Morgan Hill City Council District D member John McKay’s seat is up for election in November 2022, but he may face a recall that could cost the city $100,000 or more just six months before his current term is set to expire.

On Aug. 11, local voter Michael Roberts submitted a “notice of intention to circulate recall petition” to City Clerk Michelle Bigelow’s office. The notice, directed at McKay, states that Roberts and the signed proponents “intend to seek your recall and removal from the office of City Councilmember for District D.”

The notice is signed by 25 voters who live in District D, which covers east Morgan Hill.

The notice is just the first step in a long list of criteria that must be met for a recall election, in accordance with the California Secretary of State’s guidelines. The notice of intent must next be published in the newspaper, then the proponents must submit a draft copy of a recall petition before they can begin collecting signatures.

John McKay

According to state election law, a recall petition must have signatures from at least 25% of voters in the council district to qualify for a recall election. If Roberts and other proponents gain those signatures and the city clerk and county registrar of voters verify the petition, the city council must schedule a recall election.

Bigelow said if the council makes such a decision, the recall election must occur within 88 to 155 days. Thus the most likely recall election date would be the June 2022 primary.

The cost for the city to place a recall election on the June ballot is about $100,000, Bigelow said. But if the city has to call a special election, that could cost between $500,000 to $1 million.

The notice of intent filed by Roberts also states the grounds for McKay’s recall, which is mostly based on recent commercial development projects. He blames McKay for the Shoe Palace center, failure of the Southeast Quadrant project and a ballot measure that failed in 2020 that would have rezoned a property for two hotels. The notice also criticizes the rezoning of a property in south Morgan Hill for the Lilian Commons hospital and mixed use project and the council’s compromise earlier this year with the Morgan Hill Responsible Growth Coalition.

“(McKay has) favored warehouse-type buildings instead of those fit for advanced manufacturing—job generating industries of the future—potentially embracing highly automated, road-congesting…polluting and low tax-generating warehouses rather than stand up to protect the economic…well-being of our community,” states Roberts’ notice of intent.

McKay said he is baffled by the claims made in the notice, which he says are “based primarily on misinformation.” He noted that he voted with the majority of the city council in banning the construction of distribution centers in Morgan Hill—an effort that enjoyed broad public support.

The state elections code also allows McKay to submit a formal response to the notice of intent to the city clerk’s office. He submitted his response Aug. 18, in which he stated that the council never got to vote on the Shoe Palace project, and he pushed city staff to publish a lengthy history of that site for clarification on the city’s website.

In comments emailed to the Times, McKay said he feels “disappointment and dismay” after being served with the recall notice.

“Disappointment because I know I’ve done the job of looking out for the community’s best interests by helping create the ordinance banning distribution centers, avoiding unwinnable lawsuits, and helped manage Covid-19 vaccination clinics as well as other important issues but our residents don’t seem to know that,” McKay said. “Somehow some in the community still don’t know we’ve banned distribution centers, and (don’t know about) some of the other important work of this council.”

His dismay comes from the recall drive’s timing, he added. He wonders how it makes sense for the city to spend at least $100,000 for a recall election, when his seat will be on the November 2022 ballot anyway.

“In November of 2022 I will be up for re-election in a newly defined district, so why is there such a hurry to rush to a recall election based primarily upon misinformation? It’s just irresponsible to spend that kind of money to hasten an election by five months,” McKay said.

McKay added that he is planning to run for re-election next November “if certain conditions are right”—and if the recall effort fails. 

The council’s four districts are likely to see shifted boundaries in the 2022 general election, due to redistricting required by the completion of the 2020 U.S. Census.

Other local seats on the November 2022 ballot are the mayor’s office and the Council District B position. Rich Constantine is currently the city’s mayor, and is running for the Santa Clara County Supervisor District 1 seat in 2022.

The District B seat is currently occupied by Yvonne Martinez Beltran. She did not respond to a text message asking what her plans are for the 2022 election.

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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