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Recall Threat Follows Vote To Oust Johnson
November 25, 1997



Tuesday, November 25, 1997
Section: news
Page: A03
Scott Andrews 

RICHMOND People opposed to the City Council decision last week not to renew City Manager Floyd Johnson's contract pressed their cause Monday, calling for the resignation or recall of council members who ousted the top executive. 

George Harris III, an attorney and emerging leader in the recall campaign, said Monday he is considering filing for a court injunction to suspend last week's City Council resolution on Johnson's contract. He said he is investigating whether the way the council made its decision violates state open meeting laws. 

To be announced today 

Harris and other Johnson supporters plan to announce their recall campaigns at a 6 p.m. rally today at City Hall. 

"This is not about Mr. Johnson; this is about preserving the integrity of our political process," said NAACP Richmond branch President Kenneth Nelson. 

The council made its decision after most council spectators had left the council meeting and did not first explicitly notify the public it might take a vote on Johnson's contract. 

"Generally speaking, people are angry because (Johnson) is a qualified candidate. This is an individual who opened the process of city government to the community and, overall, has had many positive successes," Nelson said. 

He emphasized that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has not decided whether it would participate in a recall campaign. 

Others calling for a recall campaign are the Rev. J.L. Johnson of Elisabeth Missionary Baptist Church and former Councilman Jim McMillan. 

Their targets could include four of the council members who voted to oust Floyd Johnson: Alex Evans, Donna Powers, Nat Bates and Tom Butt. Harris said Powers, who plans to leave office in 1999, may be spared a recall effort. 

Griffin exempt 

A recall campaign against Richard Griffin, who voted with the majority, could not begin until Feb. 17. The Richmond city charter and state law forbid recall campaigns until officeholders are at least 90 days into their terms. Griffin's term began Nov. 17. 

Getting a recall campaign on the ballot will not be easy, admitted leaders in the campaign. After City Clerk Eula Barnes approves a recall petition, supporters would have 160 days to get 7,622 signatures, 15 percent of the city's registered voters. 

Responding to calls for his resignation, Bates said Monday he will not give up his seat. Griffin said had no comment, because he had not been contacted by anyone asking for him to resign. 

Bates also defended the way the council made its decision, saying personnel issues cannot be discussed in public for legal reasons. Evans, Powers and Butt could not be reached for comment. 

People promoting the recall effort said Monday they have not chosen candidates to replace any council member who might be ousted. But Harris said Gary Bell, a bank manager who lost a bid for a council seat Nov. 4, is a possibility.