The recall election of Phoenix City Council member Michael Nowakowski might not happen after all, thanks to a successful lawsuit filed by his sister.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Rosa Mroz on Monday ruled that the group attempting to oust Nowakowski missed a step in the process, invalidating the recall petition.
Urban Phoenix PAC submitted 2,361 signatures to recall Nowakowski in December, citing his involvement in a land deal that raised conflict-of-interest questions, and a video of him speaking out against LGBT rights. The Phoenix City Clerk validated the signatures in early January, setting up a recall election for May.
Rosa Maria Morales, Nowakowski’s sister, filed a lawsuit five days later, claiming that Urban Phoenix PAC violated state law governing petitions by:
1. Failing to attach a copy of the petition to signature sheets.
2. Neglecting to file a copy of the petition when submitting a serial number application.
3. Not including a notice on petition sheets that each signee was a qualified voter in District 7, which Nowakowski represents.
Judge Mroz ruled in favor of Nowakowski and his sister on the first claim and said she did not have jurisdiction on the second and third claims.
Urban Phoenix PAC, lead by activist Sean Sweat, has ten days to appeal the ruling.
In a text message, Sweat said he was “at work” and could not “focus on this at the moment.” He added that he would need to speak with his lawyers to figure out what a potential appeal would look like.
In a statement, Nowakowski said, “I thank God and greatly appreciate the support of my family and so many in the community through this process, and invite those who were working on the recall effort to meet so we can begin to work together to find ways to make Phoenix and particularly District 7 an even better place to live and have a business.”
“The takeaway from this ruling is if you want to recall someone and overturn a previous election, you have to do it justly. There are rules of how to do a recall and you have to follow those rules,” said Kory Langhofer, an attorney representing Morales.
The recall effort has fueled a public feud between Nowakowski and Sweat, with the two trading barbs and accusations. Sweat claimed in November that the council member’s office contacted his employer, Intel, to get him in trouble for his political speech. Nowakowski and his allies have maintained that Sweat is smearing them.