BRIGHAM CITY -- State Rep. Lee Perry is preparing a bill for January's legislative session to create a recall election law in response to concerns expressed by Brigham City residents about the lack of a way to remove Mayor Dennis Fife from office.
Fife went public Dec. 3 about an extramarital affair, asking for forgiveness from citizens as part of his repentance process of the past seven months.
He announced he plans to stay on as mayor, although some members of the Brigham City Council advised against it, Fife's statement said after he met with the council Nov. 30 behind closed doors.
The controversy has continued with residents divided on whether Fife should step down.
The Brigham City Council is also making a move in the Fife controversy.
Appearing on the council's agenda on the city website posted this morning for its Thursday meeting will be an ordinance proposed to cut back some of Fife's duties, Councilman Scott Ericson said.
"We can't remove him from office, but we do have the power to strip him of some of his powers," he said. The council had planned to vote Thursday on a resolution recommending the mayor resign, which would have been nonbinding. It was submitted to the city recorder for inclusion on Thursday's agenda, he said, but was later pulled from the agenda.
Ericson is confident of the ordinance's chance for passage with the council's lack of support for the mayor.
"At one point or another, all five council members have said he should resign, that it would be the best solution," he said.
In response to what he said were dozens of calls and contacts, Perry, R-Perry, is drafting a recall bill for lawmakers to consider when the 2013 Legislature convenes for its annual session next month.
Perry stressed he is not taking a position on whether Fife should resign.
"I'm not asking the mayor to do anything. I'm just listening to my constituents. ... If there are as many people as they say who are upset about this, then we need some process to deal with it."
Perry said he has opened a bill file and has been talking to legislative researchers at the Capitol. "There is no language in it, just a tentative title: Recall election. Maybe the public won't want it down the road, but from the phone calls I'm getting now, the public wants it."
Utah currently lacks any kind of recall election, he said.
State law does include a formal impeachment-style process through the district court if an elected official or judge is charged with a criminal offense, "but there's nothing about losing the trust or confidence of voters," said Perry, who is also a Utah Highway Patrol lieutenant.
He envisions his bill requiring a petition with a certain number of signatures requesting a recall on the next election ballot.
"This is not me saying, 'Dennis, we want you to step down,' " Perry said. "He needs to do what's best for his family. The other part is what's best for Brigham City. But family comes first and foremost, as far as I'm concerned."
Perry said it's most likely the bill, if passed, won't affect Fife directly unless he runs for re-election next fall. The bill wouldn't take effect until April or May, and the November ballot would be the soonest a recall could be held.
Suresh Kulkarni, a prominent county resident who owns property in Brigham City, has been among those scheduling appointments with Fife to ask him to resign, as well as calling Perry.
"The city is totally divided in half on this," said Kulkarni, a former vice president at ATK-Thiokol and current chairman of the Brigham City Community Hospital Board of Directors. "This is going to be an agonizing process."
Kulkarni said he wouldn't be surprised if Fife runs for re-election. "He's a formidable character."
Fife could not reached for comment.