2016-07-14 / Front Page

Recall language approved

Recall petition language for three Houghton Lake Community Schools Board of Education members was veri­fied for clarity during a hearing the morning of July 8 by the Roscommon County Election Commission.

Election commission members are Probate Judge Douglas Dosson (chair), Roscommon County Clerk Michelle Ste­venson (commissioner) and Treasurer Rebecca Ragan (member).

The recall language, which was the same for all three members, except for their names, was for HLCS Board Presi­dent Kelly Christian, Treasurer Mark Souder and Member Kevin Nagel. For example, the language reads as follows: “Mark Souder violated the Open Meet­ing Act by voting to hire a private inves­tigator in a closed meeting to investigate an employee of Houghton Lake Com­munity Schools without notice to the employee or to the public. Mark Souder acted in an unprofessional manner by failing to notify the voters of Houghton Lake Community Schools as to the hir­Recall ing of the private investigator.”

Before the beginning of the hearing, Dosson gave a brief explanation of the purpose of the clarity hearing. He noted that when a recall petition is presented there is a legislative requirement that the language be reviewed to determine if it is “sufficiently clear.” He added that it is not the election commission’s responsi­bility to determine if the allegations are true or if the members in question should be recalled.

“That’s entirely up to the voters,” Dosson said of recalling the members.

Christian, Souder and Nagel’s recall language was handled separately and each had a chance to speak when their petition language was considered. Chris­tian was the first to be reviewed. Dosson read the petition language and then asked Christian if she wanted to comment.

Christian asked if all three members could speak together, however, Dosson suggested that each take their own time to speak separately. Christian then tried to present the commission with a signed directive by Superintendent Brent Cry­derman, as well as a motion from the April 25 HLCS Board of Education meeting (that included the closed meet­ing referenced in the petition language).

Ragan told Christian that the infor­mation she was trying to present was not pertinent to the election commission, however, if she felt the information was important she needed to let the public know on her own.

Although Terri Hooper, who filed the recall petition language, was not present for the hearing, Char Baker was pres­ent to act as a sponsor for the language. Dosson then asked Baker to speak. Bak­er also cited the closed session motion from the April 25 meeting. A motion to accept the clarity of Christian’s petition language was then passed.

Souder’s recall language was then considered and Dosson gave him an op­portunity to speak. Souder noted that there was not a violation of the Open Meetings Act and that Cryderman was notified of the investigation against him. A motion to accept the clarity of Soud­er’s petition language then passed.

Nagel was then called to speak and he noted that the recall seemed to him to be a “witch hunt,” as not all of the board members are being considered for recall. He added that the allegations are “unfounded,” however, for the purposes of the clarity hearing it does not matter, Dosson explained.

Baker was asked Dosson if she had further comment and she did not choose to speak. Souder then asked if the actual sponsor of the petition language should have been present at the clarity meeting. Dosson and Stevenson noted that the petitioner did not have to be present at the meeting and would not be required to speak if they were there. Nagel’s peti­tion language was then passed as it was deemed to be clear.

At the end of the hearing, Stevenson, who acts as the Roscommon County Election Commissioner, told those in attendance that since the petition lan­guage has been accepted for clarity, there is 10-day appeal period. She said the three board members have the period to file for an appeal with the 34th Circuit Court. They would have to obtain their own attorneys because they would not be allowed to use the school district’s attorney.

If there is not an appeal filed, Steven­son said that petitions can be circulated starting July 18. Assuming an appeal is not filed, the petitions could be circulat­ed beginning July 19. The petitions are good for 180 days, however, signatures are only valid for 60 days.

If an appeal is filed, then the Circuit Court must determine whether to uphold the commission’s decision or overturn it, Stevenson said. If the court does not make a determination within 40 days of the appeal, then the petitions may be cir­culated. If the circuit court upholds the commission’s decision, the petitions can be circulated.

If the Circuit Court overturns the commission’s decision, then the sponsor can appeal that decision or submit new language.

In addition to the three seats that could potentially be filled by new mem­bers, there are three other seats that will appear on the November ballot not due to the recall, those of Kurt Gilbert, Steve Thompson and Tim Scherer (who re­signed at the June 14 meeting and was replaced Monday by Julie Newman to finish his term. See “HLCS board now has full complement” below).

The board members subject to the recall will automatically be candidates, Stevenson said, unless they withdraw within 10 days of the filing of the recall petition (not within 10 days of determin­ing the petitions’ sufficiency). If no one files, and the officers are the only can­didates, the whole process would be for naught, she said.

Signers of petitions are required to be registered voters of the school district.

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