Saugatuck Township Officials To Sell T-Shirts To Raise Funds To Try & Keep From Being Recalled In November: Controversial Township Manager Aaron Sheridan Behind Effort
In a move that raises legal and ethical questions, Saugatuck Township Board Members—and Saugatuck Township Manager Aaron Sheridan whose job is on the line—are fighting back against the threat of being recalled in the upcoming Nov. 6 election by launching a fundraising campaign, the first effort of which consists of selling “Don’t give up the Township” t-shirts.
Citing the need to defend themselves against “relentless attack by self-interested individuals,” “bullies,” and—alluding to reports by The Local Observer newspaper—“a shameless yellow journalist,” Sheridan announced a in recent letter addressed to family and friends the formation of group calling themselves the Saugatuck Township Board Re-election Committee.
Sheridan’s letter appeals to his and township board supporters to get behind those officials targeted by the recall, including Saugatuck Township Clerk Brad Rudich, Saugatuck Township Treasurer Lori Babinski, and Saugatuck Township Board Trustees Roy McIlwaine and Douglas Lane.
The only board member not being recalled is Saugatuck Township Supervisor Chris Roerig.
Formed on June 1, the Saugatuck Township Board Re-election Committee is registered with the Michigan Department of State’s Bureau of Elections in accordance with state campaign finance law requirements.
Bureau of Elections’ documents indicates Saugatuck Township Clerk Brad Rudich is the treasurer of the group and named as the designated record keeper.
The fact that township officials themselves are the ones spearheading and running the group and its campaign efforts raises ethical and legal questions from their critics, particularly as it relates to the use of public resources.
Officials of the Michigan Bureau of Elections did not want to comment about the specific situation involving Saugatuck Township officials to The Local Observer.
Nevertheless, Secretary of State spokesperson Fred Woodhams did note, “Generally speaking, it is illegal to use public resources to support or oppose a candidate or support or oppose a ballot question.”
As an example of what is lawful, Woodhams said township officials could disseminate factual information related to public office positions or a ballot initiative, but again, the information should not be aligned with a partisan or tendentious viewpoint.
Neither Sheridan nor Rudich responded to the newspaper’s emails and phone calls requesting comment and answers to questions, particularly, ‘What do they plan on using the money for—if indeed any is generated from fundraising? Are they using public resources to carry out this effort?’
Roerig did comment to the Observer, noting, “I have no association with Mr. Sheridan’s campaign, but wish my colleagues the best during the November election.”
The group which initiated the recall—spearheaded by township residents Kathy Sturm and Cindy Osman—have cited numerous reasons for recalling township board members, including, among others: egregious lack of transparency (i.e.,omitting items from the township agenda or last-minute additions to agendas; not wanting to video record meetings); inconsistent and biased application of zoning ordinances; an amendment of the International Fire Code exposing firefighters and residents alike to danger; allowing Sheridan to continue to serve as township manager despite Sheridan’s behavioral pattern of petulance and aggressiveness (i.e, dropping the F-bomb during professional meetings against colleagues and others); Sheridan’s secret tape recording of meetings with other government officials; Sheridan’s public and official reprimand by the township board over his repeated anger issues and the board’s order he undergo anger management therapy; and more.
The Nov. 6 election ballot will have the following candidates challenging those being recalled: Jon Helmrich vying for treasurer against Babinski; Bill Wester, a longtime previous board member, vying for clerk against Rudich; Abby Bigford vying for trustee against McIlwaine; and Stacey Aldrich vying for trustee against Lane.
Below is Sheridan’s recently disseminated letter, using what appears to be private email account, to try and raise funds to try and keep the current board members from being recalled:
Dear family members and friends,
The Saugatuck Township Board Reelection Committee is gearing up to support their local Board Members Rudich, Babinski, Lane and McIlwaine who are under threat of recall this November.
This group has been under relentless attack by self interested individuals, working with a shameless yellow journalist to further unfair policies and Township appropriations at Township expense.
Enough is enough.
The Township Board Members have held their ground, and will continue to defend its residents and taxpayers from these types of self interested bullies.
Consider joining our group “Saugatuck Township Board Reelect” and participate in our first campaign fundraiser by purchasing a “Don’t give up the Township” t-shirt.
There are multiple sizes and styles available for the next two weeks. Shirts will be delivered about 12 days after close of the fundraiser, with a small portion of the proceeds going towards “The Committee to Reelect The Saugatuck Township Board”.
This campaign is based firmly on grit, fairness and factual information which drives all Township policy.
Email me anytime if you are.
If you have questions about Township policy please let me know. Nearly all the information regarding local issues are public and readily available. The Township Board Members want you to know the facts, so please let me know if I can help you obtain the facts.
Feel free to let me know if you would like to set up a meeting with a Board Member regarding Township policy or local issue.
It’s just my opinion, but they are worth it. Don’t give up Township!
Aaron J. Sheridan
Sheridan has not responded to the question of where specifically any money raised will go to besides the “small portion” that will go to the re-election committee.