Attorney Lance Thornton, representing White Pigeon Township, addresses the St. Joseph County Election Commission during a clarity/factuality hearing Wednesday in Centreville. Language for three recall petitions against White Pigeon Township officials were approved to go forward by the commission. (COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON)
By Robert Tomlinson
CENTREVILLE — Recall efforts for three more White Pigeon Township officials moved forward following a clarity/factuality hearing in front of the St. Joseph County Election Commission Wednesday.
The commission deemed during the hearing that petition language against Township Clerk Lacie Pletcher and township trustees Vince Schroen and Jean Tefft were clear and factual of nature.
Those behind the recall, namely petitioners Anita Casada and Gayle Van Singel, will now have until next Friday, Aug. 4, to gather the 379 signatures necessary for the recalls to go on the November ballot in the township.
All three petitions against the township officials allege they approved the township’s Fiscal Year 2023-24 budget on June 6 without first making it available for public inspection per state law. Lance Thornton, an attorney representing the township and the officials, said in a prepared statement that the three facing recall were okay with letting the petition language get approved so the process can move forward.
“Understanding that this board does not determine the truthfulness of the allegations in the recall petition, Lacie Pletcher requests the petition against her be approved regardless of the flaws in the petition so the process may proceed without delay to the signature-gathering phase, and we can see whether the couple of people behind this recall effort have any support,” Thornton said, repeating the statement for each of the other officials.
Thornton denied the allegations of the township not making the budget available for public view, claiming that the budget was made available, including to one of the petitioners and at the June 6 meeting itself.
“Township officials complied with Michigan law and the township’s proposed budget was made available prior to the public hearing on that budget,” Thornton said. “In fact, Anita Casada requested to see the proposed budget on June 1, and she was handed the proposed budget to review. The proposed budget was also handed out during the public hearing.”
Neither Casada nor Van Singel were in attendance at Wednesday’s hearing.
In an email Friday, Casada denied that she was at the township office on June 1, but claimed she was in the office on May 25 to have a conversation with Tefft and Township Supervisor Don Gloy, which she also claims was electronically recorded. She accused Thornton and the township board of being on a “fishing expedition to justify their violation” of state law by “making flawed accusations against me.”
“I was not given the budget to review on May 25th. What Jean Tefft had was the assessment roll and I said I didn’t need to see that document. I then asked for the document that had all the budgeted line items in it. Ms. Tefft said that document wasn’t available yet because there had been no vote to accept it, and that document would not be available until finishing was done and didn’t know when that would be,” Casada said.
Casada held firm to her claims that the budget was not made available to the public prior to the June 6 meeting, claiming she called the township office on the afternoon of June 6 to review the budget, but was reportedly told it “wasn’t available because Mr. Gloy had taken it home.”
“MCL 141.412 was violated. Mr. Thornton was at the budget hearing and he knows what transpired,” Casada said.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Thornton wrapped up his statement by stating what he believes the petitioners’ intent of the petition was.
“Unfortunately, there is a small group of people who are intent on impeding township business by making it their mission to distract township officials and employees from their duties and to be as disruptive to township government as possible,” Thornton said.
No one else besides Thornton commented on the petitions at Wednesday’s hearing in front of the commission, made up of Probate Judge David Tomlinson, County Clerk Lindsay Oswald and County Treasurer Kathy Humphreys.
The language for all three petitions were approved unanimously.
Wednesday’s decision comes on the heels of a decision made by the commission to green-light the language of two more recall petitions back on July 13, against Don Gloy and White Pigeon Township Treasurer Trudy Gloy.
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or firstname.lastname@example.org.