Revamped Recall Petition Submitted To Remove Saugatuck Township Officials
The Saugatuck Township residents that initiated the process of recalling four of the five Saugatuck Township Board Members from office withdrew their filing with the Allegan County Election Commission Tuesday afternoon, but only to immediately resubmit the petition with slight modifications.
Wrongful exercise of duties, failure to protect citizens and lack of transparency are some of the arguments that the recall petition charges as it relates to actions—or lack thereof—on the part of Saugatuck Township Clerk Brad Rudich, and Saugatuck Township Board Members Lori Babinski, Douglas Lane and Roy McIlwaine.
Allegan County residents and registered voters Kathy Sturm and Cindy Osman—also the planning and zoning administrator for the City of Saugatuck—initiated the recall for each of the four township board members.
The “Clarity/Factual Hearing” was just that, a hearing for the county election commission—comprised of, per state statute, of Allegan County Clerk Bob Genetski, Allegan County Treasury Sally Brooks and Allegan County Chief Probate Judge Michael Buck—to merely hear and decide on the merits of the recall language as it relates to strict facts and clarity so as to examine if the petition should move to the next level in the recall process.
If the process successfully moves forward, township residents will have an opportunity to vote to remove all four officials from office.
Half hour into the hearing on Monday, the commission concluded the recall submission required some wording cleanup. Claimants concurred and withdrew their submission.
In fact, Osman and Sturm already had a modified version of the recall petition prepared on Monday and immediately resubmitted the recall with Genetski following Monday’s hearing.
However, before Osman and Sturm reached the point of withdrawing their original petition, the election commission did discuss McIlwaine’s respective case and provided him an opportunity to respond to factual merits. No other township officials’ recall petition was discussed.
The debate over the recall language was detailed and complex as illustrated by the arguments of both parties.
McIlwaine challenged the following Osman/Sturm point: “Contrary to the best interest of the citizen of Saugatuck Township, at the Special Board Meeting on August 16, 2017 Roy McIlwaine voted to reprimand rather than remove employee Aaron Sheridan from his position of Township Manager for various acts of unprofessional conduct.”
Countering the clarity and factuality of the language, McIlwaine, in a prepared statement, stated, “The wording leaves the impression that there was a vote on a motion to remove Mr. Sheridan and I voted no. There was no seconder on a motion to remove Mr. Sheridan and therefore no vote.
“The motion and vote to reprimand also contains a provision for Mr. Sheridan to seek anger management classes or counseling at his own expense. The wording leaves the impression that he was only reprimanded by our board.
McIlwaine continued, “Finally, there is no mention in the motion regarding ‘unprofessional conduct.’ The applicants seem to have made that judgment and added it to their language. We went to closed session because it was a personnel issue and Mr. Sheridan requested a closed session.”
Osman conceded that the original recall language did constitute some “opinions” as opposed to strictly speaking, factual elements, such as the phrase, “Contrary to the best interest of the citizens of Saugatuck Township,…”
That phrase is also repeated quite often on the recall petitions for the other township board members. It was omitted on the modified recall language. Also, the phrase, “various acts of unprofessional conduct” as it relates to the Sheridan situation was also omitted.
“Resubmitting the recall triggers the process all over again,” Genetski told The Local Observer adding that he and the Election Commission have 20 days from Monday to schedule a hearing for the changed recall.
The revised language resubmitted by Osman and Sturm for each of the township officials on Monday consist of a simplified version of the original, with McIlwaine only targeted with number 3 and not other points:
1. Rudich, Lane, and Babinski at the Wednesday Aug. 2, 2017 Board meeting voted to Adopt the 2012 edition of the International Fire Code with amendments that eliminated some provisions for fire safety, being sections 16-27 and Chapter 16 Article III of the Township Code to Regulate Fire Prevention and Protection.
2. Rudich, Lane, and Babinski at the Aug. 2, 2017 Board meeting voted to amend the cost recovery sections of the Township ordinance being section 16-27 and Chapter 16 Article III of the Township Code to Regulate Fire Prevention and Protection.
3. At the Special Board Meeting on Aug. 16, 2017, Rudich, Lane, Babinski, and McIlwaine voted to reprimand employee Aaron Sheridan, Township Manager.
4. Rudich, Lane, and Babinski on Wednesday on Oct. 4, 2017 voted not to meet with the Saugatuck Township Fire Board to discuss differences between the Saugatuck Township Board and the Saugatuck Township Fire District.
5. Rudich, Lane and Babinski on Wednesday Oct. 4, 2017 meetings, voted against videotaping Saugatuck Township Board meetings.
The recall ends similar to the original submittal: “It is with regret that we submit this petition, as we should feel trust in our elected officials to protect its citizens, however, at this juncture we feel there is no alternative.”