Cedar Springs resident Mark Laws can begin collecting the signatures he needs to recall City Council members Ashley Bremmer and Patricia Troost. The two councilors had 10 days to appeal the decision of the Kent County Election Commission, who approved the language on the petitions 2-1. But they opted not to appeal this time, and are instead leaving it in the hands of the voters.
The recall petition language reads:
1) On July 11, 2013 Ashley Bremmer/Patrica Troost voted to go into a closed session, to hear complaints against council member Truesdale. The Open Meetings Act 267, 15.268, 8a allows for a closed session if it is requested by the person to be disciplined or reprimanded. Council member Truesdale made no such request.
2. On November 14, 2013 Ashley Bremmer/Patricia Troost voted to change the city logo and tagline. For many years it has been procedure of the council to not take action on an item not previously on agenda for public input and comment. This change in the logo and tagline was not presented to the public for input or comment before the change was made.
While Bob Truesdale voted with the rest of the council to go into closed session for that July 11 meeting to hear complaints against him by the council, he says he was unaware of his rights. During a special meeting in December, he alluded to the previous meeting and noted that it was illegal for the council not to explain to him when they took him into closed session that he could call it off anytime. “Some of you really pounded on me,” he said, “and I said nothing in my defense.”
At last Thursday’s City Council meeting, the council voted 6-1 to authorize City Manager Thad Taylor and their attorney to investigate whether anything illegal did occur regarding the July meeting. An outside agency will need to investigate the matter.
The second complaint on the petition refers to the new logo for the City of Cedar Springs, and the complaint is that the public did not get to see or comment on the logo before it was voted on.
According to Kent County Elections Director Sue deStiguer, the recall law has changed drastically, and the Cedar Springs recall will be the first test of the law since it went into effect in January.
The language on the petitions is good for 6 months from the date it was approved—March 7. However, the signatures (170 of them) must be gathered within a 60-day window. It used to be 90 days. “Any signature older than 60 days is automatically stricken,” explained deStiguer. The amount of signatures needed is based on 25 percent of the votes cast in the last presidential election.
Another change is that there will be no justification or explanation from the defendant (the council members) on the petition. The language will be as you see above.
A local recall can now only go on a May or November ballot, where previously it could go on the February or August ballot.
The ballot will also look differently. It will say recall election partial term ending, and the two candidates will automatically be on the ballot as running to fill that term. And that may be confusing for some people. “If the voter wants them to complete the term, they vote for them,” she explained.