NEW BEDFORD (WBSM) — The City of New Bedford could soon have a mechanism in place for recalling elected officers, as Mayor Jon Mitchell is submitting a proposal to the New Bedford City Council outlining his recall plan.

Mitchell had promised last year to establish a recall mechanism in New Bedford.

“Our system of government cannot reliably function if the results are allowed to be undone by those who merely disagree with the victor’s policies,” Mitchell said in April 2023. “But I believe that under extraordinary circumstances, voters should have the authority to recall an elected official who has become so physically or mentally incapacitated as to be unable to perform the basic duties of office, or whose moral or legal transgressions are so serious that continued service would undermine the legitimacy of the office itself.”

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Mitchell repeated those sentiments in his filing to the city council.

“While I believe that the recall of an elected officer should be an extraordinary remedy, I also believe that it is prudent to have a recall process so that voters can protect themselves against egregious breaches of public trust,” he wrote.

Read Mayor Mitchell's Recall Letter

The proposal, which would have to be put into effect via home rule petition because of the city’s charter, would have the following requirements in order to recall an elected official:

To recall a mayor, assessor or at-large city councilor, “600 voters initiate a recall petition by filing an affidavit with the Board of Election Commissioners that includes 100 signatures from each ward. The Board will then issue recall petition blanks, which must be returned within 45 days and contain signatures from at least 15 percent of registered voters across the city with 10 percent of such signatures coming from each ward.”

At least 15 percent of registered voters from across the city must vote in the recall election for it to take effect.

To recall a ward councilor, “100 voters of the ward initiate the recall petition by filing an affidavit with the Board of Election Commissioners, which will then issue recall petition blanks. The blanks must be returned within 45 days and contain signatures from at least 15 percent of the ward’s registered voters.”

Also, at least 15 percent of registered voters in the ward must vote in the recall election.

“I believe that these provisions strike the proper balance between providing voters with a necessary recall mechanism and ensuring that a recall of an elected officer cannot occur without significant deliberation and broad public support,” Mitchell wrote.

Also in the proposal is a stipulation that “if an elected officer is recalled, they will be ineligible to fill the vacancy left by their recall, either in a subsequent election or by appointment.”

That would avoid something like what happened in Fall River in 2019 when then-Mayor Jasiel Correia was both recalled and re-elected in the same election.

Mitchell is also filing a proposal “to clarify the process in how a vacancy in the office of mayor is filled,” because the current provision only “addresses how a vacancy is to be filled in the first and second year of a mayor’s term, but it has not updated in light of the city’s adoption of a four-year mayoral term in 2017.”

Read Mayor Mitchell's Letter Regarding Mayoral Vacancies

“It provides that if a vacancy occurs before the last six months of the term, the City Clerk shall order an election to fill such vacancy for the remainder of the term,” Mitchell wrote in his letter to the council regarding the proposed change. “If a vacancy occurs during the last six months of a term, the city council shall elect one of its members to serve as mayor.”

According to the proposal, if the city council fails to elect a member within 30 days, the president of the city council would become acting mayor.

New Bedford Mayors

New Bedford has had 49 different mayors, along with two acting mayors and one interim mayor.

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