Court Clerk recall election set for May 19

Contributed Photo: Cindy Woodman, shown here with supporters, will have to go through a recall election to keep her position.

Candidates have until March 23 to turn in nomination packets with the required amount of signatures

By Jon Johnson

GRAHAM COUNTY – The recall election of Graham County Clerk of the Superior Court will be held on May 19 despite the objection from the current clerk Cindy Woodman. 

The Graham County Board of Supervisors discussed the recall election at its meeting Monday morning and voted to move forward with the process after being reassured by Graham County Manager Dustin Welker that the process has been vetted. Woodman had given the county an affidavit opposing the recall election. 

Welker said he reviewed Woodman’s affidavit with the Graham County Recorder Wendy John and Graham County Elections Director Hanna Duderstadt and sought counsel from Graham County Attorney Kenny Angle and they all came to the conclusion that the county has clearance to proceed with the recall election. 

“We feel confident that we have met all the statutory requirements that we are required to do,” Welker said. 

Woodman argued that she had not been given the statutory time to be notified of the recall election by county recorder and that she wasn’t allowed to file a writ of mandamus with the Graham County Superior Court due to the Supreme Court of the State of Arizona’s Administrative Order No. 2019-123 issued Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, by Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert M. Brutinel, which stripped Woodman of her administrative control and oversight of the clerk’s office and gave them to Graham County Superior Court Judge Michael D. Peterson.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: According to multiple reports, the court has functioned much more smoothly since Cindy Woodman was removed from the courthouse and Graham County Superior Court Judge Michael D. Peterson was given administrative control of her office.

It was Judge Peterson who wrote a letter to Chief Justice Brutinel that began Woodman’s removal from the court and ultimately placed her out in Justice of the Peace District 2. 

In his letter, Judge Peterson wrote, “In consideration of the foregoing, I submit that there is conclusive evidence that Ms. Woodman is unwilling or unable to perform her duties as clerk of the court. Ample time has passed since Ms. Woodman was unequivocally made aware of the systemic problems which plague the clerk’s office. She has completely failed to acknowledge responsibility for her actions and has utterly failed to remedy the problems. Instead, these problems have increased to the extent that they have seriously impacted the judicial function of the court.”  

As Woodman spouted off various ARS codes she felt the process had wronged her, in the end, the statutes basically say that if the county recorder failed to give written notice to Woodman regarding the recall election in the required amount of time the court shall issue an order for the county recorder to comply so Woodman could have her statement of up to 200 words be printed on the recall ballot. However, Woodman reportedly was given proper notice of the recall election and turned in her statement, which will appear on the ballot, so the whole argument on her part appeared to be a moot point at best. 

The Graham County Board of Supervisors then unanimously voted to move forward with the special election to be held on May 19 and approved a transfer of $30,000 from the county’s contingency funds to pay for the election, which is expected to cost less than the transfer.

Candidates for the position of Clerk of the Superior Court can receive nomination packets from the Graham County Elections Department. Candidates will have to turn in 211 signatures by 5 p.m. on March 23 to be eligible to be placed on the ballot. There will be no party designations on the ballot, only the names of the candidates. Voters who are not registered will have until April 20 to register to be eligible to vote in the recall election.  

Graham County Supervisor Danny Smith said he believed there will likely be three candidates in the election; Woodman, and Graham County Probation officers Heidi Torrio and Irvin Talley. Torrio was Woodman’s previous opponent in the 2018 election. 

Smith said while he wasn’t looking forward to the process, the will of the voters must be adhered to and since the recall petition had more than the required amount of signatures the process will move forward. 

“There’s no satisfaction in having to have a recall election,” Smith said. 

While Woodman has been removed from the office and physically placed 10 miles away at a small Justice of the Peace facility, county taxpayers are still paying her $63,800 annual salary, which actually equates to roughly $110,000 after adding in the county’s employee-related expenses. That was one driving force for former Clerk of the Superior Court Darlee Maylen, who has led the recall effort as chairman of the Committee for the Recall of Cindy Woodman as Graham County Clerk of the Superior Court. 

The committee had until Jan. 1 to gather 2,697 signatures, which is 25 percent of the total votes cast for Woodman and her previous opponent during the 2018 election. Maylen dropped off 3,147 signatures to the Graham County Elections Department on Nov. 18, 2019. Duderstadt told the Gila Herald that on Jan. 21 she had received 2,800 verified signatures back from the Graham County Recorder’s Office.