County election commission to consider PM Township recall petition

January 9, 2023

County election commission to consider PM Township recall petition

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

LUDINGTON — The Mason County Election Commission is scheduled to meet on Friday, Jan. 20 to go over potential recall petitions of Pere Marquette Charter Township Supervisor Jerry Bleau and Pere Marquette Charter Township Treasurer Karie Bleau, who are husband and wife. 

Tim Iteen filed the petition request Thursday, Jan. 5 with the Mason County Clerk’s Office. The election commission will meet for the clarity/factual review at 9 a.m., first to discuss the petition language for recalling Jerry Bleau and then at 9:30 a.m. to discuss the petition language for recalling Karie Bleau. The commission consists of Mason County Clerk Cheryl Kelly, Mason County Treasurer Andrew Kmetz and Mason County Probate/Chief Judge Jeff Nellis. The public meeting will be held in the commissioners’ chambers at the Mason County Courthouse, 304 E. Ludington Ave.

Language of the two separate petitions submitted by Iteen state: 

“Gerald Bleau has shown a gross lack of leadership, demonstrated unethical business practices, repeatedly abuses his power and continues to put the township in a vulnerable state of liability,” the petition states in regard to the township supervisor.”

“Karie Bleau has shown concerning accounting practices and she creates a toxic working relationship that cost the township contracted vendors and campground visitors.”

All elective officers in Michigan, except judicial officers, are subject to recall by the voters of their districts. An officer who is being recalled may continue to perform the duties of his or her office until the result of the recall election is certified, according to the Michigan Election Officials’ Manual, published in July 2021. 

Iteen died not return MCP’s messages prior to posting. Both Bleaus did respond.

“I’m getting educated on the all the steps of the process and intend to defend this within the law and hope that the voters agree that these allegations are unfounded and will learn the facts prior to voting but I will accept whatever they decide,” said Karie Bleau. “I’m going to see the process through.”

“I am working diligently to learn Public Act 116,” said Jerry Bleau. “It is my full intention to defend myself and prove to the citizens of Pere Marquette Charter Township that the allegations of the petition are false. I respect the law, the process and the peoples will. I pledged to work hard for all of the people of this great Township and I will continue to do so.”

The Michigan Election Law states that a recall petition shall not be filed against an official during the first six months or last six months of the officer’s term of office, if the term of office is two years or less; or during the first and last years of the officer’s term of office, if the term of office is more than two years. Both Bleaus were elected in 2020 and are serving four year terms. Jerry Bleau was initially appointed as supervisor by the township board of trustees in October 2019 to replace Paul Keson, who resigned to become executive director of Ludington Mass transit Authority. Prior to his appointment, Bleau served as the township’s zoning and building administrator. 

The Michigan Election Law requires the Board of State Canvassers

(for state and county-level offices, except for county commissioners) or County Election Commission (for all other offices) to review the language of a recall petition to determine it is factual and of sufficient clarity before the petition is circulated. The clarity/factual review is the starting point of each and every recall effort launched in Michigan.

The function of the County Election Commission, during the review, is to determine whether each reason for the recall stated in the petition is factual and of sufficient clarity to enable the officer whose recall is sought and the electors to identify the course of conduct that is the basis for the recall. The officer whose recall is sought and the sponsors of the petition may appear at the meeting and present arguments on the clarity and factual nature of the petition language. The Michigan Election Law states that each reason for the recall shall be based upon the officer’s conduct during his or her current term in office. The commission does not have a the authority to rule on whether the petition includes good reasons for recall, as only the clarity and the factual nature of the recall language is subject to the commission’s review. If any reason the recall is not factual or of sufficient clarity, the entire recall petition shall be rejected. 

The commission’s ruling may be appealed, either by the officer whose recall is sought or by the sponsors of the recall petition. This would take place in 51st Circuit Court. An appeal must be filed within 10 days of the commission’s determination. 

If a determination is appealed, the recall petition is not valid for circulation and cannot be circulated until a determination of whether each reason is clear and factual is made by the circuit court judge or until 40 days after the date of the appeal, whichever is sooner. A petition is not valid for circulation if at any time a Circuit Court determines that each reason on the recall petition is not sufficiently clear and factual.

The number of signatures needed to trigger a recall election is 25 percent of the votes cast in the officer’s district for all candidates for the office of Governor in the last gubernatorial election, which would be based on the November 2022 election. That number is 343 in Pere Marquette Township and must only be township residents ages 18 and over. 

If a recall were to take place, both Jerry Bleau and Karie Bleau would be candidates for their respective offices, unless they withdrew. The Bleaus are both Republicans and would be the Republican nominees on the ballot. The Democrat party would also have the option to place candidates on each ballot as well. 

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