Former Scottville commissioner attempts recall against mayor

June 6, 2023

Mayor Marcy Spencer

Former Scottville commissioner attempts recall against mayor

SCOTTVILLE — A former city commissioner is attempting to file a recall petition against Scottville Mayor Marcy Spencer. Eric Thue, who lost in the November 2022 election, filed the application for recall petition today at the Mason County Clerk’s Office. A clarity hearing has been scheduled with the Mason County Election Commission to review the petition language on Tuesday, June 20 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Mason County Courthouse. That commission consists of Mason County Clerk Cheryl Kelly, Mason County Treasurer Andrew Kmetz and Mason County Probate/Chief Judge Jeff Nellis. T

Thue had been appointed to the commission in September 2021 and had taken out a petition last summer to run for re-election. However, he did not acquire the proper amount of signatures in order to be placed on the ballot. Instead of running for a vacant two-year seat, he chose to run a write-in campaign against four other candidates who were running for three four-year term seats. All Scottville commissioners are now elected at-large. The Scottville mayor is a voting commission, chosen by the commission to serve as chair. Thue only received 54 votes in the election.

Spencer, who has served on the commission for over 10 years, also lost in the election, receiving 149 votes versus 156 received by Darcy Copenhaver, 159 by Rob Alway and 162 by Kelli Pettit. Pettit recently resigned from the commission, after serving less than six months. 

Spencer was re-appointed to the commission in December to serve the vacant two-year term.

According to sources in the clerk’s office, Thue had inquired about recall shortly after Spencer had been appointed to the commission. 

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.

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.

Thue also was involved in an effort by Ludington resident Tom Rotta to sue Spencer and Alway for alleged election fraud, serving the two the court documents prior to a commission meeting in January. Circuit Court Susan Sniegowski threw that case out, stating, among other reasons, that only a citizen of a community can file such a case and that the statute of limitations had passed as well. Both the current and former Scottville city attorney issued opinions stating that the allegations were false. 

Thue’s recall petition language states: “She willfully has violated the Scottville City Charter. First, by accepting an unlawful appointment to fill a vacancy in the city commission. Second, by later accepting unlawful appointment to mayor. Third, by violating the charter’s commission meeting procedures as regards hearing of the citizens disenfranchising the public.” 

Spencer’s appointment was legal, as the city’s charter requires an appointment of vacancy within 30 days after the commission acknowledges the vacancy. The commission was unable to hold either of its two regular November meetings due to a lack of quorum, and therefore was unable to take action to acknowledge a vacancy. The legally elected commission, during its December 27 regular meeting re-appointed Spencer to the commission, by a 3-2 vote, with Commissioner Pettit and Commissioner Ryan Graham voting against (Graham has also since resigned). Commission Nathan Yeomans was not present at that meeting and then resigned before the following meeting in January (Yeomans has since moved out of the area). Commissioners Alway, Darcy Copenhaver and Aaron Seiter voted in favor, choosing among two candidates, Spencer and Susan Evans. 

Evans was appointed during the following meeting and resigned from the commission last month without explanation. 

Marcy Spencer is the second generation of her family to serve as mayor and is a third generation resident of Scottville. Her father, Clayton, served on the commission from 1975 until 1992, including six years as mayor.

She was also the fourth woman to serve as mayor. Other female mayors included Glenna Anderson (who’s father, Glenn Wallace, was also a mayor), Betty Gunningham and Mary Boyd Maguire. 

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.

If a recall were to take place, Spencer would have the option to run for election during the next election. Other candidates could also appear on the ballot if they filed a petition. There is currently one vacant commission seat that will have to be selected during the November special election, if a candidate choses to run. That seat is vacant due to the vacancy left by Evans and the lack of anyone applying within the 30 day charter deadline. In the scenario that a recall petition effort were successful, it would mean there would be two seats that Scottville voters would have to elect.

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