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Mayor, Opponents Campaign Hard As Recall Nears

January 9, 1987

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ Mayor Mike Boyle and a citizens group that wants to oust him from office for alleged abuse of power are logging long hours campaigning in the final days before Tuesday’s recall election.

In daytime and nighttime appearances, Jim Cleary, organizer of Citizens for Mature Leadership, reiterates allegations that Boyle has meddled in police affairs, that he is ″soft″ on drunken driving and has made disrespectful remarks.

Boyle, a Democrat in his second term, emphasizes in his own campaigning what he’s done to ″get the city moving″ in 5 1/2 years in office.

Supporters figure the mayor is an underdog to survive the recall but believe he is gaining momentum. Boyle backers were elated when 2,500 people (by their count) showed up for a Boyle rally this eek.

″We’re feeling that the tide is turning, that we’ve got a good shot at making it close,″ campaign manager Jim Crounse said.

Although the 42-year-old mayor won’t say publicly if he thinks he’ll keep his job, he said the rally was proof ″we’ve just claimed this city back.″

Voters are being asked whether they favor or oppose removing Boyle from office.

Citizens for Mature Leadership, headed by public relations executive Cleary and real estate agent Judy Lessman, launched the recall drive in October after Boyle fired Police Chief Robert Wadman for insubordination.

The firing was just one of the group’s reasons for its petition drive to win a recall election, however. The group criticized Boyle for proposing to dismantle a police drunken driving unit and for refusing to sign a City Council resolution praising Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Boyle also drew fire for using a racial epithet to describe a black man and for saying City Councilman Joe Friend ″did nothing but read the Bible and stare out the window″ as public safety director.

″We need a mayor who will not alienate the black community, the business community and the various departments of city government,″ Cleary said.

Boyle admitted that some of the recall group’s criticisms were justified. He apologized for the racial comment and other remarks that he said may have been too personal.

The mayor, who had a heart attack in 1984, said there was a perception that he had an alcohol problem, but that he has quit drinking and is trying to watch his diet.

He is not apologetic about his handling of Wadman’s firing, however.

The chief was dismissed after refusing to sign what he called inaccurate discipline orders against officers involved in the 1985 drunken driving arrest of Boyle’s brother-in-law John E. Howell. The officers tried to entrap Boyle into intervening illegally on Howell’s behalf, the mayor claimed.

Boyle’s disagreements with the police began shortly after he took office in 1981 when he complained about four officers he saw standing outside a go-go bar.

He rankled the Fraternal Order of Police in 1982 when he hired Wadman from a public safety job in Utah to become the first police chief hired from outside the force in decades.

Last year, Boyle complained about traffic and parking citations issued for his 19-year-old son. Boyle himself was given a courtesy ticket for driving a car with expired registration, and his twin 17-year-old sons were ticketed after they allegedly solicited sex from an undercover police officer. The twins’ cases were referred to juvenile court.

Boyle’s feud with police prompted a recall drive early last year, but it fizzled for lack of signatures. Cleary’s group turned in its petitions ahead of schedule, with 34,816 signatures. Boyle received 33,133 votes when he was re-elected in 1985.

Boyle chose to fight the recall rather than resign, his other option. He said Omaha is ″too good a city to let go.″

Boyle’s campaign committee raised $20,000 in the last three weeks of December and planned to spend it and other donations on television and mail advertisements.

Civic and labor groups have lined up to support Boyle, including the Omaha Federation of Labor and the police union. Bob Kerrey, who left office as governor Thursday, has campaigned for him. Citizens Against a Recall Effort, a group of business and professional people, plans an advertising campaign praising Boyle.

A group of black ministers came out against the recall this week after the president of the Omaha chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called Boyle a racist.

Cleary said Citizens for Mature Leadership had raised about $25,000 and planned an ad campaign of its own.

″I am very confident, as long as our people vote, we will win,″ he said.

Should Boyle lose, the City Council president would become interim mayor. The council would pick a new mayor, most likely from its ranks, to fill out Boyle’s term.

Mayor Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland barely survived a recall election in 1978, started after he fired the city’s police chief. Kucinich later lost a re-election bid. In 1983, San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein easily survived a recall election.

A bid to oust Portland, Ore., Mayor Bud Clark fell through in July when a petition drive failed to gather enough signatures to put the matter to a vote.

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