Luray residents will vote Tuesday on recall of mayor
By TIM UNRUH
Special to The Hays Daily News
LURAY -- A battle about part of a city street and a disputed public meeting are proof politics isn't confined to state and national issues.
Voters in the town that has just more than 200 residents are embroiled in an attempt to recall Mayor Chuck Pyle for "misconduct in office," according to a letter from Bill Kennedy, a member of the recall committee.
The petition also included allegations Pyle allowed advertisements to be inserted in June city utility bills and allowed a city utility account to miss a payment.
"That's just scratching the surface," Kennedy said.
The faxed letter was a copy of a letter signed by Russell attorney Chasen Katz and sent to Mary Nuss, the Russell County election officer.
Nuss said Tuesday the exact wording on the petition could not be provided unless the Salina Journal, which was sent the letter, provided payment for the documents.
A petition calling for the recall contained 20 certified signatures, and one was rejected, Nuss said.
Pyle said the recall effort stems from the city council's 4-1 decision in April to deed a portion of Fairview Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets to the Stream of God Ministries.
City council minutes do not reflect who voted against the measure, said Helen Krehbiel, city clerk. Pyle remembers it was a unanimous vote in favor.
The Rev. Ralph Cotterill of Stream of God Ministries purchased a public school building from the Luray Community Foundation in March 2011 and began to transform the property into a college for missionaries and a place for summer Bible camps.
Cotterill said he asked the city council to close Fairview Road as a safety measure.
"Ralph had a master plan. He wanted to build a lake or a pond with walking paths, for kids coming up for the summer," Pyle said.
"I put it to the council, and they thought it was a good trade-off."
Cotterill said he bought the property and some adjoining lots for the youth camp and Bible college. An RV park was added. He said the ministry owns most of the land that borders the street.
"When you've got a lot of children and a lot of activities going on, you've got the potential to run over a child," he said. "I came before the city council and asked that that road be closed."
One of the neighbors, Libal, "was just torched," Pyle said. "He thought of it as his private driveway, and a go-kart track for his grandson."
A petition to keep the road open was signed by more than 80 people, Kennedy said, but it was ignored by the council.
"Because of that petition, I had a town hall meeting in the school and invited everybody to come so they could fairly and squarely see (Cotterill's) vision," Pyle said.
The gathering attracted approximately 30 Luray residents to the former school building, he said.
"Anybody who was there that night knew it was a city meeting," Pyle said. "It was mission accomplished."
Libal said he obtained the signatures on the informal petition to keep the street open.
"I found out they were trying to close three streets and give the streets to this gentleman," Libal said.
The council eventually voted to close a portion of Fairview Avenue between Fourth and Fifth Streets, and it formed "a huge catalyst" for the recall effort, Libal said.
"They were going to give that street away, and there was no advantage to the town, no underlying need for it," Libal said. "Eventually, they just rammed it through."
The recall petition followed, Pyle said.
"The petition attempted to portray the line was blurred between school ministry business and town business," Pyle said. "I don't think it will come to anything, and I don't expect to be voted out. As the meeting concluded, everyone except two were very pleased, and (Cotterill) got resounding applause."
Pyle and his wife, Ann, own and operate Jinglesmith Productions, a Luray company that provides music and announcements for radio and television advertisements for clients throughout the country. Jinglesmith has been in Luray since 2005, he said. Pyle's position as mayor is up for re-election next spring.
Libal is a former Luray mayor and a retired farmer.
Pyle said the recall is "a jockey for power. They've indicated they want to be involved in city government the next time around."
Kennedy called the recall "a culmination of a number of incidents."
Cotterill locating an RV park close to someone's residence caused more angst, Libal said, "and he wants to put a pond right behind my house. According to his plans, it's going to be a whole half a block."
The potential for mosquitoes, moths and danger with the pond near a city park are reasons Libal mentioned.
Kennedy, who works for a business that sells pizzas, said he asked a brochure advertising those sales be included in utility bills sent to residents.
Pyle said Kennedy asked the council during a regular meeting, saying, "I'm here tonight as a representative of Midway Co-op. I have some nice brochures, pizza coupons and other things. Would you put them in your city bills?"
Pyle said he responded: "OK, we'll do it."
Kennedy said he was surprised his request was granted.
"I really expected them to tell me no; I wanted him to tell me no," Kennedy said.
When the answer was yes, he said, "I was floored. I couldn't believe they did that. (Pyle) was definitely a step ahead of me on that."
Kennedy claims the recall is for "misuse of public funds. This has nothing to do with pizza."
The basis of the recall was over what he called a "private meeting" in a "Bible college."
"We have a mayor and four council people who will collaborate together, and we have let this go on," Kennedy said.
Libal suggested the mayor and council "are not following common-sense zoning regulations," and a recall is needed.
"We're trying to remove the mayor now and hopefully slow things down," Libal said. "In April, we'll hopefully replace them all."
Libal intends to run for mayor, and he said "at least three" others are running for city council.
Some Luray residents have been going door to door, explaining inconsistencies in the claims against Pyle, said Maurita Cederberg, a member of the group.
"There are a lot of us who are not in favor of this recall. There are many good people in our community, and our council and mayor are part of that," she said. "We will know if it's the majority after we vote."