Organizers Of Recall Effort To Remove Four Saugatuck Township Officials Say Collection Of Required Voters' Signatures Going Well & Support Is Growing
The garnering of signatures to remove—via a recall petition effort—Saugatuck Township Clerk Brad Rudich, Treasurer Lori Babinski, and Trustees Doug Lane and Roy McIlwaine from public office is going well, notwithstanding the severe weather, say petitioners Cindy Osman and Kathy Sturm.
Osman and Sturm, who are township residents as well as recall proponents, have taken to social media as part of their strategy in their recall effort, as well as organizing events, creating a website and handing out pamphlets.
“It (the collecting of signatures) is going quite well considering this adverse weather has not been working in our favor,” Osman told The Local Observer on Wednesday afternoon.
“This kind of petition is best conducted door-to-door,” said Sturm. “Our goal is to obtain over 500 signatures.”
However, per state statute, petitioners are only required to get 337 signatures, 25 percent of the electorate who voted in the last gubernatorial election.
They have until Feb. 2 to submit the signatures to the Allegan County Clerk for verification.
If and when those signatures are verified, an election date will be set for township voters to decide whether to remove Rudich, Babinski, Lane and McIlwaine from office.
The group’s Facebook page, Saugatuck Township Recall, provides information and snippets of videos of public meetings.
One of the next petition drives is at Hop N Pizza and Grinders in downtown Fennville this Friday (Jan. 5) from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The only member of the Saugatuck Township Board not being targeted for recall is Saugatuck Township Supervisor Jon Phillips. New township trustees candidates are currently being sought to possibly replace the current trustees if they are voted out of office.
The recall effort is the culmination of criticism that has, throughout 2017, been growing against township officials coming and comes from township residents, fire district personnel and officials from other area’s municipalities, including Saugatuck, Douglas and Fennville.
Critics say township officials have failed to be transparent, not providing the public with information about issues and decisions that will cost taxpayers’ dollars and, in many cases, will force taxpayers to pay additional and significant tax increases in the future to fund these projects of which they are not being informed of (i.e., the Blue Star Trail).
Among other issues, criticisms range from secretly planning changes to local fire codes to benefit outside developers, to refusing to consider requests to videotape and post their public meetings so the township taxpayers and voters can see what they are doing - or not doing - while handling the public’s business.
One of the salient issues for critics of the township officials targeted for recall—which is directly related to the final language in the recall petition approved by Allegan County officials—is Saugatuck Township Manager Aaron Sheridan and his unprofessional and unethical comportment relative to the public, his colleagues in the township, and officials from other municipalities.
Sheridan has verbally assaulted Saugatuck Township Supervisor Jonathan Philips, acted in a way that fire district personnel deem as being “prone to violence,” and has been seen to get visibly angry and chastises members of the public whenever he disagrees with them during public meetings.
Saugatuck Township Supervisor Phillips called for Sheridan’s firing, but fellow township board members - Rudich, Babinski, Lane and McIlwaine - voted only to reprimand Sheridan and order him to attend anger management classes.
To date, the township has not verified publicly that Sheridan has attended any such anger management sessions.
Osman and Sturm filed the requests for approval of recall language with the Allegan County clerk on Nov. 20, 2017.
The Allegan County Elections Commission voted to approve the petition language to start the recall process of removing McIlwaine from his post on December 4, followed by Lane, Rudich, Babinski on the third and final “Clarity/Factual” hearing on December 18.