Updated special election results show three Palmer City Council members being recalled from their seats

Updated results published by election officials on Friday evening show all three members being recalled after about 400 additional ballots were tallied.
Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 8:07 PM AKDT|Updated: Apr. 22, 2022 at 10:14 PM AKDT
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - Updated unofficial results from the recent special election in Palmer show that three members of the town’s city council are being recalled from their seats over accusations that they violated the Open Meetings Act.

Palmer’s special election took place on Tuesday, though early voting was open for some time before that. Early results showed voters favoring the recall of Sabrena Combs, Brian Daniels and Jill Valerius, but only about half the ballots cast in the election had been counted at that point.

Updated results published by election officials on Friday evening show all three members being recalled after about 400 additional early, absentee, questioned and special needs ballots were tallied.

The effort to unseat the members began last year when petitions to recall four then-sitting council members were filed. Those supporting the recall allege the members violated the Open Meetings Act when, in 2020, they participated in a Facebook group that was closed. Those initial petitions were rejected and one of the four members later lost reelection to the body. Additional petitions to recall Combs, Valerius and Daniels were subsequently filed and moved forward to the special election.

An investigation by an independent law firm found that while the members’ participation in discussion about a proposed mask requirement in the Facebook group likely violated the Open Meetings Act, the robust public discourse over several council meetings that followed “remedied the violation.”

Friday’s updated results show Combs losing her seat by 499 votes in favor of her recall to 371 votes against it. Daniels had 498 votes in favor of recalling him compared to 373 votes against his recall, and Valerius had 493 votes in favor of recalling her compared to 373 votes against it.

“I’ve spent the last five months meeting the most wonderful, down-to-earth, happy, honorable people imaginable,” said recall campaign Chair Jacquelyn Goforth in a Facebook post. “They are the citizens of Palmer, Alaska. The sense of community, unity, and deep appreciation for their history and traditions is alive and strong. Ethics and integrity matter in this city. The voters proved that with this recall election.”

The ballots tallied from in-person voting on election day showed voters in favor of recalling each council member by a wider margin. The results that were added later, largely from early voting, were more evenly split but still favored the recall.

Each council member lost their seat by a margin of about 15% of the votes.

“I just hope this awakens the people of Palmer to pay attention to what’s happening in local leadership - we don’t always have to agree on everything politically or socially but having diversity in leadership benefits us all, it truly does,” said Combs in a Facebook post. “I’m going to keep on keeping on, working to ensure Palmer will remain the best place to live, work and play.”

The results showed higher than average voter turnout for Palmer, with just over 20% of registered voters casting a ballot in the special election. That eclipses the turnout for Palmer’s regular municipal election in October 2021, which was 14.2%.

The election results are scheduled to be certified on May 3, according to Palmer’s city clerk’s office.

To fill the seats left by recalled members, the remaining Palmer City Council members vote to appoint replacements who will serve until the next regular election. There is already one member of the council who was appointed to their seat, meaning the body would have a majority of members who were appointed rather than elected.

Palmer’s next regular election is in October.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct that the special election results will be certified on May 3.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information.

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