2015-06-10 / Court News

Gibbard re-files after recall petition rejected

BY ERIC LEVINE 810-452-2689 • elevine@mihomepaper.com

Christina Gibbard Christina Gibbard It didn’t take Christina Gibbard very long to respond when one of two recall petitions she filed against Greenleaf Township trustees was rejected by the Sanilac County Election Commission.

About an hour after Friday’s clarity hearing where the commission nixed the petition language for Randy Schuette’s recall, Gibbard filed a new petition without the troublesome wording.

A clarity hearing on the new recall language is scheduled for Thurs., June 18 at 1:30 p.m. in the 73rd District Courtroom in Sandusky.

Gibbard’s original petition cited two allegations for Schuette’s recall: first, that he “failed in his duties as Trustee by supporting a violation of the open meetings act when he voted to purchase a building for the Township in the amount of $230,000”; and second, that he had “unethical behavioral at meetings.”

Randy Schuette Randy Schuette The commission rejected the petition because the second allegation “sets forth a statement of opinion or conclusion rather than allegations of fact.”

Gibbard could have appealed the decision to Sanilac County Circuit Court. Instead, she chose to file a new petition with just the first allegation.

Gibbard’s decision to re-file probably didn’t surprise Schuette.

After the election commission rejected the first petition, Schuette told the News, “I’m sure it’s not over.”

Gibbard’s other recall petition against Trustee Ken Brown was approved. Barring an appeal by Brown, who did not attend the hearing, Gibbard can begin circulating the petition for signatures. Brown has 10 days from the June 5th hearing to appeal.

Under state statute, the election commission holds a clarity hearing to determine if the proposed wording for a recall petition is sufficiently clear and factual so that the elected official can defend against the allegations and the voters can understand the basis for the alleged misconduct in office.

The commission does not determine if the allegations are true or false. That’s for voters to decide.

If one part of the petition doesn’t meet the standards, the entire wording can be rejected.

That’s what happened with the first Schuette petition. The commission decided the second allegation was a matter of opinion not fact.

Probate Judge Gregory Ross, the commission chairman, said the wording amounted to an “opinion”. He said the wording lacked specifics that could be defended by Schuette and understood by voters.

Although Gibbard, during oral comments to the commission, cited specific instances of Schuette’s alleged uses of “profanity, name-calling, and anger” at township meetings, no specifics were cited in the petition.

Gibbard told the commission, “Mr. Schuette is disrespectful…For instance at the special meeting on April 30, 2015, he was trying to shame me by asking who did a certain Freedom of Information Act request. When I admitted it was me, he was so angry towards me – I felt threatened.

“And then at the May 21, 2015, meeting he used profanity and called me a big mouth. As an elected trustee, his behaviors are not very professional.”

Schuette denied the open meetings allegation. He told the commission there was “no vote (by the board) that was not open to the public.” He called the allegation “false.”

Regarding unethical behavior, Schuette stated: “We had a heated meeting. Things were said. It is what it is.”

Schuette has told the News that he may have used the words, “god damn it”, at a meeting, and admitted telling Gibbard she had a “big mouth.”

Gibbard’s petition against Brown includes identical wording about the alleged open meetings act violation on the property purchase. She also accuses Brown of saying in an article published in the Cass City Chronicle, “If someone gets into office through a recall I will have a hard time respecting them.”

Brown and Schuette aren’t the only Greenleaf officials being targeted for recall.

Schuette has filed petition language against the township clerk, Lori Mazure.

The election commission has scheduled a clarity hearing today (June 10) on that petition. The hearing is at 3 p.m. in the 73rd District Courtroom.

Mazure is the wife of the new township supervisor, Rodney Mazure, who won the office in last month’s recall election against the former supervisor, Kirk Winter. The recall drive against Winter was prompted by the same property purchase that’s hounding Brown and Schuette.

Winter made a $50,000, non-refundable down payment on a building and six acres near the corner of M-53 and Bay City-Forestville Road, prior to the board’s approval of the real estate transaction that cost the township $230,000. Brown and Schuette voted in favor of the purchase.

Schuette also ran for supervisor in the May 5 recall election, but lost to Rodney Mazure.

Schuette’s recall wording states, in part, “Greenleaf Township Clerk Lori Mazure abused her office by releasing documents of the Zoning Administrator without his consent…The actions were intended for personal gain because the documents were used in the campaign of Rodney Mazure.”

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