DELTA COUNTY, Mich. (WZMQ) – A group of Delta County citizens is taking efforts to remove three county commissioners from office.
The Delta County Citizens for Ethical Leadership have filed paperwork to recall commissioners David Moyle, Bob Barron, and Robert Petersen.
According to member Stephen Benoit, their desire for the commissioners’ removal arose in February, when the County Board of Commissioners fired former County Administrator Emily DeSalvo in a three-to-two vote.
“We kind of saw that their direction or their decisions were not the vision of many of us in the community,” said Benoit. “The termination of Emily DeSalvo, I felt was a very wrong decision. She was a woman that was choosing to speak out for the betterment of our community, and I feel she was fired for speaking out.”
“One of the first things we did was simply ask the commissioners who voted in favor to fire Emily to resign,” said Citizens for Ethical Leadership social media director Christiana Reynolds.
The commissioners did not resigns. To this day, Petersen defends his vote to fire DeSalvo.
“We were questioning her about a payment that was supposed to be made to the Soil and Conservation District,” Petersen said. “She said she had questions for them, but she never sent them to them, so she just decided not to pay it. That was 42-thousand dollars for a job that the district did for us in the parks.”
According to Board of Commissioners Chairman David Moyle, many have called the three commissioners at the center of the recall effort “corrupt” following DeSalvo’s firing.
“That is an outright lie,” he told WZMQ 19 News in a phone call. “If so, it would be on the prosecutor’s desk.”
However, Petersen believes DeSalvo’s firing is not the group’s true motive for the recall.
“I think the people that lost in November are upset, and they’re using this to get us off so they can get back on,” he said. “It started from the very first meeting in January. They were disrupting our meetings, making it hard for us to get our work done. During public comment, they were trashing us instead of talking about what’s good.”
Moyle also believes the recall effort is politically motivated.
“This is a very partisan effort,” he said. “I serve the people of the county, not a political party.”
Reynolds says Delta County Citizens for Ethical Leadership is made up of residents on both sides of the politcal aisle. She also says both sides are represented among those who support the recall effort.
“They are people of all different kinds of ideologies, and we are focused and we work together,” said Reynolds. “The cooperation that we have seen in the community has been amazing.”
Moyle says the group’s claim of bipartisan support for the recall is “a stage show.”
“They have a few people who go to Republican meetings who are not conservative,” he said.
On July 17, a hearing will take place to approve or reject the language of the recall petition. If it is approved, Commissioners Moyle, Petersen, and Barron will have the option to file an appeal. Moyle says he expects the language of the recall petition to be accepted, and he plans to appeal.
If an appeal by the commissioners is denied, the Citizens for Ethical Leadership can begin collecting signatures. According to Reynolds, they will need 666 signatures for District #4 (Moyle), 1,001 for District #3 (Barron), and approximately 775 for District #5 (Petersen). If enough residents from each district sign, the recall would be on the ballot in November.
“Be aware that people are going to be out knocking at your door to sign the petitions,” Benoit said. “We understand there’s going to be people out there that may not see the same things that we see, but we are just out there to inform you and let you make the appropriate decision that’s best for you and our county.”
Reynolds says she is optimistic about the amount of support within the Delta County Citizens for Ethical Leadership for the recall effort at this stage. She says many are hoping to see change on the Delta County Board of Commissioners.
“There is a lack of transparency, and there is a lack of listening,” she said of the board. “A lot of people in this community feel unheard. They don’t feel represented, and that is what we’d like to remedy.”
Moyle says he has offered to sit down for coffee with members of the Citizens for Ethical Leadership group to talk about their differences. He says they have refused.
“You’re accountable to your constituents 100% of the time,” said Moyle. “This will be a test to see what people truly believe is happening.”
Petersen says just over six months into his term, he has been active in trying to improve Delta County. He hopes to continue serving on the board.
“We’ve been doing our job, and we’ve been getting the work done in the county,” Petersen said. “We’ve actually done extra work. We’ve been putting forth the effort, and I hope they let us stay here.”
Petersen was elected to his first term on the board in November, while Moyle and Barron were elected as incumbents. DeSalvo was officially replaced by Delta County Human Resources Specialist and Controller Ashleigh Young in May, after serving as interim administrator. Young was chosen by the Board of Commissioners in a three-to-two vote.