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Recall fails in Ishpeming

May 9, 2012
By JOHANNA BOYLE - Journal Staff Writer ( , Journal Ishpeming Bureau

ISHPEMING - The three Ishpeming City Council members targeted in Tuesday's recall election will remain in office after Ishpeming voters took to the polls.

The recall effort against Claudia Demarest, Elaine Racine and Mike Tall failed by a wide margin, according to unofficial numbers from the Ishpeming City Clerk's office. The numbers become official after review by the Marquette County Board of Canvassers, which meets this afternoon.

The recall against Demarest failed 442 yes votes to 620 no votes, against Racine failed 416 yes votes to 645 no votes and against Tall failed 413 yes votes to 648 no votes.

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The recall was brought against the three council members for their "failure to vote for the transfer of retirement credits for Police Chief Jim Bjorne" by the Ishpeming Citizens for Bjorne Justice Committee.

"The voters of Ishpeming have spoken and we accept the results," said committee spokesman Bob Clark. "While not reaching our goal, we still wish to thank all those who signed recall petitions and everyone who helped this election become a reality. If nothing else, we believe greater attention by city voters will now be focused on city operations and the pressing issues at hand."

Two of the councilmembers targeted for recall expressed their thanks to the voters following the vote tally.

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From left, Ishpeming Mayor Pat Scanlon defends his comments from last week’s special council meeting as City Manager Jared Ottenwess listens during a second special meeting held Tuesday morning. Scanlon, along with Councilman John Stone, had charged that someone on the council had leaked information. Tuesday’s recall election against three council members failed, meaning the five members will have to work together for the remainder of their terms. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)

"I feel that I am very thankful such a huge margin of people agreed with us and felt we were doing our jobs right," Racine said.

Demarest agreed.

"The city of Ishpeming voters have spoken and I hope we can get back to city business," Demarest said.

Tall did not return calls for comment.

Even while voters were at the polls settling the recall question, tensions between the five members of the Ishpeming council continued to flare at a special meeting Tuesday.

At the special meeting requested by Demarest and Tall, tempers rose, following a special meeting last week during which Mayor Pat Scanlon and Councilman John Stone spoke about their concerns that someone on the council had leaked confidential information.

Demarest, Tall and Racine stated they felt they had been unfairly targeted by the comments and that Scanlon and Stone had been out of line.

"It seems the chair and one other council member don't have to follow the rules," Demarest said after quoting Robert's Rules of Order. "The way we were spoken to at Friday's special council meeting is disgusting. You, Mayor Scanlon, and Councilman Stone should be ashamed of yourselves. The display the two of you put on - and it was a display, orchestrated by the two of you - was highly unprofessional and disgusting."

Stone and Scanlon had chastised the council at Friday's meeting regarding the leaking of information City Manager Jered Ottenwess had requested the council keep confidential - his decision to interview for the position of city manager of Ypsilanti. They did not specifically name the person they thought to have leaked the information.

Demarest said Tuesday the names of the candidates interviewing in Ypsilanti were posted on the city's website and on various media websites downstate, so the information had been made public.

Tall, who was not present at Friday's meeting, made his remarks standing in front of the other council members.

"It sounds as if I was accused of leaking stuff to the press. I don't talk to the press even when I'm supposed to talk to the press," Tall said. "This foolishness has to stop. Whether I get recalled today or I come back tomorrow and sit in that chair. We have a city to run here, guys, and it's not getting run."

Racine agreed, drawing a comparison between Stone's accusations and comments he made in 2009 regarding former City Manager Alan Bakalarski, which resulted in Bakalarski leaving the city.

"You tried to tap dance your way out of that one, too. But I felt that you were wrong then. I absolutely know you are wrong now," Racine said.

Stone did not respond to the comments at length, but did say, "I don't understand (the reason for) the meeting, but I wonder if someone's conscience is bothering them."

Scanlon defended his comments.

"There was nothing but statements from people who were frustrated with the way things have been going. I respect you all as people ... When I made my comments, there were no names mentioned. I would appreciate the same respect," Scanlon said.

Demarest also made a motion, which passed 3-2, to amend the meeting's agenda to include two additional items: first, her comments on an advertisement run in The Mining Journal encouraging voters to vote "yes" in the recall, and second a motion to stop the city's appeal to the Michigan Employee Relations Commission to remove the city's Department of Public Works superintendent from the DPW bargaining unit.

"Are you directing the council with these comments or are you directing the TV camera?" Scanlon asked. Scanlon and Demarest also entered into a debate as to whether the city was insured to cover the costs of the lawsuit brought against the city by Bjorne.

The motion to stop the appeal, as the city has already spent $3,000-$5,000 on the request, failed 2-2, with Demarest and Tall voting yes, Stone and Racine voting no and Scanlon abstaining.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.



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