Oro Valley Town Council member Mike Zinkin is the target of a recall effort.
The Oro Valley Citizens for Ethical Government filed a Statement of Organization and an Application for Recall Petition to recall Zinkin for “behavior unbecoming of a public official” and “complete lack of understanding with regards to public safety.”
“First of all, it upsets me. You try to please all of the people all of the time, but you can’t do that,” said Zinkin, who was elected in 2012.
“My gut reaction is this is an organized effort by, hopefully, a small, vocal faction in a campaign to organize the fact that the current majority of the council maintains the majority in the next election.”
Zinkin, 68, is a retired air-traffic controller who unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2010.
To trigger a recall election, the group must collect 2,131 signatures from valid Oro Valley electors by Jan. 28.
Zinkin said he believes Mayor Satish Hiremath and Town Council members Lou Waters, Joe Hornat and Mary Snider are organizing the recall effort.
Hiremath denies the accusations, saying Zinkin is being recalled mainly because of documented instances of inappropriate comments to female town employees, as well as racially insensitive remarks.
Waters, Hornat and Snider did not respond to interview requests submitted Tuesday by phone and email and through Oro Valley spokeswoman Misti Nowak.
(UPDATE: Waters, Hornat and Snider respond to the accusations here).
Nowak said a special recall election could occur as early as May 20 and as late as Aug. 26, depending on how long it takes either side to file and verify paperwork.
Zinkin said there is animosity between him, the Town Council members and particularly Hiremath, who he says raised his voice at him and told him “You’re done. You’re through” in a private meeting Jan. 23.
Zinkin said Hiremath was angry at him for making a complaint to the state attorney general, accusing Hiremath, Hornat, Snider and Waters of violating the state’s open-meetings law by sending an email saying the mayor and Town Council decided not to reappoint a member of the Conceptual Review Board without involving Zinkin or Town Council members Brendan Burns or William Garner. The attorney general dismissed the complaint.
“I told him it was not the first time I’d seen his temper tantrum, but it is the last time,” Zinkin said. “’Whenever we talk from now on we will have a third party present.”
Hiremath, who acknowledged raising his voice, said Zinkin misinterpreted his remarks, and that he was telling Zinkin the conversation was over.
Zinkin said he thinks Hiremath is behind the recall effort because the recall petition was submitted by Jane Burge, who is married to Larry Burge, Hiremath’s treasurer during his election campaign.
Hiremath said that perception is wrong, and said he thinks he will “take a public beating” due to his connection to the Burges in the recall effort. He said he asked Jane Burge not to spearhead the recall effort because it would make it appear as though he were involved. Hiremath said Burge is acting on her own.
Burge requested public documents about the behavior of the mayor and members of the Town Council, including a memo documenting Zinkin’s comments. Burge did not return a message from the Star, which Hiremath said he relayed to her.
“It’s really his own bad behavior,” Hiremath said. “It took me awhile to stop laughing” at the accusations Zinkin has made, he said.
“I frankly don’t have time for that nonsense,” Hiremath said of Zinkin’s complaints. “These are council member Zinkin’s actions, and he’s gonna have to be held accountable to the residents.”
Zinkin said he acknowledges making the documented insensitive remarks, such as a comment to Hiremath that “we’re only meeting a bunch of Mexicans, and Mexicans don’t wear ties anyways.”
“They were off-the-cuff half-truths,” Zinkin said. “They were things I might have said in my past that I wish I hadn’t said. Am I racist? Am I sexist? Absolutely not. I have a life history of not being racist and not being sexist over a 30-year career in the public sector.”
Zinkin said the petition’s statement that he has no regard for public safety “couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Although he believes he will retain office, the recall effort is nothing to brush aside, Zinkin said.
“I’m taking it seriously. My wife’s having a heck of a time with it,” he said, adding that he would “probably” campaign to keep his seat if recalled. “Although I’m really tired of this, I’m not going to let them run me out of town.”