BURWELL — Three Burwell elected officials are the subjects of recalls.
Donald M. Jones is circulating petitions to recall Mayor Charles Cone, Ward I Council Member Terry Cone and Ward II Council Member Carolyn DeBaets, said Garfield County Election Commissioner Linda Heermann.
Each petition states that the official “has failed to allow the public to vote and decide democratically whether to prohibit the addition of fluoride to the drinking water of the city of Burwell and has failed to keep the public adequately informed on important issues effecting the safety, health and well-being of city residents.”
In 2008, the Nebraska Legislature passed a law requiring cities with populations of more than 1,000 to add fluoride to the water supply. It allowed communities to opt out of the requirement by 2010.
Each official facing recall, as allowed by law, filed a statement of defense on the recall petition. They said that the previous council could have put the issue on the ballot but did not and that at the time there were no citizens who seemed concerned.
“The fluoridation issue was ignored by the old council in 2008,” Terry Cone stated. “Only one person in the Burwell community, now the current mayor, suggested to the council to place the issue on the ballot. This council did not have any concerned citizens come forward with any concerns about fluoridation, so this council chose simply to comply with the state law.”
Charles Cone and DeBaets stated that they believed it would be a positive for the health of Burwell’s residents.
“Fluoridation of water has been practiced for decades,” Charles Cone said. “It significantly prevents cavities, especially in children, and it is safe — for everyone. Over 100 towns in Nebraska already have optimal levels. Over 150 organizations and the U.S. Surgeon General endorse it. It will not harm anyone’s health.”
DeBaets agreed in her defense statement: “Legislature voted to fluoridate the water. Would the state put all people in danger? Preposterous! Newspapers informed residents about fluoridation. Previous council was informed August 2008 (that) the issue could be put on the ballot. It is our personal responsibility to inform ourselves of any good or danger for our own lives.”
Each of the officials were elected to office the first time in November 2008.
Heermann said there has never been a recall attempt in Burwell during the 12 years that she has been election commissioner.
She said Jones picked up the petitions to begin circulating June 7, so the petitions with signatures need to be returned within 30 days of that date. Heermann then has 15 working days to validate the signatures. She said there would be a small window in August when there could be a special election.