STANTON – A wind-related recall effort against the Maple Valley Township supervisor took another step forward Thursday morning.
The Montcalm County Election Commission – which is composed of Probate Court Judge Charles Simon III, Clerk Kristen Millard and Treasurer JoAnne Vukin – voted 2-1 to approve a recall petition submitted by Trufant resident Robin Poulsen on Jan. 21. The petition states that Maple Valley Township Supervisor John Schwandt voted to have a six-month moratorium on wind energy on March 8, 2021.
The Election Commission voted 3-0 to decline a second petition submitted by Poulsen which states that on that same date, Schwandt voted to remove a ballot question regarding Ordinance 24 (the township’s wind energy ordinance which had been approved in November 2020) and to cancel a referendum on that ordinance which had been scheduled for May 2021. In response to the referendum effort, the township board rescinded the ordinance and has been working on a new wind ordinance ever since.
Schwandt was not present at Thursday’s hearing. He did email a statement to the Clerk’s Office on Wednesday asking that the second petition against him not be approved, as it was not factual.
“On March 8, 2021, I voted to approve a resolution to rescind adoption of ordinance No. 24,” Schwandt wrote. “This resolution simply rescinded ordinance No. 24 as expressed in the action items under ‘now therefore.’ The resolution (that the board adopted) did not discuss removing a ballot question or canceling a zoning ordinance referendum election. It appears the content of this resolution was misstated in our township board meeting minutes. The referendum election was canceled only as a function of law because ordinance No. 24 was no longer effective so a referendum election could no longer prevent its adoption.
“Because I did not expressly participate in a vote to remove the ballot question for a vote to cancel the referendum election (and only voted on a resolution to rescind the ordinance), this language is not factual,” he wrote. “I did not make votes on the items on the petition, which, if approved, would be untrue and confuse the public. Please deny this petition language. I appreciate the hard work of the election commission.”
Simon cast the lone “no” vote in the vote to approve the first petition, and the judge didn’t hold back in questioning the recall language and why Schwandt should be subject to recall simply for voting on something, which he noted is the man’s job as township supervisor.
“I can’t understand factually why this man should be removed,” Simon said. “I mean, you may not like him, but all this board has done is removed the ordinance from the books, which made the referendum ineffective.”
Simon also noted that it’s not clear why Schwandt voted in favor of a six-month moratorium on wind energy projects.
“We don’t know the reason why and for me, that’s important,” the judge said. “The fact that you vote on a resolution one way or the other, to my way of thinking, shouldn’t be grounds for removal. If you’re subject to recall for any vote you make, and some member of the public – and they’re entitled to file the recall petition – just says ‘I don’t like your vote, I don’t like how you voted on this, I’m going to recall you.’ I don’t know how any government at any level, whether it’s a city, a township, a village, a county, a state, can govern because any one person doesn’t like the vote of a particular township trustee or supervisor – I don’t know how that works. In my opinion, there should be a rationale given … so the voting public understands why he voted for that. My opinion is it should be in the petition.”
“I’m in the business of writing minutes,” Millard noted. “She (Poulsen) provided to us minutes from the Maple Valley Township Board meeting on March 8, which indicate that they did pass a resolution, even though it wasn’t supplied to us, they did pass a resolution to have a six-month moratorium on wind energy. He (Schwandt) did vote to have a six-month moratorium on wind energy. The minutes indicate to me that it’s factual. This is a fact – he voted yes on a six-month moratorium.
“It doesn’t matter how I feel about that,” Millard added. “Personally, I would love to see more justification.”
“It doesn’t matter how we feel about it,” Simon agreed.
In making a motion to approve the first petition, Vukin noted of the upcoming effort to gather recall signatures, “I hope that this is presented to the public in a fair and balanced way and not just with emotions. I know how things can get changed and I hope this doesn’t happen here, I hope just the facts are given. If I were a Maple Valley Township resident and someone came to me and asked me to sign this, I would want to know why was it wrong that he voted for this?”
“I read the paper, so I know how these hearings go in the townships in Montcalm County,” Simon added. “They’re not civil. They’re not civil at all. Perhaps before they were going to address this issue further, they (the Maple Valley Township Board) thought maybe it would cool the temperature down (by enacting a six-month moratorium). I don’t know.”
The Election Commission voted 2-1 to approve the wording of the first recall petition, meaning Poulsen can begin to proceed with gathering signatures. Millard noted the wording is good for 180 days at the time of filing, but once signatures start to be collected, a 60-day window is in effect. She said the soonest the recall could be placed on a ballot would be this November.
As Thursday’s hearing ended, Simon continued to voice concern about the reasons given for Schwandt’s recall. He noted the Maple Valley Township Board’s vote to approve a six-month wind moratorium was a unanimous vote.
“Why is he the only one being recalled?” Simon asked.
The recall effort against Schwandt is the second wind-related recall push ongoing in Montcalm County.
Sidney Township Planning Commission member Jeffrey Lodholtz filed recall petitions against Sidney Township Trustee Jed Welder three times in September, October and November 2021, with the Montcalm County Election Commission denying the first two attempts but approving the third.
For the recall to proceed, 274 valid signatures of registered voters in Sidney Township must be collected. Lodholtz turned in 370 signatures to the Montcalm County Clerk’s Office. The Clerk’s Office is currently reviewing the signatures. If enough signatures are verified, the Sidney Township recall can go on the May ballot.
[rest of article available at source]
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