A group of Hall County residents took the initial step Thursday to recalling Hall County Commissioner Craig Lutz.
The group submitted a recall application petition with 229 signatures to the Hall County Elections Office, surpassing the requirement of 100 signatures to get the process started.
Within a few hours, the elections office was able to verify the names of those who signed the petition as registered voters in the South Hall district that Lutz represents, said Charlotte Sosebee, interim director.
The recall group is charging that Lutz violated Georgia's open meetings law.
He and other commissioners "did that by doing contractual work before the first meeting of the year," said Bobby Hulsey, who doesn't live in the district but has helped facilitate the group's efforts.
"They had terminated the top three administrators and county attorney. You're just not able to do that without having meetings," Hulsey said. "And we checked, and there were no affidavits for executive sessions held by the entire board."
Lutz said he respects residents getting involved in the "democratic process," and he looks forward to clearing the air on the matter.
"I encourage people to get involved with our government, and this is one way to do it," he said. "... There have been a lot of accusations about things that have occurred the last six months, and this is going to give me an opportunity to hear those formally in front of a judge."
As to the charge itself, Lutz said, "Until Jan. 1, there couldn't be an open meetings violation because I wasn't a commissioner, so that charge, for the most part, I believe, is totally without merit."
He was sworn into office to his first four-year term on Jan. 3, and, at the first meeting on Jan. 6, commissioners voted 3-2 to replace Charley Nix as county administrator and Bill Blalock as county attorney, with Chairman Tom Oliver and Commissioner Billy Powell in opposition.
Hulsey said he believes Lutz's actions send a "terrible" message "when the first act in office is to break the law."
According to an election law publication issued by the Georgia secretary of state in 2008, a recall can be based on:
An official conducting "himself or herself in a manner which relates to and adversely affects the administration of his or her office and adversely affects the rights and interests of the public."
An official committing acts of malfeasance, violating the oath of office, an act of misconduct, failing to perform duties prescribed by law or mishandling public property or money.
Within four business days of filing the application, the public official subject to recall can file with the superior court for a "review of the sufficiency of the grounds of the recall in the application," says the state document.
Within 45 days, the group interested in recalling Lutz would have to gather signatures from 30 percent of the total number of registered voters in Lutz's district at the time of his election, or 9,452, Sosebee said.
If those names are verified, a recall election called by Sosebee would take place within 30 to 45 days.
A majority vote, or 50 percent plus one, must be reached to remove someone from office.