REPUBLIC - At the last Republic Township Board meeting before Tuesday's election, township Supervisor Gary Johnson received support from Republic's representative on the Marquette County Board.
Commissioner Deborah Pellow read a statement during public comment supporting Johnson, who is the subject of recall language on Tuesday's ballot.
"Recalls cost taxpayers lots of money. They divide municipalities. They're filled with half-truths, innuendoes, misleading statements, twisted details and, in some cases, downright lies," Pellow said during the public comment portion of the meeting.
"While these statements are clear to understand, but you must ask yourself are they based on truths."
Pellow addressed several of the 10 charges specified against Johnson in the recall ballot language, saying that he does not have power to raise taxes or interfere with another official's statutory duties.
"Recalls are in the law for good reasons and factual reasons and true reasons. That's why you have the right to recall. But for speculation and innuendos, they only hurt everyone and every electorate in Republic Township," Pellow said.
A truck drives past a sign reading “Recall Supervisor Johnson,” one of several campaign signs either in favor of or against the recall election of Republic Township Supervisor Gary Johnson that can be found in Republic. The election is set for Tuesday. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
The recall language, which was brought forward by Republic resident Fred Nannestad, specifies nine charges against Johnson, including raising assessed property values an average of 12 percent; charging attorney fees for Freedom of Information Act requests; applying illegal political influence on zoning matters coming before the township's Planning Commission and zoning administrator; failed to take corrective action on two of the township's audits; condoned the payment of township bills with checks having two different sets of check numbers; intentionally blocked citizens' attempts to review financial information; failed to provide supervision of the Department of Public Works allowing for the deterioration of valves and associated hardware in the sewer system; failed to pave Hawks Drive as he promised; and failed to properly keep minutes of the Tax Increment Financing Authority as its secretary.
Also included on the township ballot Tuesday is a justification of conduct in office written by Johnson, which reads: "The allegations are groundless, based upon misinformation, misunderstandings, hearsay and untruths. Key examples include the first complaint, which has been reported to be a tax increase. It is not, it is an assessed value increase imposed by Marquette County. Second, last December, the Township Board delegated all responsibility for handling all FOIA requests and billing to the township clerk. Third, the two concerns raised regarding checking and audits were caused by miscommunication and have both been addressed and corrected by the Treasurer and Clerk. Maintenance, including the sewer system and roads is an ongoing need that is always handled by the Township Board. And finally, any and all documentation, if it existed, requested by the petition organizer has been provided. The allegations were meant to be provocative but have no basis in fact."
In a separate statement to The Mining Journal, Johnson said, "Recall actions are becoming increasingly common across the nation. More often than not they are triggered by personaity and policy differences resulting in an abuse of the electoral process."
Nannestad attended the meeting, but declined to comment on the election except to say that he had concerns about non-compliance with state and township laws. Nannestad also provided The Mining Journal with a series of newsletters he drafted called "Republic Facts" detailing the separate charges in the recall language that were mailed to township residents.
The final letter, titled "Republic Facts X," includes an excerpt from an Associated Press article on the recent Casey Anthony trial which quotes the lead prosecutor on the case on guilt, with Nannestad comparing the alleged actions by Johnson to the statement on the Anthony case.
"Note the similarity of actions below to that of Mr. Johnson's actions recently," Nannestad wrote. "...We could debate all day about what Mr. Johnson is or was. Names the coffee table group uses are: Scoundrel, Thief, Crook, Liar, Supervisor, inept, irresponsible or incompetent."
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.