Councilwoman, city clerk targets of recall attempt
WESTMORLAND — Westmorland City Clerk Sally Traylor and Councilwoman Mary Ann Monte Smith are the subjects of a recall petition that alleges the pair had acted outside their authority, made false statements and attempted to reorganize the Police Department without authorization.
The proponents of the recall petition claim that both Traylor and Smith had engaged in a series of questionable acts around the time the city had hired its current police Chief Perry Monita, in September.
The two separate notices of intention to circulate recall petitions that were published in Sunday’s edition of the Imperial Valley Press make similar allegations against both Traylor and Smith, yet also differ.
Proponents of the recall petition single out Traylor for allegedly having released the personal information of police chief applicants in violation of privacy laws, a charge she strongly denied.
Traylor is also accused of using city property for personal purposes, another charge she flatly denied.
Over the past several months Traylor said she had heard rumors of the recall petitions being filed against her and Smith. Some of the proponents of the recall petitions appear to be aligned with at least one council member who Traylor had previously asked to resign, she said.
“I would just hope that citizens wouldn’t buy into their lies and baloney,” Traylor said.
In response to the petition, Traylor has drafted a response that refutes the grounds proponents cite for her potential removal, one of which alleges she made false statements regarding Monita’s hiring.
“I witnessed an unfair hiring process,” Traylor’s response letter stated. “I voiced my reasonable belief of wrongful conduct, and as a result, I was unlawfully targeted, retaliated against and terminated.”
As part of that alleged retaliation, Traylor said she had been removed from her position as the city’s finance officer in December.
For her part, Smith is accused of having reorganized the Police Department in September without authorization of the City Council. Meanwhile, Traylor is accused of keeping the reorganization a secret from the council.
That reorganization had temporarily resulted in the promotion of several officers, and was ultimately rescinded by a 4-1 council vote on Sept. 20.
At the time, Smith had confided to the public that the reorganization had been a mistake resulting from her misunderstanding of her role as police commissioner at the time.
Smith is also accused by the petition’s proponents of holding secret meetings as well as making false statements regarding the process that resulted in the hiring of Monita, who had previously worked for the department before moving on to the Brawley Police Department, from which he retired in December 2016.
Previously, both Smith and Traylor had spoken out publicly about concerns they had about Monita’s hiring, calling it a biased process carried out partly by fellow Councilman Henry Graham and Larry Ritchie.
Previously, both Graham and Ritchie had also publicly denied the hiring process was tainted in any way and that Monita’s hiring came at the recommendation of former high ranking local law enforcement officials that were part of the screening committee.
Smith did not respond to a request for comment by press time Monday. A voicemail left with the phone number provided by the one of the recall petition’s proponents was not answered, either.
In order to qualify for the June ballot, proponents of the recall petition would need to gather 214 valid signatures, or 30 percent of the town’s 714 registered voters, the county Elections Office reported.