“We did call the police and they handed a trespass notice to the solicitor and they were instructed to leave,” said Susan Houghton, director of public relations for Safeway. “I had personally sent an e-mail on Friday (Jan. 27) to Mr. (Don) Flint, and our legal team and legal counsel did as well. Mr. Flint’s response was that he disagreed.”
A pair of Sherrif’s deputies responded to the call, and the petitioners left peacefully.
The recall attempt began in October following charges filed against Dawson in August for spousal battery and child endangerment. To date, Dawson has refused calls to step down from his seat on the town board.
On Saturday, Jan. 28, petitioners set up a tent in the Safeway parking lot to collect signatures for the recall effort, which has until Monday (Feb. 6) to collect 1,649 signatures to be put on the June ballot. Although they had been at the town center previous weekends – and had been granted corporate permission to be there – according to Safeway officials, the company’s policies had changed over the summer, and some store managers had not been made aware of the new guidelines.
“Safeway’s solicitation policy has changed but some of our stores are still struggling with what’s considered acceptable,” said Houghton. “Petitioners are never acceptable, whether it’s for the legalization of marijuana, the Amazon tax or a recall. … The Brownies, food banks and the Salvation Army are things that we have been told are important to our customers, and in this case, exactly because of what happened this weekend is the reason we don’t want to be in the middle of it. The recall issue has nothing to do with Safeway.”
Houghton said that “repeated complaints” from customers of harassment by petitioners led the local store manager to contact corporate headquarters, where the violation of the solicitation policy was discovered.
Recall organizer Don Flint said he supported Safeway’s right to implement whatever policies it wished, and places the blame for his group’s eviction squarely at the feet of Dawson supporters, whom he believes were responsible for contacting Safeway officials.
“I think their methods are pathetic, but it does show that Dawson knows how strong the community support for the recall is,” said Flint. “Dawson understands that his only chance to stay on the board is to make it much more difficult for people to sign the petition.”
The Safeway incident is the latest in a series of volatile events involving the two camps. Allegations of harassment on both sides and charges of election code violations have intensified an already contentious situation in recent weeks.
Dawson believes last weekend’s incident is one more example of the group’s determination to defy the law. It does, however, prompt him to consider whether or not to resign.
“This is just another example of the recall proponents violating the law while talking about character and integrity,” said Dawson. “The constant lying and intimidation of my family does make me think about stepping down, but what would that say to future leaders if I were to step down because of intimidation and unlawful antics?”
Flint said the Safeway incident might hurt the effort of the petitioners, but he declined to say how many signatures had been gathered so far.
“Dawson’s gang chasing us out of public forums will make it very difficult to get enough signatures – that’s why they do it,” said Flint. “But we’ll keep at it.”