City told marijuana petitioners wrong number of signatures to collect

Posted at: 07/30/2014 9:56 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The group trying to get marijuana decriminalized in Albuquerque says they might have reason to take legal action against the city.

It's a 3,000 signature oversight, discovered two days after petitions were due.

ProgressNow New Mexico said the city told them to get the wrong number of signatures on a petition to put their resolution on the November ballot.

Wednesday, the city clerk tells KOB why she gave them the wrong number in the first place.

ProgressNow New Mexico and a city councilor say someone should have caught this months ago -- they just have different ideas about who.

"The city promised voters that if 11,000 people signed these petitions, they'd have an election," said ProgressNow director Pat Davis.

A letter from interim city clerk Trina Gurule in May told ProgressNow New Mexico it needed 11,203 signatures from registered voters.

"It was an oversight that I didn't pick up, that legal didn't pick up, so that's where we're at today," said Gurule. 

Gurule tells KOB the city charter uses two different formulas to determine how many signatures are needed. Which number is bigger is the one used. She said she mistakenly used the smaller one. ProgressNow needed 14,000, not 11,000.

"It's probably inexcusable," said city councilor Don Harris.

City councilor Harris noticed the number problem Tuesday, and had strong words for the mistake.

"I don't understand why they would have made a mistake because the math is so simple, so clear," he said.

But Harris said during a 2 month process, someone at ProgressNow should have noticed too.

"Certainly they had the tools to know the number was wrong and I think there's a good chance they did know the number was wrong," said Harris.

Davis says it was the city who set the number, and someone there should have noticed it was wrong at the beginning of the process.

"We started a legal defense fund to put some lawyers on this to look at all the options," said Davis. 

The city clerk's office will continue to work to verify the signatures they do have.

ProgressNow turned in 16,000 signatures Monday, and the clerk says right now a number of them are invalid.

The wrong number issue and whether ProgressNow might get an extension is in the hands of the city attorney David Tourek. Tourek did not return calls Wednesday.