Election commission votes against recall attempt of Scottville mayor

June 20, 2023

Eric Thue speaks to the Election Commission

Election commission votes against recall attempt of Scottville mayor

LUDINGTON — A former Scottville city commissioner’s attempt to recall Scottville Mayor Marcy Spencer was voted down by the Mason County Election Commission 2-1 today during a clarity hearing at the Mason County Courthouse. 

Eric Thue, who lost in the November 2022 election attempted to file a recall petition against Spencer. Thue filed the application for recall petition on June 6. The Election Commission consists of Mason County Clerk Cheryl Kelly, Mason County Treasurer Andrew Kmetz and Mason County Probate/Chief Judge Jeff Nellis. Nellis and Kmetz voted against the recall language while Kelly voted in favor. 

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’s recall petition language stated: “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.”

Carlos Alvarado, attorney for Spencer, argued that the statement “unlawful” is not factual. Both Nellis and Kmetz pointed out that Spencer was not a member of the commission at the time the alleged “unlawful” occurrence took place and therefore, state law law prohibits a recall against her. 

Thue argued that the City Charter requires a vacancy be filled within 30 days and that Spencer had been appointed after 40 days. However, what he left out of his argument was that the charter also states the City Commission was declare a vacancy. The commission did not conduct business in the month of November due to the lack of a quorum, which meant that its first meeting did not take place until Monday, Dec. 12, 2022. Spencer was appointed during the following regular meeting of the commission, which took place on Monday, Dec. 27, 2022. 

Mayor Marcy Spencer

She was then appointed mayor by the commission during its regular meeting on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023.

Spencer, who has served on the commission for over 10 years, lost in the November 2022 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.

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.

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 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.

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