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April 16, 2014

Panel rejects Warren recall petitions

By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer

WARREN — The Macomb County Election Commission has ruled that the wording of separate recall petitions brought against Warren Mayor Jim Fouts and City Clerk Paul Wojno earlier this month didn’t pass muster for clarity and factual accuracy.

The commission, made up of Macomb County Clerk Carmella Sabaugh, Judge of Probate Kathryn George and Chief Deputy Treasurer Jerry Moffitt, met in Mount Clemens April 15 and voted unanimously to reject the petitions filed by Warren resident Karen Spranger.

“I kind of expected a ‘no’ vote, because of the feedback I was getting,” Spranger said after the hearing. “It doesn’t mean I can’t resubmit a new petition. They don’t discuss what they find to be not factual.”

A known critic of some city officials and their policies, Spranger has been outspoken on topics ranging from taxes, to government transparency, to the installation of smart meters. She named Fouts and Wojno in separate petitions filed with the county on April 1. The language in the respective petitions included a list of complaints directed at the mayor and clerk, which, according to Sabaugh, lacked sufficient clarity.

The petition naming Fouts alleged the mayor “abused” the way the city conducts business. It criticized his explanation about a recent water rate increase, mentioned alleged threats of violence against “several employees” and claimed that, “Laws are passed that only help his personal views.”

The language of the recall petition that named Wojno alleged his office had not maintained “all the necessary records required by Charter.” It further stated there is “no current master plan” for the city, questioned the availability of meeting minutes, claimed city poll workers were not adequately “educated,” and said Wojno “maintains a voting list that includes absentee deceased voters.”

It also alleged Wojno’s office was “the host for vaccination clinic when pets receive shots without being licensed – a violation of state law.”

Wojno previously defended his staff and labeled the allegations “unfair and baseless.” He called the wording of the petition “rambling, stream-of-consciousness” but said after the hearing that he attended the session out of respect for Spranger, and the process.

“As much as I know that her statements are incorrect, in my capacity as city clerk I feel it’s important to be there out of respect for Karen and her views,” Wojno said.

Fouts said before the hearing he would not attend it, and he didn’t. He accused Spranger of aligning herself with “dark forces” intent on damaging him politically by attacking him personally.

Spranger said she would consider filing new petitions as part of a continued attempt to get answers from the city about her concerns.

“I’m going to ask and if people come forward, if I find a way to have somebody review it that can give good criticism, I’ll take that into consideration,” Spranger said.

Both Fouts and Wojno have passed the midpoint of their second four-year term of office and are eligible to run for a third and final term in 2015.

The rejection of the recall petition language means Spranger would have to submit new petitions for consideration in order for the effort to move forward. The Macomb County Election Commission would ultimately have to approve the wording of the petitions and Spranger would then need to secure signatures from 25 percent of the total number of registered voters in Warren who took part in the state’s last gubernatorial election. That’s about 9,000 voters.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brian Louwers at brianlouwers@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1089.