MAPS recall petition rejected
Journal Staff Writer
MARQUETTE — The Marquette County Election Commission on Friday unanimously decided that the recall petition language filed against Marquette Area Public Schools Board of Education trustees Jennifer Klipp and Jennifer Ray was not clear or factual, thus rejecting the petition.
Jeremy Beerman, who had submitted the petition language, was not present at the meeting, which took place in the probate courtroom of the Henry A. Skewis Courtroom Annex.
Klipp and Ray, along with MAPS Board Vice President Glenn Sarka and Trustee Cherryl Maddox-Smith, on July l7 voted to retire the Marquette Senior High School nicknames of Redmen and Redettes. Sarka was not included in the petition because his term will expire in December 2024, and Maddox-Smith was not included because she has not yet been in office for a year.
Voting to keep the nicknames at the July board meeting were President Kristen Cambensy, Secretary-Treasurer James Hewitt and Trustee Jason Zdunek.
In 2019, the MSHS Nickname Research Committee recommended that MAPS discontinue the long-standing nicknames after exploring whether they created an adverse learning environment for students and if they were culturally insensitive.
One of the election commission members, county Clerk Linda Talsma, indicated that Ray and Klipp were elected in November 2020, and a survey asking registered voters whether the nicknames should be kept was not mailed in April 2020.
“That would cause me to believe, did they even know this survey was out there?” Talsma asked.
Regarding the district survey, Talsma questioned the words “registered voters” since she did not know if the people who took part in the survey actually were registered voters.
She expressed disappointment that Beerman was not at the meeting to clarify these issues.
The other commission members, Probate Judge Cheryl Hill and county Treasurer Jacqueline Solomon, sided with Talsma.
Hill said the purpose of the meeting was not to determine the truth of any allegation, but only to decide whether the petition language was stated clearly and factually.
“Matters of opinion are not factual,” Hill said.
Hill said the language asked for the recall of Klipp and Ray because they failed to retain the Redmen/Redettes nicknames by voting to retire them after the release of a MAPS survey that indicated 59% of respondents voted to keep the names.
Neither Klipp nor Ray were at the meeting, but Nina van den Ende read a statement on behalf of the trustees, who she noted were out of town on business.
Van den Ende said they objected to the language containing the word “failure,” which implied a legal obligation to retain the nicknames based on a nonbinding, mail-in public survey conducted six months before they were elected to the board.
They also objected to the language indicating that 59% of respondents wanted to keep the names, noting that it implied that the entirety of the school district engaged in the survey.
“In reality, only 22% percent of district voters responded to the opinion survey in total,” van den Ende said.
She also said that Klipp and Ray noted that the survey had no oversight process to determine if people who completed the surveys were registered voters.
They also said those first two petition sentences were in violation of Section 168.592 of Michigan Election Law, which states that a recall petition must be based on officers’ conduct during their term of office rather than conduct or events that occurred before or after their time on a board.
Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 550. Her email address is email@example.com.