AGOURA HILLS : Group Seeking Recall Sues Over Signatures

A group trying to recall the entire Agoura Hills City Council has sued the city and county to force them to validate numerous signatures on petitions that, had they been counted, would have forced a recall election.

According to the city, the group needed 2,405 signatures--or 20% of the city's registered voters--to force a recall election. The group fell short on separate petitions for all five council members, according to the city.

During the raw count and then validation of the signatures collected by the group, hundreds were thrown out on technicalities. The suit argues that throwing out signatures on technicalities is undemocratic.

"The intent of the voters was to order a recall, so the court ought to order a recall," said Mark Rosen, an attorney for the recall group.

The group claims they gathered more than enough signatures to force a recall election of the entire council. In the case of Councilwoman Fran Pavley, 3,370 signatures were gathered, but the city and county threw out 1,018 signatures, leaving the recall effort 53 short of the minimum, said Barbara Murphy, leader of the recall campaign.

Pavley said Friday she believes the group is wasting taxpayer dollars by forcing the city to defend itself in court. It is ironic, she said, that the group would sue the city after criticizing the city for getting involved in costly lawsuits in the past.

The recall campaign was launched last summer after the council levied a 4% utility tax on residents. Pavley and other council members have maintained that the recall effort is financed by business people unhappy with the council's support of an ordinance banning freeway signs.

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