Jason Giguere, one of the leaders of Citizens Reclaiming Southwick, asked that The Westfield News print this letter sent on Nov. 29 to Southwick Town Clerk Michelle Hill.
With regret, Citizens Reclaiming Southwick informs you that the total number of signatures required was not obtained to effect a special election for the recall of Russell Fox. This is in large part due to the town taking nearly one full week after delivery of the valid affidavit to “research” how to draft the petition forms. The act states that the town clerk “shall thereupon deliver” petition blanks, meaning immediately, by definition. Whether calculated or not, this delay caused us to lose the very first important weekend to collect signatures, and pushed our prepared timetable into the Thanksgiving holiday, where it was not morally feasible to intrude on families. This delay by the town effectively eliminated one full day of the legally required 20 days to collect signatures.
The shortfall in signatures is in no way a reflection of the lack of desire from the townspeople for this special election. 1,031 voters (see notarized count, plus 10 previously submitted [on Nov. 15]) eagerly and proudly signed the petition, 2.4 times the average 428 votes Mr. Fox received in his last four elections. Many other voters actually went out of their way to visit one of the signing locations personally to inform our volunteers that they very much wished to sign the petition, but could not due to the following four most commonly stated reasons:
1. Fear of reprisal from the Fox family and/or repercussions with other town officials related to their personal needs, applications, approvals, or other town business;
2. Fear of losing customers or clients if known that they supported the recall effort;
3. Feeling intimidated by Mr. Fox’s scare tactics of threatening to hit their wallets harder in the form of taxes — quoting outrageous costs related to legal fees and special elections, all alleged to be borne directly by the taxpayers if they choose this election;
4. Or, simply due to close family relations.
With the exception of the loyalty of No. 4 above, these widely voiced fears are alarming, and strike very much to the core of the recall effort. It is shocking that so many residents fear going against the will of Mr. Fox, or Town Hall, for that matter.
Mr. Fox did not even attempt to answer a single documented allegation against his performance as selectperson. He and his aides claimed that they did not even read them, yet they repeatedly called them lies, innuendos and slander. This is another strike at the core of this effort. Mr. Fox does not interest himself with the people’s concerns and feels he does not have to answer to them. Instead, Mr. Fox chose to attack the democratic process that citizens felt forced to enact, and he answered that with fear and intimidation, threatening the public with financial consequences.
Since we are 755 signatures short of the required 1,786, we will concede this effort and do not wish to require that taxpayer money be spent to verify and certify these signatures. Rather, we submit them to you for archival reference only, in the event of a future recall.
A large majority of Southwick’s citizens are properly alerted to Mr. Fox’s actions and failures to act fairly on their behalf. That this particular effort was unable to garner enough citizens to effect the chance for a change to the Select Board does not close the door to future attempts for corrective measures.
We thank you for all of your cooperation and assistance in this matter.