PM Twp. treasurer files recall petitions against clerk, trustee

July 29, 2023

PM Twp. treasurer files recall petitions against clerk, trustee

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

PERE MARQUETTE TOWNSHIP — The Pere Marquette Charter Township treasurer is seeking to have two of elected colleagues recalled. Kari Bleau has recently filed recall petition applications with the Mason County Clerk’s Office against Rachelle Enbody, township clerk, and Ron Soberalski, a trustee. 

Bleau has filed two petition applications against Enbody and one against Soberalski. One of the petitions against Enbody states: “Rachelle Enbody has repeatedly created a volatile, hostile and toxic work environment for past and current township staff.” The second application states: “”On or about June 27, 2022 and August 8, 2022 Clerk Rachelle Enbody received information from the auditor that a water and/or sewer billing error was discovered during the auditing process. MCL (Michigan Compiled Laws) 41.65 requires the clerk to keep accurate accounting records. Clerk Enbody failed to present the board with a corrective action plan to resolve this issue to ensure accurate accounting records are kept.” 

The petition against Soberalski states: “On or about June 27, 2022 and Aug. 2022, Trustee Soberalski received information from the auditor that a water and/or sewer billing error was discovered during the auditing process. Trustee Soberlaski failed to bring a corrective action plan to the board to resolve the billing error which is his fiduciary responsibility as a trustee.” 

Bleau is being challenged for a recall in November and faces opposition from township resident Sarah Iteen, following a recall petition drive from Iteen’s husband, Tim. The recall petition against Bleau is similar in topic as her recall against Enbody and Soberalski: “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.” 

Bleau’s husband, Jerry Bleau, is the township supervisor and also faces a recall challenge in November by Kelly Smith, former township director of parks and recreation. The petition against Jerry Bleau, also filed by Tim Iteen, accuses the supervisor of having knowledge of the water billing mishap and not taking action. 

Clarity hearings in front of the Mason County Election Commission have been scheduled. A hearing on the petition against Enbody is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 11 at 10 a.m. at the Mason County Courthouse. A hearing on the petition against Soberalski is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 11 at 11 a.m. 

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 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. 

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. 

Both Jerry and Karie Bleau have, through legal council, have sent cease-and-desist notices to several people, including Enbody and Soberalski, accusing those individuals of various levels of defamation and threatening legal action. To prove defamation (which is called libel for written accounts and slander for verbal accounts) a plaintiff must show four things: a false statement purporting to be fact; publication or communication of that statement to a third person; fault amounting to at least negligence; and damages, or some harm caused to the reputation of the person or entity who is the subject. In cases of public officials (which includes local elected officials) the plaintiff must prove actual malice, which is unlike cases involving people who are considered public officials. 

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