Solvang voters will decide this fall whether to remove Councilman Chris Djernaes from office after recall supporters gathered enough signatures on petitions for the effort to move to the next stage.
The Santa Barbara County Elections Division confirmed Friday that recall supporters had collected more than enough signatures to qualify for the Nov. 3 ballot.
In a hurried effort, supporters spent two weeks collecting signatures from registered voters before submitting 1,342. County elections staff determined that 1,156 signatures were valid with another 186 ruled as invalid for various reasons. Organizers needed only 920 signatures to make the ballot.
Most of the invalid signatures came from people who were not registered to vote, who do not live in the city of Solvang or who were registered at a different address than provided on the petition.
Others were rejected because they signed more than once, names were illegible or did not provide an address.
The item is on the agenda for Monday night’s Solvang City Council meeting, with resolutions calling for the ballot to include the recall election and if it prevails asking voters to pick his replacement.
Recall organizer Lammy Johnstone said she was “absoluately elated” after learning of the recall effort milestone Friday afternoon.
“I feel extremely good, very good,” Johnstone said. “I think that this team has been incredible. Every single one of them deserves applause.”
Organizers scrambled to complete the steps in hopes of making the ballot for the upcoming election and avoiding the costly expense, estimated at thousands of dollars, of a special election later.
Djernaes, whose term expires in 2022, placed second in a field of six candidates in 2018, garnering 1,122 votes, fewer than those now seeking his removal.
He has angered residents in recent months, sparking the effort to remove him from office.
“Djernaes’ failures to be respectful and civil include, but are not limited to, his obvious disdain of constituents; mockery of speakers at City Council meetings; blatant disregard for the wishes of the voters; disrespectful remarks directed toward both current and former City Council members; frequent defamation of organizations and individuals; and bullying and harassment of a number employees of the City of Solvang both inside and outside of City Council meetings,” the notice of recall states.
During public meetings, Djernaes frequently derides former council members along with previous city managers and city staff, despite a nondisparagement clause in at least one contract, potentially leaving Solvang at risk of litigation over the matter.
“I reject the specious accusations made against me,” according to his statement on the petition. “If they were legitimate complaints, the council or city attorney would have acted on them.”
It’s not clear what he means since neither the council nor city attorney can remove a council member from office.
However, the council was chastised after Djernaes attempted to find out who filed a Brown Act complaint with the District Attorney’s Office, with prosecutors warning against retaliation.
“The recaller’s notorious political machine has relentlessly attacked my professional reputation, my livelihood and my associates,” Djernaes said. “They shamelessly intimidate anyone that opposes them simply for the sake of power.”
Djernaes did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
Former county Sheriff Jim Thomas already has pledged to run to complete the final two years on Djernaes’ term if the recall is successful.
With the recall making the ballot, that means four seats on the council will be up for grabs this year. November’s ballot also will include a race for mayor, a two-year term held by Ryan Toussaint, along with a pair of four-year terms on the council. Those seats are now filled by Karen Waite and Daniel Johnson.