First Ward councilwoman Ginny Chadwick announced her resignation during Monday’s regular City Council meeting, after a recall petition garnered the requisite number of signatures.
Chadwick said she would be stepping down to prevent an expensive recall election when personal circumstances might cause her to leave the council anyway.
The city could thus put a special election for the First Ward on the April ballot, rather than having a recall election, Chadwick said.
Chadwick said she was already considering resigning in August, with the possibility of her leaving Columbia in order to pursue a doctoral degree.
In 2014, Chadwick sponsored the successful "Tobacco 21" initiative raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco in Columbia to 21. She previously drew the ire of many citizens in October, when she voted against a bill decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana cultivation.
Eapen Thampy, who is a member of the Show-Me Cannabis lobby effort, created a Facebook group titled “Recall First Ward Councilperson Ginny Chadwick" in late October. Thampy said he disagreed with Chadwick’s vote on marijuana legislation for Columbia.
A petition circulated, with the group collecting 319 signatures. Only 249 were necessary to trigger a recall election.
Thampy said he was motivated to become involved with Chadwick’s recall by what he said is certain politicians' mentalities that marijuana law reform is not a serious issue.
The Mid-Missouri National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapters at MU, as well as CoMo Council Watch and Keep Columbia Free, quickly joined his efforts in recalling Chadwick.
The page gained almost 500 likes through frequently posting statuses and related articles using #RecallChadwick.
Coalition members asked their friends and families to sign the petition, went door-to-door, walked around the streets of Columbia and sat outside of public venues, Thampy said.
Thampy said Chadwick claimed she would support the marijuana cultivation decriminalization ordinance when running for office. However, the vote ended up being 4-3 with Chadwick voting against. Chadwick said she didn’t change her mind, but the bill was not what she thought it was originally.
“I didn’t go back on my word,” Chadwick said. “I thought that Columbia was innovative and I preferred the idea of marijuana legalization, but during my time in office I learned that the ordinance that we had created conflicted with state and federal law and was not able to be put in place by city government.”
Thampy said no matter what, Chadwick crossed a line.
“She broke her word to us,” Thampy said. “She’s lying if she says otherwise.”
Besides the marijuana cultivation decriminalization ordinance, residents of Columbia became involved with the recall for a number of reasons, including her proposed ban on alcohol in Douglass Park and issues surrounding the Opus development agreement.
“Ginny Chadwick has lied to her constituencies about not just marijuana reform, but on a number of other issues,” Thampy said. “I think it’s probably true that if she hadn’t lied or if she had at least been honest about what she was going to do on certain votes, there would have been people who disagreed with her, but we wouldn’t have this anger.”
CoMo Council Watch spokesperson Pam Cooper said the main reason she became involved was her previous Repeal 6214 efforts regarding the Opus Group development agreement, which ultimately fell short of the needed number of signatures.
“We felt that she sort of committed a misfeasance in that regard because she was interfering with the repeal petition process,” Cooper said. “Her alliance with the developers on that second ordinance and her disregard of citizens’ concerns was what sort of stimulated my interested in recalling her.”
Third Ward councilman Karl Skala said generally speaking, it’s not proper to recall an elected official based on a difference of opinions or one specific issue.
“I think in this case the rationale behind it was that there was a pattern of behavior, which just wasn’t relegated to one issue, but to a series of issues,” Skala said.
The resignation will not affect Tobacco 21, Chadwick said, as it’s already effective and in place.
From now until April 7, City Council will function with only six members, meaning legislation has the possibility to tie. If a tie occurs, the legislation will not be passed, Skala said.
City Counselor Nancy Thompson said candidates running for the First Ward must obtain at least 50 but no more than 75 valid voter’s signatures on the nominating petition. The petition must be turned in to the city clerk by Feb. 10 at 5 p.m. to be placed on the ballot in the special election on April 7.
Skala said he would like to see a First Ward councilperson who’s had at least some experience serving on boards or commissions in some sort of civic capacity. However, he said he’d support any candidate the First Ward decides they want to elect.
Fifth Ward councilwoman Laura Nauser said she is hoping the new First Ward councilperson is someone who isn’t afraid to become involved with controversial issues, keeps their core beliefs intact, represents the people that elected them and gets along with a wide variety of people and temperaments while still maintaining an appropriate decorum.
Despite recall efforts, Chadwick remained confident about her decisions in office.
“I would not have made any decision different,” she said.
Nauser said she applauds Chadwick for doing what she thought was best.
“She brought a passion to the council and spoke her mind and advocated for the things that she felt were right and would benefit our community,” Nauser said. “I certainly can’t scold anybody for a passion and I certainly do wish her well in her future pursuits.”
Sixth Ward councilwoman Barbara Hoppe also announced she will not be campaigning for re-election in the spring.