Scio Township recall efforts headed to the courtroom

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Scio Township Supervisor Will Hathaway and township board trustee Jane Vogel are challenging the recall efforts against them by appealing to the Washtenaw County Circuit Court.

This comes after the Nov. 5 recall language clarity and factuality review hearings on both recall efforts held by the Washtenaw County Election Commission.

The election commission found the language of both recall petitions submitted to be of sufficient clarity and factuality to enable the officer whose recall is sought and the electors to identify the course of conduct which is the basis of the recall.

These hearings determine if the recall petition language is of sufficient clarity and is factual.

The decision by the election commission meant the recall petitions could begin to be circulated and signatures collected to call for a special election.

However, that has been halted with these court filings.

The Sun Times News (STN) reached out to Hathaway to get a comment and he cited the following:

"The determination by the Election Commission may be appealed by the officer whose recall is sought or by the sponsors of the recall petition drive to the circuit court in the county. The appeal shall be filed not more than 10 days after the determination of the Election Commission. If a determination of the board of county election commissioners is appealed to the circuit court in the county, the recall petition is not valid for circulation and shall not be circulated until a determination of whether each reason is factual and of sufficient clarity is made by the circuit court or until 40 days after the date of the appeal, whichever is sooner. A petition is not valid for circulation if at any time a circuit court determines that each reason on the recall petition is not factual and of sufficient clarity."

Hathaway's attorney Mark Brewer said by email to STN, “As you know a complaint has been filed. The filing of the complaint prevents the petition from circulating until 40 days elapses or the court upholds the petition, whichever occurs first. In court the next step will be the filing of legal briefs followed by a hearing before the judge.”

The recall petition language was submitted by township resident David Read calling for the recall of Hathaway while a recall petition was filed against Vogel by township resident Patricia Stein.

This is the second recall petition language brought against Hathaway and Vogel. The first recall petition language was rejected by the election commission.

The recall petition language that was approved for Hathaway says he called for a special meeting of the Scio Township Board of Trustees to occur at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, August 17, 2021 at which he requested and was granted a doubling of his salary.

The recall petition language brought against Vogel states: At the Scio Township Board of Trustees special meeting held at 4:00 p.m. on August 17, 2021, Trustee Vogel voted to double the Supervisor’s salary.

Both are challenging this language.

In his written rebuttal to the election commission about the recall petition language, Hathaway begins his 34-page challenge with:

“I am writing to challenge the October 20, 2021, recall petition language filed against me as Supervisor of Scio Township. It is my understanding that if any part of the allegation in the petition is determined to be either unclear or nonfactual, then the petition is deemed invalid. I assert that the reason given for the recall is unclear and not factual. I support this as follows:

Allegation: Supervisor Hathaway called for a special meeting of the Scio Township Board of Trustees to occur at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, August 17, 2021 at which he requested and was granted a doubling of his salary.

There are 3 errors in this Allegation, any one of which renders the petition invalid. Even more troubling is that the Allegation misstates and omits facts that render it, on the whole, untrue. Specifically, the errors in the Allegation are:

1) That I called for the special meeting that occurred on August 17, 2021, to double my salary;

2) That I “requested” a doubling of my salary on August 17, 2021; and

3) That I “was granted” a doubling of my salary on August 17, 2021.

Critical to understanding these problems and the multiple inaccuracies in the Allegation, you must understand the history and context of how we arrived where we are in Scio Township. Looking at the timeline since I took office shows how procedural matters and obstruction have been harnessed to derail the efforts of a majority of the Scio Board of Trustees, capitalizing on the inexperience of its newly elected members to create delay and the situation inaccurately captured in the Allegation.

I have produced a timeline and included it at the end of this petition response as Exhibit A (trying to be as accurate as possible). I think analysis of these issues requires an understanding of this history and ask you to please review it as you make your decisions.

Given the importance of the history-I’d like to stress again that this Allegation omits so much pertinent information that, when taken as a whole, it is misleading which makes the claim, as presented, untrue.”

The counter point from Read states:

“Comments on Supervisor Hathaway’s three claims that the petition language is in error:

1) Fact: Under State law, there are only two ways a Special meeting can be called for: either through Board action or by Supervisor fiat. The Supervisor’s claim (#1) that he did not call for a Special meeting is false as documented in the Meeting Notice for the 8/17/21 Special Meeting, previously submitted to the Commission on November 3, 2021, wherein it states that the Supervisor did in fact call for this meeting.

2) Fact: The meeting packet for the 8-17-21 Board meeting, previously submitted to the Commission on November 3, 2021, includes a resolution setting the Supervisor salary to be $72,000. Salary is currently $36,000 so a new salary of $72,000 is, in fact, a doubling of the salary. His claim (#2) that he did not request a pay increase is false because the individual Agenda Item F-1, submitted to the Commission today, demonstrates that the Supervisor prepared and submitted this item. In fact, all associated materials for this meeting were prepared and submitted by the Supervisor.

3) Fact: There are three methods to adjust the Township’s elected officials’ salary: 1) at the Annual Meeting, which the Township does not use or, 2) via proposal by the Compensation Commission, which the Township enacted on June 22, 2021 or, 3) through resolution, which the Township has done in the past. The State requires a resolution to change an officer’s salary in order to ensure the right for residents to provide input and if necessary, hold a referendum challenging the resolution. In the world of public service, appropriation is not authorization. By Township policy and practices, and by 2 State law, in order to get authorization to spend money, the Board must authorize the expenditure. To do this, a department head or project manager, or in this case the Supervisor, must submit a request to the Board. Normally, such request would include a detailed description of project plans, timelines, costs, or in this case, time sheets, a work calendar, work product, or anything that would document the Supervisor’s claimed 50 – 60 hours of work per week. No such paper work was submitted. His claim (#3) that he was granted a pay increase by the appropriation of the budget is false because the funds for said increase had not been authorized i.e.: “granted”, until the 8/17/21 Board meeting. It is important to note that at the May 25, 2021 Board meeting, the Board established a Public Hearing to be held at the June 22, 2021 Board meeting to create a Compensation Committee which in fact occurred; the Commission was established at that meeting. This clearly demonstrates the Board’s intention to use the Compensation Commission to set the salaries of the Township’s elected officials.”

In another written statement to the election commission, Read said the recall is also about Hathaway silencing township residents who must attend board meetings virtually; his disregard for township policies and procedures and his unwillingness to compromise with anyone who disagrees with him.

In part of her challenge to the recall petition language, Vogel said in a letter to the election commission:

“The petition language is not fully accurate. There was an item on the August 17, 2021 Board of Trustees agenda “to adopt the resolution establishing salary of the supervisor as presented”. All seven board members of the Board of Trustees voted on this resolution and it passed 5-2. My vote was among the five approving votes. The excerpt from August 17, 2021 draft Board minutes is attached.

The petition lacks sufficient clarity as to what concern is being raised about this vote. Is the concern about the outcome of the vote? Is the concern about the process of the vote? Is there a legal issue being raised? The petition lacks sufficient clarity. This and any other vote of the Board is the means by which seven elected officials attend to the issues before the board. It is not sufficiently clear what the petitioner is raising as a concern worthy of recall.

The petition language also lacks factuality by what is omitted from the language. In fact, the increase in the Supervisor’s salary was included in the FY21-22 budget which was approved unanimously at the March 23, 2021 Board of Trustee meeting. The excerpt from March 23 approved Board minutes is attached on the follow page and the budget line item is attached as a PDF. The August 17 vote was consistent with the early unanimous vote on March 23.

The language of this petition lacks sufficient clarity about the concern being raised. The factualness of the petition is compromised by what is omitted.”

In the opening of her written statement to the election commission, Stein said:

“I believe the following statement as presented on the petition to be clear and factual. “At the Scio Township Board of Trustees special meeting held at 4:00 p.m. on August 17, 2021, Trustee Vogel voted to double the Supervisor's salary.”

These facts are indisputable and should not require any explanation or proof of their factuality beyond a copy of the attached August 17, 2021 Board meeting minutes that document Trustee Vogel's presence and her vote on the agenda item that doubled the Supervisor's salary.

As a Scio Township resident and David Read's co-sponsor in Supervisor Hathaway and Trustee Vogel's recall petitions, I ask that you please find your ruling in favor of the residents of Scio Township to move forward in rebuilding our local governing body.”

Each person has much more in their written comments, so to see all of the documents related to these recall efforts, go to https://www.washtenaw.org/2430/Recall-Activity-by-Year.

To see the previous STN story on this go to https://thesuntimesnews.com/g/dexter-mi/n/48806/scio-township-recall-efforts-moving-next-step.

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