Entire city commission may face recall vote

by Peter Jakey-Managing Editor

It is official. The recall of three Onaway City Commission officials will be on the November ballot. Targeted for recall are mayor Gary Wregglesworth, and commissioners Jessie Horrocks and Charles Abshagen.

Presque Isle County clerk Ann Marie Main “called the election” Friday, meaning she notified the Onaway city clerk and the Michigan Elections Bureau that the recall questions will be on the November ballot. All the petitions signatures have been verified and the matter is a go for Nov. 5.

In the meantime, there is a tight deadline for potential successors to file nominating petitions at Onaway City Hall. The deadline is Monday.

The incumbents are automatically on the ballot; however, Horrocks and Abshagen would still have to file petitions if they want to continue, because their terms end Dec. 31. Wregglesworth’s term ends December 2014.

Main said the new twist in the new recall election law, approved in December by the Michigan legislature, is voters are not just asked if a city official should be recalled. Instead, they will be asked to choose between the incumbent and a potential successor.

The Michigan Secretary of State Web site states,  “the concept of a recall election from a two-election process (if the recall was successful) to combining the concepts of a recall election and a special election to fill the possible 3resulting vacancy. 

“That is, there is now a single recall election to fill the partial (remaining) term of office for the official subject to the recall, with the incumbent automatically made a candidate in the election unless he/she withdraws within 10 days after the filing of the recall petition. There is one election and the candidate who receives the highest vote total is elected to serve the remainder of the unexpired term. There is no primary.”

While that process continues, commissioners Bernie Schmeltzer and Ron Horrocks, who were re-elected last November, now find themselves under the recall microscope.

A clarity and factual hearing to circulate recall petitions is Thursday (July 18) at the Presque Isle County Courthouse. The time of the hearing is 10 a.m.

Judge Donald McLennan, treasurer Bridgit LaLonde and Main will review the petition language and determine whether it is factual and clear.

The matter may not make the November ballot because of appeal timelines.

The group Citizens for a Safer Community had to wait six months from the time the new commissioners started their new terms in January, before they could start the recall process.

The group is not happy that the city commission did not rehire the city’s lone Onaway police officer, chief Jim Gibson.

The city has entered into an agreement with the county to provide additional nighttime patrols. The elimination of the Onaway Police Department is expected to make up a budget shortfall, and allow the city to improve infrastructure, such as deteriorating roads.

The group does not agree with the budgeting decisions made by the city.