Election board approves one recall petition against PM treasurer

January 24, 2023

Election board approves one recall petition against PM treasurer

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

LUDINGTON — The Mason County Election Commission denied the language of three recall petitions and approved one for an attempt to recall two Pere Marquette Township officials. The commission met on Friday, Jan. 20 to consider whether the assertions in the petitions were stated clearly and factually. The commission consists of Mason County Probate Court/Chief Judge Jeff Nellis, Mason County Clerk Cheryl Kelly and Mason County Treasurer Andrew Kmetz, all elected officials. 

The petitions are requesting recall elections of Township Supervisor Gerald Bleau and Township Treasurer Karie Bleau, husband and wife. The language of a petition to recall Karie Bleau was approved. 

“The recall commission does not determine the truth of any allegations,” Kelly said. “We only consider whether the assertions in the petition are stated clearly and factually.”

The petition language that was approved stated: 

“Karie Bleau has demonstrated the inability to accurately administer water billing for multiple accounts which is her responsibility. Her refusal to rectify these inaccuracies caused a loss in revenue in excess of $20,000.”

The denied petitions were as follows: 

  • “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.”
  • “Karie Bleau has shown concerning accounting practices and she creates a toxic working relationship that cost the township contracted vendors and campground visitors.”
  • “Gerald Bleau has demonstrated a gross lack of leadership, unethical behavior and his actions have put the township in a vulnerable state of liability. Gerald Bleau has publicly asked voters to remove him from office if they believe he has not done a good job. This petition is to honor his request.”

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. 

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. 

“We thank the Election Commission for taking the time away from their important duties to oversee the recall process today,” a press release from the Bleaus stated on Friday. “While we appreciate the Commission’s belief that three of the four recall petitions submitted to them lacked clarity or a factual basis, the final recall petition was unfortunately approved.”

Karie Bleau stated that she plans to appeal the decision of the election commission.

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, Karie Bleau would be a candidate for treasurer of Pere Marquette Township unless she withdrew. Karie Bleaus is a Republican and would be the Republican nominee on the ballot. The Democrat party would also have the option to place candidates on each ballot as well. 

“Our public service has been appreciated by the community for the past few years and the outpouring of support has been phenomenal,” the Bleaus’s press release stated. “Thank you to all of the residents who came out to show their support today, for their letters and phone calls of encouragement. We have never let you down as your elected officials, and will not lay down your right to lawfully represented government.”

Please consider helping to fund local news. Mason County Press and Oceana County Press are available for free thanks to the generous support of our advertisers and individuals. Three ways to help us: Venmo: @MasonCountyPress; Paypal: MasonCountyPress@gmail.com; Mail a check to PO BOX 21, Scottville, MI 49454. 

fb.com/stars

This story is copyrighted © 2023, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

As the services of Media Group 31, LLC are news services, the information posted within the sites are archivable for public record and historical posterity. For this reason it is the policy and practice of this company to not delete postings. It is the editor’s discretion to update or edit a story when/if new information becomes available. This may be done by editing the posted story or posting a new “follow-up” story. Media Group 31, LLC or any of its agents have the right to make any changes to this policy. Refer to Use Policy for more information.

Area Churches

Subscribe to MCP via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this site and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 22,075 other subscribers