtain signatures from 25 percent of Orange’s total registered voters, approximately 4,052 signatures, to recall Warren and hold a municipal election to replace him.
According to Tarver, “the meeting’s purpose, after being an information session, was actually to hopefully recruit even more people to help.”
“We were going to explain to people and develop our strategy,” said Wells of the meeting Saturday, Sept. 22.
And Gordon said the reason for the meeting was to send a message.
“We’ve got to start somewhere. Send a message,” said Gordon on Saturday, Sept. 22. “If you do something, if you send a message. It’s not just the mayor, it’s also the council. If you send the message that the mayor is recallable, then the council will also understand that they are recallable and the public starts paying attention.”
Tarver said the meeting was held to inform the public about the recall petition drive and to recruit others to help with the effort.
“Our committee consists of myself, Derrick Henry, Karen Wells, Katalin Gordon and Mary Meade, who couldn’t be here,” said Tarver on Saturday, Sept. 22. “I’m a district leader within the city. I just got elected to the school board in March. That was our first school board election ever. Well, the reason that one came about is we actually did a similar petition last year. Once we said that we were going to move forward with this, I was the founder of the committee. We elected Rev. Anthony Johnson to be the chairmen of the Education Petition Committee. Short deadline, but we collected over 400 signatures within two weeks. We filed that, it was certified as valid and it basically forced an election to switch to an elected school board and the mayor campaigned very, very hard against us last year, but 86 percent of the voters went against him. So we actually took control of the school board away from him and it’s in the hands of the citizens to elect school board members from now on.”
Tarver said the Committee to Recall Mayor Dwayne Warren is hoping to repeat that with the Mayor’s Office.
“That was a very successful petition last year. We want to do the same thing this year,” Tarver said. “Obviously, we are very unhappy with the way the administration is running the city right now, but that pretty much all came to a head after the council elections this year, because very soon after the council elections, all the bad news started spilling out. That’s when we found out about the $7 million deficit that the city had. That’s when we found out that the FBI was actually back in town and served a subpoena on City Hall.”
Even if the recall effort is successful, Tarver admitted Warren could again run for mayor.
Also addressed by the recall committee was the tax increase in the Calendar Year 2018 city budget recently approved by the Orange City Council.
“There is a $7.1 million deficit and they knew there was a $2 million deficit when they voted to pass the 2017 city budget, where they gave themselves 100-percent salary increases and to give the mayor a 125-percent salary increase. They didn’t advertise it, but there was a deficit,” Tarver said.
“The second thing was they went back and borrowed another $4.6 million from the surplus fund. And the city still has to pay all that money back. We have two years’ worth of surplus rating that the city is on the hook for. We had to get permission from the state Local Finance Board, in order to get those monies. We have those monies. The deficit is covered, but at huge cost to taxpayers. They raised about $5 million from the tax increase. … We’re going to be in the hole again next year.”
“We’re angry, but we didn’t just form the committee based on anger,” Tarver added. “We’ve got some smart people on our committee and we hope to bring in even more smart people. There’s about 40 of us that are actually doing this right now and we want to bring in more to climb to that 4,052 signature threshold. We’re going to do canvassing.”
On Tuesday, Aug. 14, the Warren administration acknowledged the recall effort.
“The administration is aware of the circulation of a recall petition,” said Keith Royster, the city spokesman, Tuesday, Aug. 14. “Mayor Warren has always been a leader who leads our city through unity and citizen input. In the spirit of collaboration, the mayor asks any and all residents to join him in meeting the challenges we must face together, as one community. Those few individuals who want to engage in political theater choose to ignore the will of the people who voted in the 2016 municipal election.”