Bellevue City Councilwoman Kathy Welch on Thursday afternoon outlined her defense to a recall effort initiated by Councilman Pat Shannon and tied Shannon’s behavior to the recent push by the City Council to pass controversial misconduct sanctions.

Flanked by Bellevue Fire Department firefighters, private citizens and Mayor Rusty Hike, Welch read the defense statement she would file with the Sarpy County Election Commission and then elaborated with further statements and answers to questions from local media.

Welch denied most of the allegations leveled by Shannon and said the recall effort was unnecessary and divisive. Among the allegations, Shannon’s petition alleges Welch does not live in her ward, Ward 4; unlawfully participated in closed sessions; and made sexually inappropriate comments.

Welch acknowledged that she did make a “good-natured bet” for drinks on the length of a City Council meeting with city department heads and other council members, one of the allegations in the petition, but said she wouldn’t have done it she knew people thought it could affect city business.

Reading from the official defense statement, Welch said Shannon’s behavior was the reason the city pursued the misconduct sanctions, the most extreme and controversial of which was the removal of office of an elected official by an unanimous vote of the council.

“The City Council passed an ordinance allowing sanctions for a council member motivated by the ongoing behaviors of the lone council member supporting this petition,” Welch read, referring to Shannon’s recall petition.

Don Gifford, president of the fire department’s union of full-time firefighters, said the union unanimously voted to support Welch’s recall defense. He said the union has more than 60 members and Shannon did nothing specific to the department to prompt the endorsement of Welch.

“We’re just here to support Councilwoman Welch and to fight back this recall effort on her,” he said.

The Election Commissioner’s Office has five business days, beginning Friday, to prepare the petitions and Shannon will have 20 calendar days to pick them up after he is notified that petitions are ready. Signatures can be collected for 30 calendar days.

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