The recall effort against two Hoschton City Council members will go forward following action by the Jackson County Board of Elections Dec. 3.
The elections board approved the "legal sufficiency" of over 400 signatures calling for Mayor Theresa Kenerly and mayor pro tem Jim Cleveland to be recalled.
A special election will be held Jan. 14 in Hoschton to decide if Kenerly and Cleveland should be removed from office. Early voting for the recall election will begin Dec. 23.
The elections board determined that there were 412 verified signatures calling for the recall of Cleveland and 422 signatures petitioning for the removal of Kenerly. Both were above the 342 signatures needed for the recall to move forward.
The background: Both Cleveland and Kenerly came under fire in May following a report that Kenerly had removed a job application for a city administrator that had been submitted by a black male candidate. Kenerly allegedly told a council member she wasn't sure the community was "ready for that," meaning a black city administrator.
Cleveland then defended Kenerly in a newspaper article and added that he didn't like to see interracial couples because it went against his religious beliefs.
A firestorm erupted following the comments and led to calls for both Kenerly and Cleveland to resign. When they didn't resign, a recall move was formed. That led to a first round of signatures calling for a recall. Kenerly and Cleveland challenged the move in court, but a judge found that there was sufficient reason to allow the recall to move forward.
That led to a second round of gathering signatures by recall proponents. It was those signatures which the board of elections approved Dec. 3.
Meanwhile, two new council members have joined the council following November's elections. One incumbent council member didn't run for re-election and the other was defeated at the ballot box.
What's next: If either Kenerly or Cleveland — or both — are recalled Jan. 14, a special election will be held in early March for a new mayor and/or mayor pro tem. But that election will not coincide with the March presidential primary, officials said. Both Kenerly and Cleveland would be able to run for re-election.
What's unclear is how, or even if, the Hoschton City Council could function without a mayor and mayor pro tem in the interim between January and March.