BARNSTABLE — Calls for the recall of Barnstable County Commissioner Ronald Beaty Jr. because of incendiary social media posts and contentious views on issues ranging from the #MeToo movement to the Parkland, Florida, school shooting to sharks face a significant challenge: There is no mechanism in the county charter to recall an elected county official from office.
At least not yet.
A move is under way in the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates — the 15-member body with one delegate from each Cape town — that serves at the regional government’s legislative branch, to add a recall provision to the charter.
But it won’t happen overnight, or even, perhaps, before Beaty’s four-year term expires in 2020.
A proposed ordinance for amending the charter to include a recall procedure for elected county officials was submitted to the assembly in December by five of its delegates — Ronald Bergstrom of Chatham, John Ohman of Dennis, Susan Moran of Falmouth, Edward McManus of Harwich and Brian O’Malley of Provincetown — but has not been moved forward yet.
At an assembly meeting earlier this month, substantive issues with the proposed change were disclosed after a review by county legal counsel and an attorney from the state Election Division, in effect sending the proposal and its sponsors back to the drawing board and a game of beat-the-clock.
For the recall provision to be voted on by county residents in this year’s state election in November, a petition would have to be reintroduced, approved by both the assembly and county commissioners and approved by the state Legislature — all by June 20, according to Suzanne McAuliffe, the assembly's current speaker and Yarmouth delegate.
The sponsors will be incorporating the legal suggestions and resubmitting the proposal, with the goal of having it placed on the assembly agenda soon, Moran said.
"It’s a very complicated prospect to work with the charter," McAuliffe said. "You almost have to start (on charter changes) right when assembly members get elected every two years. This is more complicated than the initial proposers anticipated."
Getting the ordinance brought before the assembly in the next month for discussion and a vote could be tough, since the next few meetings will be consumed with finalizing the county’s fiscal year 2019 budget, McAuliffe said.
McAuliffe is considering forming a charter review subcommittee to take a more in-depth look at other recommendations for changing the document.
"I think people want things to happen quickly," she said. "But the charter requires legislative approval. With a review, we could put all the suggested revisions together and send them all at once to Beacon Hill."
Moran, however, is not a fan of that approach.
"This (the recall provision) is something that should be done ahead of a (larger) review," she said.
The question remains as to why there was no recall provision incorporated into the charter when it was written in 1988.
"It might have been an oversight," said McAuliffe. "I don’t know if it was something that was on people’s minds when the charter was written."
—Follow Geoff Spillane on Twitter: @GSpillaneCCT