Village council repeals two ordinances
CALUMET — The Calumet Village Council, during a special session on Tuesday, adopted Ordinance No. 160, which repeals two previous ordinances, numbers 157 and 158. Both ordinances were adopted by the council last summer.
Ordinance No. 157 gave the council the authority to appoint the village clerk, which was previously to be decided by election process. Ordinance No. 158, likewise, transferred the authority of determining village treasurers from the voters to the council.
The adoption of the ordinances was challenged last August by two village residents and former trustees, Virginia Dwyer and Peggy Germain.
Following the rules of Michigan’s General Village Law Act, both Germain and Dwyer circulated petitions for referendums asking voters if the village treasurer should be elected or appointed. According to the GVLA, once the minimum number of signatures were signed to the petitions, they were to be submitted to the village clerk to be submitted to the township office for verification of petition signatures.
The petitions were both submitted in August 2021 to the clerk, Dave Geisler, who was also the interim village manager. Geisler delivered Dwyer’s petition to Calumet Township Clerk Beth Salmela, which Salmela later said she did receive and the signatures verified as valid. While Geisler maintains that he also delivered Germain’s petition, which regarded the clerk position, to the township clerk, Salmela firmly denies she received it.
Village Attorney Jim Tercha told the council that considering the circumstances surrounding the missing petition, to avoid further trouble, the only option the village had was to adopt a new ordinance that would repeal the previous ordinances.
Dwyer addressed the council at the meeting, telling them that in her opinion, Tercha’s recommendation to adopt an ordinance repealing the first two was a “cover-up,” and that, as there was nobody present at the meeting to verify what was or was not done with the petitions, it has been suggested by the state election bureau that if Dwyer and Germain feel there was not a good-faith handling of the issue, they should file a criminal complaint with law enforcement. She continued by saying that she intends to do that. Neither Geisler or Salmela was present at the meeting to contribute to the discussion.
“Also, Mr. Tercha’s idea of just throwing it under the carpet and never talking to us, or giving us any information,” Dwyer said, “but only doing what is good for the village council to make it go away, is unacceptable.”
Germain added that the voters paid a high price for the right to have the freedoms of open elections. She said she had the signatures of 56 voters who wanted to have a voice in whether the clerk was appointed or elected, and they were denied their role in the Democratic process.
“Two messed up petitions are not believable,” Dwyer said. “Period.”
Village President Brian Abramson responded that only one of the petitions was messed up, which Dwyer was quick to correct.
“I was never told (by the township), and it was never addressed at a village meeting,” Dwyer said, “that mine was verified. You have a legal obligation to do that.”
Dwyer clarified herself by saying that after a petition has been verified, the council has a legal obligation to address that at a meeting, and enter into the minutes and public record, that there has been a petition, then state when it will appear on the ballot.
“Off the record; not at a meeting, because nobody showed up,” Dwyer responded. “Clerk Geisler said to Peggy Germain, as they were standing up and walking out (of a September 2021 meeting) — she said: ‘When is my petition going to be on the ballot?'”
Dwyer said she witnessed the exchange, as did several other people. Geisler replied, according to Dwyer, that Germain’s petition was going to appear on the ballot in May. When Germain asked why Geisler did not tell her that, he replied: “I’m telling you now.”
Dwyer said the council passed an ordinance allowing for the positions of both clerk and treasurer to be appointed, rather than elected, decisions Dwyer and Germain agreed should be decided by the voters, not trustees.
Abramson told Dwyer that in regard to her petition, she would have to take the issue up with the township.
“No, it is not,” Dwyer said. “You had to discuss it at a meeting. Mine was valid. You did not do that.”
She informed him again that it was the legal obligation of the council, not only to inform the public at a council meeting, but also publish an announcement in the local newspaper of the referendum.
“You did not do that,” she repeated.
To clarify the issue, added Germain, Dwyer’s petition asks the question of shall the voters or the village council decide who the treasurer will be, and her’s (Germain’s) is in regard to whether the clerk shall be elected or appointed.