Virginia Cunningham/ News-Sun
TATUM — The Town of Tatum will move forward with a special election to add a fifth council member to the town council.
Tatum Town Clerk Amanda Thomas said, after many phone calls with multiple people around the state, and research she discovered, Tatum must hold the special election.
The special election will be by mail-in ballot, and ballots are due to be returned by Aug. 1. The election will cost the town approximately $8,000, said Thomas.
Thomas said the price is calculated by the number of registered voters residing in Tatum.
In previous meetings, council members and Mayor Amy Gutierrez sparred over whether the petition for the special election was valid, and if the Town of Tatum must comply with the resident’s petition that gathered about 25 percent of registered voters signatures.
Gutierrez went so far as to suggest Tatum was not governed by residents’ legal redress by petition at the council meeting on April 25.
In March, Tatum residents Rusty and Arnold Ramirez presented a signed petition to the Town of Tatum requesting a special election to be held to add a fifth council member.
During multiple council meetings, Rusty spoke during public comment regarding his reasoning for starting the petition. He said it was to take voting power away from Mayor Amy Gutierrez after making what he and other residents deemed poor decisions.
One of the decisions Rusty referred to, was the firing of Tatum Police officers.
The council is currently made up of four councilors and the mayor. If there is a tie vote among councilors, the mayor casts the tie breaking vote.
Adding a fifth council member will take away any voting power the mayor has.
Tuesday, the council voted unanimously to hold the special election with ballots due by Aug.1, and all members signed the paper work needed for Lea County Clerk Kieth Manes to conduct the election.
Gutierrez asked Thomas who would choose the verbiage to be on the special election mail in ballot. Thomas read the question as it would appear on the ballot.
“Shall the town of Tatum governing body be comprised of an additional council member, raising the number of council members on the governing body from four to five, in addition to the mayor?” Thomas read.
“When I looked at it, I kinda wondered if I understood it,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez read the question again out loud and asked town attorney Patrick McMahon if he thought it was understandable.
McMahon said he thought it read clear and tracked well with the wording on the petition.
Virginia Cunningham’s email email@example.com.