The campaign to recall Lake County Sheriff Frank Rivero on Thursday submitted 7,762 signatures to the Registrar of Voters, enough to call a special election if most can be validated.
Meanwhile, a competing effort to recall Rivero's chief critic, Lake County Supervisor Rob Brown, on Wednesday received authorization from elections officials to begin gathering signatures.
The Lake County Registrar of Voters has 30 days to verify and certify that at least 7,026 of the Rivero recall signatures — the minimum required number — are valid, after which the Lake County Board of Supervisors has between 88 and 125 days to call a countywide special election.
The election would include two replacement candidates, former Clearlake Police Chief Bob Chalk and Brian Martin, a former Sheriff's lieutenant, now a chief probation officer.
Brown said he's confident the signatures will be approved and a recall of Rivero will succeed.
"We're going to work hard to make sure he doesn't do any more damage to the county financially," he said Thursday, the deadline for turning in the recall signatures.
Brown alleges Rivero has cost the county nearly $750,000 in legal fees and other costs, including a $250,000 settlement to employees he terminated.
"He can run through money like a drunk cowboy," Brown said.
Rivero said the allegations against him are lies and he's not worried about the recall.
"I've received over 500 calls of support" since the recall began in April, said Rivero, who claims he's actually saved the county money by cutting $1.1 million from his budget.
Rivero also noted the estimated 7,700 signatures turned in to elections officials by his critics is only about 10 percent more than required.
Elections officials recommend that petitioners produce 25 percent to 35 percent more signatures than required to ensure they have sufficient valid signatures, which must belong to registered voters.
"I don't think they have enough" signatures, Rivero said.
Brown said most of the signatures should be valid. The recall organizers themselves eliminated about 1,200 signatures they determined were questionable prior to turning them in to the elections office, he said.
If the signatures are approved, the ensuing special election is expected to cost the county more than $90,000.
Brown said it's worth the money to stanch the flow of legal fees and other problems Rivero has triggered. If Rivero stays in office until the end of his term — the end of 2014 — more legal costs will likely be the result, he said.
Inflicting financial harm on the county "seems almost intentional," Brown said. "It can't be accidental to screw up this badly."
Rivero has engaged in legal battles with his employees, a local newspaper and other county officials and departments. He's currently under a court order to provide Lakeport police access to a computerized criminal database; has been placed on a list of unreliable trial witnesses; and caused a criminal case to be dismissed for allegedly violating a marijuana grower's Miranda rights.
The recall petition against Rivero alleges he's been unethical and dishonest, and that he's alienated "every law enforcement agency in the county as well as the entire board of supervisors." The board in March asked for his resignation.
Rivero denies the allegations against him and said his critics are determined to halt his efforts to rid the county of crime and an entrenched, corrupt good-old-boy network, of which Brown is the head.