Petitioners hopeful about removal

Published 9:39 am Friday, June 7, 2013

ISLE OF WIGHT—While there’s no deadline to collect signatures for a recall petition, Joe Puglisi and Brenda Lee of the Newport District want Supervisor Byron “Buzz” Bailey gone from office as soon as possible.

They’re co-captains of the newly formed Recall Supervisor Bailey Petition Committee, and have recently started circulating copies of a petition they hope will get him removed from the Board of Supervisors.

“We want to move this expeditiously,” Puglisi said. “We’re doing this based on various actions and behaviors, which have been detrimental to the constituents of the Newport District. That’s who we represent.”

He was referring to controversial emails containing crude humor, several of which feature President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. Since October, Bailey and school board member Herb DeGroft from the Hardy District had periodically and privately circulated the emails to other school board members and county. The men were revealed when someone anonymously sent a printed copy to school board member Denise Tynes of the Smithfield District. She gave them to IOW NAACP President Dottie Harris, who made copies for the Board of Supervisors at a meeting on May 16. She called on Bailey and DeGroft to resign based on their part in sending the emails.

Both men have said the humor was politically based, not racial. They have nonetheless repeatedly apologized if anyone took offense, but have declined to resign in spite of several requests they leave their offices.

“We need to bring in someone new,” Puglisi said. “Otherwise there’s no possibility for any change.”

He’s not yet talked to anyone who wants to become the new supervisor.

“I don’t know the man, other than I do not like the fact of what he said and did,” said Lee about Bailey. “I think he needs to go.”

She said she’s seen the copy of the emails, and describes them as vulgar, pornographic and a disgrace to all women.

“I just think he’s vulgar…and I think he should have the dignity to resign,” Lee said.

According to the state code that deals with recalling elected officials, a petition to remove someone requires a petition of at least 10 percent of registered voters for a particular office in a particular election. Following certification, that document would go almost immediately to a circuit court judge for a decision.

In Bailey’s case that number has been figured at 238; 205 for DeGroft. Those numbers came from Stan Clark, who was asked to draft a petition by the committee. He is the former supervisor for the Newport District.

“I’m satisfied they’ll collect far above that,” said Clark, who added that he’s not seeking to get back on the board.

As yet, the co-captains each said they do not have an exact tally so far of signatures, but Puglisi figured at the time of the interview they were pushing 30 names.

“We’re pushing for an excess (of 238),” Puglisi said. “We’re making good progress.” He added that not only have people signed the petition, there have been those willing to take copies and get those signed.

“It’s not exactly a fun job,” he said, “but the fact that we’ve encountered those people, to me that’s a very positive sign.”

Speaking from experience of trying to get candidates on ballots, that’s never happened to him before.

Working with the committee as a self-described recall consultant is Smithfield resident Neal Johnson, who calls the emails “an indictment.”

He said he’s asked both men personally to resign.

“For me, it’s very difficult when it comes to Herb,” said Johnson. “We have close family ties. I like him. He’s a tremendous supporter of the school system.”

But, he added, an elected official is held to a higher standard.

“With actions there are consequence,” Johnson said.

He also said that while people have asked him to run for the Board of Supervisors, he has no such plans.

Johnson also said he is not Help_IOW, nor does he know that person’s identity.

Help_IOW is the sender’s name that forwarded Johnson copies of the controversial emails.

“I am definitely not that person,” Clark said when asked if he’s behind the tip-off.

Working as attorney in Portsmouth, he said that while the committee members could have written the petition themselves, they evidently found it easier and gave them confidence to have an attorney write it. Clark added he went through six drafts before completion.

“This is a public service,” he said, explaining that he didn’t charge the committee.

He has been asked, but has not drafted a petition for recalling DeGroft.

“My law practice keeps me busy, and I can’t just drop everything,” said Clark, adding he’s not considering running to replace Bailey.

“I morally support it, (the recall). They’ve got to be removed. They’re a disgrace to Isle of Wight,” said Clark.