Recall clarity hearing planned to review petition language

by Peter Jakey-Managing Editor

The Presque County Election Commission has scheduled a clarity and factual hearing next Wednesday to discuss the recall petitions against Onaway mayor Gary Wregglesworth and commissioners Chuck Abshagen and Jessie Horrocks.

The group calling itself Concerned Citizens for a Safer Community submitted the petition language April 10 at the county clerk’s office.

All three petitions state that targeted officials have “failed to make decisions in which the voters have entrusted (him/her) to make regarding the safety and security of our community, by refusing to explore or take advantage of offers or options from citizens or outside governmental agencies to retain the Onaway Police Department and in doing so (he/she) is putting the community’s safety and security at risk,” states petitions, which were submitted by Judy Shaloy.

The petitions further state that Wregglesworth, Abshagen and Horrocks have “become unresponsive and indignant towards the citizens of Onaway when citizens address (him/her) at city commission meetings.”

On Wregglesworth’s petition, the proposed language states that Onaway voters have lost trust in his ability “to lead and represent the best interest of the city of Onaway and its’ citizens.”

In response, Wregglesworth said, “I think it is unfortunate. We are not trying to do something to harm the city. We are trying to do what is in the best interest of the city. I really believe the public sentiment is on our side. I do not think the recall indicates the majority. I think it is the minority. In the end it will play out.”

The petitions for Horrocks and Abshagen state that Onaway residents have lost trust in their “judgement to represent the best interest of the city of Onaway and its citizens.”

“I do not think it is legitimate,” said Horrocks. “Some of the things they stated in there, an offer was not explored. There was no offer. Being non-responsive. We have been repsonsonsive. Mayor Wregglesworth, at the very beginning, when this all started, offered anybody that wanted to come in and sit down, he would go through either the budget with them, or answer their questions, but nobody has taken him up on that.”

Wregglesworth said there was never a formal offer from the county. He said there was a statement made during negotiations between the city and county, but no formal offer.

The election board consists of probate judge Donald McLennan, treasurer Bridget LaLonde and clerk Ann Marie Main. They will determine whether each reason for the recall stated in the petition is factual and of sufficient clarity.

The officer whose recall is sought and the sponsors of the petition may appear at the meeting and present arguments on the clarity and factual nature of the petition language.

The election commission does not have the authority to rule on the reasons for recall, as only the clarity and factual nature of the language is the subject to the commission’s review.

Michigan Election Law stipulates that if any allegations are not factually and clearly stated, the entire petition can be rejected.

As soon as the election commission approves or disapproves the petition and any appeal to Circuit Court has concluded, or 40 days has elapsed since the filing of the appeal, the petition sponsors are free to circulate their petitions. Recall elections can only occur in May and November; however, it is too late for the May election, according to Main.

Both Abshagen and Horrocks are up for re-election in November.

The number of signatures needed to trigger a recall election is 25 percent of the votes cast in the last election of governor.

Sponsors would have 60 days to collect signatures.