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Sheriff recall effort dies

by Canda HarbaughWestern News
| October 8, 2009 12:00 AM

A group of Eureka-area residents failed Tuesday to turn in the nearly 2,000 signatures required to hold a special election to remove Lincoln County Sheriff Daryl Anderson from office.

“We haven’t heard anything from them – not a word, not a slip of paper, nothing,” county clerk and recorder Tammy Lauer said Wednesday morning.

The Lincoln County Recall Committee had three months to gather and submit signatures to the county clerk and recorder’s office. Lauer did not receive any, though she had requested that the group turn them in over time since the process of validating each registered county voter would be time-consuming.

The vocal group made headlines in county newspapers, as well as area dailies such as The Missoulian and Daily Inter Lake, when it accused Anderson of a string of allegations, including failing to fully investigate reports of rape.

Anderson, backed by county commissioners, denied the charges, claiming that the group had political motivation and that some of its members are part of an anti-government movement.

Lauer approved the committee’s petition in July, which was accompanied by an affidavit authored by the group’s chairperson, Virginia “Ginny” Emerson. Emerson’s affidavit listed the allegations, which she swore to be true, as well as how she gathered the information.

Allegations included failing to secure a crime scene, not requiring an officer to attend the state law-enforcement academy and denying a concealed weapons permit without providing a written statement for reasonable cause. 

Emerson would not comment Wednesday as to how short the committee fell from reaching its goal of 1,946 signatures, or 15 percent of the county’s voting population.

“We’re not giving the actual count,” she said. “We got quite a few of them.”

Anderson said that the lack of signatures reflects how county residents feel.

“I think the good honest working people of Lincoln County have spoken,” Anderson said. “It was that 2 percent that need to find a life and do something with themselves besides try to find a fault in everybody.”

Emerson directed inquiries about the petition to the committee’s website, which posted a letter Tuesday evening signed by Emerson. It stated that fear kept businesses from displaying the petition and county residents from signing it.

“To be concerned about the possibility of retaliation or retribution from the very person they have voted into office to protect their safety and property is something that needs to be questioned and answered,” the letter read.

Anderson said he hadn’t expected the group, which was reported in the past to have about 25 members, to garner much support.

“I didn’t think it (the petition) would go anywhere because the allegations are untrue,” Anderson said. “We investigate everything – we have documents, records and reports to prove it.”

Emerson said that for now, she and other committee members will continue attending twice-monthly Lincoln County Watch meetings in Eureka, which she describes as town hall meetings open to everyone.

Emerson said that she plans to run for a county office sometime in the future and mentioned her failed attempt to become clerk of court in the late 1990s and county commissioner in the 2006 election.

Anderson said that retirement has been on his mind for a few years now. At this time, the third-term sheriff doesn’t plan on running in the 2010 election.