PLATTSMOUTH – Plattsmouth Mayor Paul Lambert said a mayoral recall divides a city, taking years to heal itself.
“I would hate to see that happen to Plattsmouth,” he said Tuesday evening.
Lambert added that he should remain in office.
“I think my past record will show that.”
Lambert responded to efforts by a citizens’ group to remove him from office because of various issues.
At the heart of the matter, according to a recall organizer, is how the city handled the removal of gravestone decorations and mementos at the Oak Hill Cemetery earlier this spring that brought out a large crowd expressing their anger at the April 15 City Council meeting.
“My whole family is devastated on what happened,” one resident told the council.
Another added, “I’ve never seen anything as despicable as this.”
Many complained the removal of the decorations was disrespectful to the memories of their loved ones. Others also had issues on the lack of communication to the public prior to the removal.
Much of their anger was directed toward City Administrator Erv Portis, who admitted the removal was not communicated well. He added, however, that other citizens complained about the decorations, plus workers were injured maintaining the grounds while dealing with the decorations.
At that meeting, it was also learned that the city’s Cemetery Board that reviews cemetery operations had not met for several years. Lambert at that meeting created a three-member board of city council members to review rules and other related issues concerning decorations.
In an email sent to the Plattsmouth Journal, recall organizer Greg Hughes said that while concerns initially started with the cemetery cleanup, there are other issues with the city government that are concerning in the minds of the recall supporters and which do not follow Plattsmouth municipal code.
“Mayor Lambert has disregarded Plattsmouth municipal code regarding boards and commissions,” Hughes said. “The cemetery board has not met since 2014, which led to the cemetery cleanup order to remove, destroy and discard all cemetery decorations. Mayor Lambert supports this disgraceful and disrespectful action rather than the citizens of Plattsmouth. The lack of communication on all topics must also be fixed.”
Lambert said communication with the public has improved, plus signs have long been posted at the Oak Hill Cemetery informing people that decorations and mementos must be removed before April 1.
Lambert also said he fully supports his entire city staff and praised their efforts through these difficult times with the flooding.
“I think everybody is aware of the difficulties we’ve been facing,” he said. “It’s been a strain on our city employees and they have all been working hard to solve these problems. Everybody has gotten extra work and they are doing a great job.”
Hughes said he and other recall supporters are seeking the removal of Portis, but he is an appointed official and the only people who can remove him are the mayor and the city council.
“The mayor has stated he supports Mr. Portis and his decisions, so we are seeking a recall of the mayor as that is all the voting public can do,” Hughes said.
Lambert said that while he did appoint Portis to that position, most recently last December, it’s the City Council that must approve appointments. During a December meeting, the council voted 8 to 0 in favor of the Portis appointment, Lambert said.
The initial filing of the recall paperwork was on June 5, Hughes said. Per state election laws, Lambert has 20 days to respond with a 60-word-or-less statement that will be printed on the recall petition, according to Hughes.
Lambert said he plans on responding within that time frame.
Following that, recall supporters have 20 days to pick up the completed recall petitions from the local election office. Once that is done, the recall supporters have 30 days to collect and turn in the signed petitions.
“We can’t gather signatures until we get the completed recall petitions from the election office, and we need 538 signatures, or 35 percent of the votes cast for Mayor Lambert in the last election,” Hughes said. “There are other people that have reached out to me, and we do have a team of people that will be helping gather signatures once we get the official petitions.”
“I want fair and compassionate treatment for all of our citizens,” Lambert said. “I want it to be fair for everyone with everyone living by the same rules.”
With the required signatures, any special election decision would be up to the Cass County Election Office, according to Hughes.