Recall petition wording OK’d
The 3-member commission okayed the wording, in spite of Winter’s claims that some of the language is untrue.
Winter, the supervisor of Greenleaf Township, has been targeted for recall by township resident Ronald Bruzuchowski over a $230,000 real estate purchase that he claims Winter entered into without prior approval by the township board.
Both parties presented arguments to the commission at the clarity hearing on Dec. 30.
The purpose of the hearing, explained Probate Judge Gregory Ross, the commission chairman, was to determine “whether each reason for the recall stated in the petition is of sufficient clarity to enable the officer whose recall is sought and the electors to identify the course of conduct that is the basis of the recall.”
The commission decides only if the wording on the petition is clear and factual, said Ross.
It does not determine if the allegations are true, he said. That decision is left to the voters.
“Factual does not mean truthful,” Ross emphasized. The wording “may be true or may be untrue. The only consideration is if it’s stated clearly, factually.”
The petition states that Winter entered into a $230,000 real estate agreement to purchase property “without the advance approval of the Greenleaf Township Board.”
Winter told the election commission he polled the 4-member board by phone in late September, after the board toured the building and 6 acres near the corner of M-53 and Bay City- Forestville Road. He said the board was split but the consensus was to proceed with the purchase.
“I had three people (out of 5) in favor, so I went forward and gave the deposit on Oct. 29,” said Winter.
H pointed out that the petition says he entered into the agreement at a board meeting on Oct. 29. He said there was no board meeting on that date.
Winter said the board did meet Nov. 20, and on a 3-2 vote approved the down payment he made in October plus an additional $180,000 to complete the purchase. The board also voted unanimously to authorize him to represent the township at the closing, he said.
Ross reminder Winter that truth was not the issue.
“Is it (the language) clear enough for you to rebut it (with voters),” asked Ross.
“Yes,” answered Winter. “It says (I made the purchase) without advance notice. I’ll rebut it. My board members knew about it.”
In a statement read to the commission, Bruzuchowski stated, “According to the Open Meetings Act – all decisions must be made at a meeting open to the public. The decision to purchase the real estate for Greenleaf Township was not made at (a) meeting open to the public. The Green township board voted to purchase the building on November 20, 2014. Three weeks prior to that vote on October 29, Mr. Winter signed a real estate purchase agreement and gave All Star Vending a non-refundable down payment in the amount of $50,000 from Green leaf Township funds.
“At the township meeting on November 20, Mr. Winter stated he had the verbal approval of 2 board members and that’s all he needed. The residents of Greenleaf Township had their rights stripped away when Mr. Winter decided to sign a real estate agreement, he does not have the authority as supervisor to purchase property without the approval of the board.”
After reading the statement, Bruzuchowski added, “I thought the people should have a vote (on the purchase). It’s quite expensive, $230,000. The current building is adequate. The building can be repaired. I haven’t heard anyone say we need a new building.”
But Winter said he’s been supervisor for 16 years. And for the past 20 years “we’ve been saving money to purchase (property).”
He said the current building has “no running water, can’t get a signal for computers.”
He noted that the purchase price for the new building was “$30,000 under assessed value.”
He emphasized, again, “as far as board members, they did know (about the purchase).”
Bruzuchowski said the new building “could fit a thousand people. It’s way too big.”
He said the current hall needs to be fixed up, but it’s work that can be done with a “minimal amount of money.”
The commission, consisting of Judge Ross, County Clerk Denise McGuire and County Treasurer Trudy Nicol, voted unanimously to approve the petition language.
Ross said the decision could be appealed to circuit court within 10 days.
Winter told the News after the hearing that he would appeal.
If the appeal is denied, Bruzuchowski can begin circulating the petition for signatures. He would need 51 valid signatures to force an election to remove Winter from office. The petition can be circulated for 180 days.
Recall elections can only be held in May or November, so the earliest the election could be scheduled would be May 5, according to the county clerk.