ESCANABA, Mich. (WZMQ) – On Monday, a group of Delta County citizens’ effort to recall three county commissioners this November came to a halt. However, the group also saw a victory.
Delta County Commissioners David Moyle, Bob Barron, and Robert Petersen appeared in the Circuit Court to appeal the language of the recall petitions against them. The petitions state each commissioner in question “voted to terminate Administrator Emily DeSalvo’s employment contract.”
The commissioners had to prove the language of the recall petitions was unclear or nonfactual. When asked by 41st Circuit Court Judge Christopher S. Ninomiya if they had an argument in support of their appeals, none of the commissioners gave a reason regarding the language. The judge asked Commissioner Petersen if he had read the recall statute, and Petersen said he had not.
Judge Ninomiya, who traveled from Dickinson County to preside over the case, denied the commissioners’ appeals, calling them “legally inadequate” and “essentially frivolous.” Citing that the commissioners did not consult an attorney or do adequate research before filing their appeals, Ninomiya said they were “completely unprepared” to support their positions.
“You have effectively managed to waste everyone’s time including your own, gentlemen,” Judge Ninomiya told the commissioners. “You have also managed to waste taxpayer money, because our citizens and taxpayers are the ones who ultimately have to pay for this court to review these inadequate and legally insufficient appeals.”
In an interview with WZMQ 19 News, Commissioner Moyle defended his decision to appeal.
“There’s the letter of the law and there’s the spirit of the law,” Moyle said. “I understand the court has one way of looking at things, but I stand by everything I’ve done. I am not a lawyer, and if I made any mistakes, it was with a good attitude in mind.”
Despite the appeals being denied, the recall effort will not be on the November ballot. Those who filed the recall petitions were required to collect the necessary signatures by August 4, but they could not begin collecting until after the appeal process.
Stephen Benoit—one of the three petitioners and a member of the Delta County Citizens for Ethical Leadership—believes the commissioners filed appeals to prevent them from collecting signatures.
“I think they used the system for their gain, which is unfortunate,” Benoit said. “We cannot allow unethical choices within our counties. It is important that we stand strong and move forward. This is what continues to happen within our county and by this commission, and we will stop it.”
Benoit says the group plans to begin collecting signatures immediately. After the first signature is collected, they must collect the required amount within 60 days to get the recall on the ballot in May.
For additional background information on the recall effort, click here.