Recall petition hearing is set for Tuesday

ESCANABA — Efforts to recall four officials in Garden and Fairbanks townships will continue with a clarity hearing of the Delta County Election Commission Tuesday. The hearing will take place in Delta County Court at 10 a.m.

On Jan. 10, townships residents submitted recall petition language to the county. The recall effort focuses on Supervisor Ron Collins, Clerk Kathryn Denholm, and Trustee James Dalgord of Fairbanks Township and Supervisor Morgan Tatrow of Garden Township.

“(They’re) claiming they’re in violation of conflict of interest laws,” County Clerk Nancy Kolich said. Larry Kelley sponsored the three submissions related to Fairbanks Township, and Cristi Currie sponsored the submission related to Garden Township.

According to Kelley, he sponsored the submissions due to the officials’ connections to Heritage Sustainable Energy.

“There’s a conflict of interest for any public official that has a financial interest … in something that they’re voting on or working with,” he said. He noted Collins and Dalgord have had wind leases on their property and could get wind turbines if a proposed addition to Heritage’s Garden Peninsula wind farm is approved by the Delta County Planning Commission, and Denholm cancelled a wind lease on her property, but has stated she would be interested in signing up for another after a decision on this matter is made.

Collins said while he voted on Heritage’s request to use a road right-of-way in Fairbanks Township last year, he did not believe this would be an issue at the time.

“I had checked with (the) Michigan Townships Association before the vote, and … the information they gave me led me to believe we didn’t have a conflict,” he said. However, as he later found that even the appearance of a conflict of interest can be enough to justify recusing oneself from a vote, Collins and Dalgord recused themselves from voting on this topic during the board’s next meeting. The board’s other members rescinded the previous resolution during this meeting, and another vote on the issue is expected to be taken at the Fairbanks Township Board’s February meeting.

The Delta County Election Commission was required to schedule a clarity hearing between 10 and 20 days of receiving the petition wording submissions from Kelley and Currie. At this hearing, they will review the language on each of the submissions and make a decision on whether or not the petitions should be allowed to go forward.

“If it’s approved, they’ll be able to start circulating the petitions,” Kolich said. The number of signatures these petitions would need to be successful would be equal to 25 percent of the turnout for the last gubernatorial election in each township. The petition language would be valid for 180 days, and signatures would have to be submitted within 60 days of being received.

If the petitions are successful, a special recall vote would take place to fill the affected positions during the townships’ next election. Kolich noted this could potentially take place as early as May.

If the wording submissions are not approved or the petitions are unsuccessful, Kolich said the process will end. However, the sponsors would be able to submit new recall petition language to the county at any time.


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