RIGA TWP., Mich. – The recall attempt against Riga Township Supervisor Jefferee Simon can now begin.
The Lenawee County Election Commission unanimously ruled Thursday that the petition wording was clear. However, on a 2-1 vote, the commission rejected the petition against Treasurer Richard Beagle, ruling it wasn’t clear.
The commission is composed of Probate Judge Gregg Iddings, Clerk Roxann Holloway and Treasurer Marilyn Woods. Iddings explained their only duty is to determine if the wording on the petitions is clear. The petitioners have 10 days to appeal or refile, Holloway said.
At the hearing Thursday, Simon, Beagle and Riga Township Clerk Karlene Goetz addressed the language in the petitions against Simon and Beagle, all calling it vague and deliberately confusing.
“It is not only confusing, but false,” said Wolfgang Drescher, an attorney from Sylvania, Ohio, who represented the officials at the hearing.
Thomas Esordi, an attorney from Detroit, represented the petitioners. He objected to the taking of what he termed testimony at the hearing. Iddings said the committee wanted to hear explanations so they could better determine if the language was clear.
“We are not here on a fact-finding mission,” Iddings said. “We are just here to make sure the language is clear.”
A group of Riga Township residents started the recalls as part of their opposition to the potential siting of wind turbines in the township and what they perceive to be conflicts of interest on the part of Simon and Beagle. The group also accused the two officials of altering the composition of the township planning commission by refusing to reappoint Kevon Martis after his term expired Dec. 31. Martis was involved with writing amendments to the zoning ordinance covering wind turbines.
After Martis’ term expired, Brian Bowman was appointed to fill the position. Beagle and Simon both said they, as township officials, do not have the individual authority to arbitrarily change the make-up of the planning commission but could make recommendations and vote on appointments.
The petition against Simon charges he “violated the public trust and breached his fiduciary duty on or about Dec. 13, 2010, when, acting in his official capacity as Riga Township supervisor, he arbitrarily and capriciously altered the composition of the Riga Township Planning Commission by refusing to reappoint one of the lead architects of the wind turbine ordinance language in the middle of the process despite the strong objections of the citizenry and the objections of the chairman of the Riga Township Planning Commission, thereby depriving the township of a key asset at a critical point in the life of the township.”
He and Beagle took issue with what they called the truthfulness of the petitions. Simon took his objection one step farther.
“The language is absolutely not clear,” he said. “It was drafted simply to harass me.”
Beagle was accused of violating his duty by signing a lease agreement to site a turbine on property he owns while the developers were seeking changes in the township zoning ordinance. Beagle said that was false because he signed the lease Feb. 19, 2009, and the ordinance work did not begin until later that year.
“Long before the developer brought any action in Riga,” he said. “I thought that wind turbines would be a good thing for Riga.”
Josh VanCamp of Ogden Township attended the hearing as an observer. He is heading a similar recall effort against members of the Ogden Township board.
The Riga Township planning commission has been working since July to write a zoning ordinance covering the siting of industrial wind turbines in the township. Once the planning commission finishes its work, the ordinance will go to the Lenawee County Planning Commission for action and then the township board for final action. Three groups are seeking to place wind turbines in four Lenawee County townships, including Riga.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding