NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — An effort to recall first-term School Committee member Jennifer Lima failed Tuesday when residents supporting that effort failed to submit any names on a required petition to force the town-wide vote.
The recall petition was the first serious effort in more than 10 years since a town ordinance was approved to permit it. It would have required 3,102 signatures to move forward.
The failure to submit the petition and required signatures, in effect, puts an end to these efforts to remove her from office by this recall, said town officials.
“I am hopeful we can put this matter behind us and get on with the work I was elected to do,” Lima told The Independent shortly after the group missed its deadline.
Jacob Cedor filed the petition of intent for the recall and took some petitions to circulate.
Reached by phone, he would only reply “no comment” when asked about how many signatures he and others, including Town Council Member Mary Brimer, actually collected.
Brimer’s office said that she was unavailable when contacted late Tuesday afternoon following the deadline.
The recall supporters accused Lima of “fail(ing) to put the North Kingstown School Department — as well as students, parents and teachers — above her individual views” and having “publicly stated an opinion which is not representative of the views of her constituents.”
The Gaspee Project, a conservative advocacy group, produced a mailer and raised money in an attempt to support the recall petition.
It accused her of having a radical agenda and organizing “a group of Marxists to indoctrinate our children with anti-police propaganda and divisive racial and gender theories.”
Lima said she was targeted because she ran on an anti-racism platform and pushed for creation of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) subcommittee, which the town’s school committee unanimously approved.
Lima, who is white, the mother of bi-racial children and whose husband is African-American, also founded a group called Towards an Anti-racist North Kingstown (TANK).
“The only thing true on it (the mailer) is that my name is Jennifer Lima and that I am a North Kingstown School Committee member,” she said about the its contents and nature of the attacks in it against her.
In part she was tagged with promoting a hotly debated issue called Critical Race Theory, which alleges the country’s culture and legal system as oppressing people of color.
The town’s School Committee Chairman, Gregory Blasbalg, has also said that CRT is not taught in the schools.
“Those who are objecting to the perceived teaching of Critical Race Theory in our school department need to be clearer about what exactly it is that they oppose, because when you look at the specific items they have objected to, it clearly goes far deeper than Critical Race Theory,” he said in an email to The Independent this week.
“Critical Race Theory has become a catch-all term for policies and items that they oppose, whether they fit the definition or not, but I have yet to hear any other clear definition when I have attempted to engage them in a dialogue about all of this,” he added.
Talk of Other Recalls
In addition, talk of recalls of local elected officials has surfaced on and off since 2006 when the town passed an ordinance permitting it. It includes taking out two petitions, the second of which must be signed by 20 percent of the average number of people that voted in the last two elections.
“To my knowledge, there has not been a petition of intent filed (until now) since the approval of the recall provision in the charter. With that said, I have had a few inquiries over the years as to the process,” Town Clerk Jeannette Alyward told The Independent this week.
Town Council President Greg Mancini, a Democrat, said that he’s happy to see the recall vote defeated for Democrat Lima. He said that she won her first term with an historic number of votes toppling over 9,000 ballots.
“We had an election in 2020 and Jen Lima was the highest local vote-getter. Some people do not want to recognize the outcome of that election and their actions have hurt the school committee and the town,” he said.