Davis, Hendrix still face potential recall; Austin recall effort fizzles

One group of Demorest citizens is forging ahead with its efforts to recall two Demorest City Council members, while another group’s efforts to recall the mayor have failed, again.

Former Demorest City Council member Florence Wikle turned in applications to recall councilmen Nathan Davis and John Hendrix. They needed at least 100 signatures to move the process forward and they collected more than that on each application. Habersham County Election Supervisor Laurel Ellison says there are 114 signatures on the Nathan Davis recall application and 113 signatures on the application to recall Hendrix.

“We had no trouble [getting the signatures],” Wikle tells Now Habersham. “How thankful I am that people respected us and did sign the petition.”

Councilman Dr. John Hendrix (Hadley Cottingham/Now Habersham)

Those signatures must now be verified by the county elections office. If there are enough verified signatures and if the group has adequately provided proof of malfeasance or other corrupt practices, election supervisor Laurel Ellison will issue them recall petitions. Both councilmen Davis and Hendrix will have an opportunity to appeal the recall effort before a judge if they choose.

Ellison says she is reviewing the signatures on the applications “and will determine if we need to ask a superior court judge for more days to verify them.”

CCD fails to turn in its application

Meanwhile, a separate group called Concerned Citizens of Demorest dropped its bid to recall Demorest Mayor Rick Austin. After obtaining a recall application at the same time as the other group, CCD did not turn it in by the August 11 deadline.

Mayor Rick Austin (Hadley Cottingham/ Now Habersham)

Now Habersham reached out to the group asking why the application was not returned. CCD Secretary Terry Benischek, who obtained the application on behalf of the nonprofit, explained that CCD President Deborah Showalter “has been critically ill with COVID.” Benischek declined further comment saying “it is not my privilege to respond.”

Prior to its effort fizzling out, CCD teed up its recall attempt by sending out a flyer to Demorest residents criticizing Austin and alleging things the group claims he has done. It disputes the mayor’s claims – and those of City Treasurer Joely Mixon – that Demorest’s finances are in good shape. CCD also accuses Austin of refusing “to follow the City Charter.” Despite those and other claims the group continues to level at Austin, members still have not publicly offered any evidence.

This is the second time CCD has started and stopped a recall effort against the second-term mayor.

“I wasn’t worried about a recall,” Austin tells Now Habersham. “This was the second time that this group of individuals has said they were pursuing a recall. I felt confident even if they got the signatures that I could present evidence in court showing it was unjustified.”

Austin, who’s now more than halfway through his second four-year term, says he will not let the politics become a distraction. “My job is to focus on the City of Demorest. I’ll continue to work hard for the citizens of Demorest to enable Demorest to be the best city it possibly can be.”

Wikle, meanwhile, says her group is prepared to move forward in its attempt to remove Davis and Hendrix from office. If recall petitions are issued, they will have thirty days to collect at least 301 signatures from those who were active registered voters in Demorest at the time of last year’s General Election in order to force a recall election.

This article has been updated to include additional information and comments

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