Clawson council candidate younger than age requirement in city charter

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published October 12, 2021

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CLAWSON — While Clawson City Council candidate Stacey N. Gomoll’s name will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot, Clawson’s charter states that eligible candidates must be 25 years of age.

According to city officials, Gomoll is younger than the age requirement in the city charter. In an email, Clawson Councilman George Georges wrote, “Stacey N. Gomoll, is not qualified to run — In accordance with the Clawson City Charter, the age for Clawson City Council Person is 25,  Stacey is 23.”

The full language in the charter states, “No person shall be eligible to the office of mayor or councilman who shall not be at the time of his election or appointment, 25 years of age and a citizen of the United States, and have been a resident of the city of Clawson at least two years, and an owner of real property assessed for taxes in the city, or the lawful wife or husband of such person.”

An editor’s note listed in the section states that the “two-year residency required for elected officials” violates the “equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” and the property ownership requirement of the section is “unconstitutional.”

On Oct. 11, Gomoll said she received the paperwork to drop out of the race a few days ago. At the time she filed to be placed on the ballot, she said, she did not realize she was ineligible to serve on City Council due to the charter’s age provision for candidates, but that she respects the charter and does not plan to challenge it.

Having grown up in Clawson, Gomoll said she loves the city and decided to run because she wanted to be able to contribute to making the city a better place. She currently works as a constituent aid in Lansing for State Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, and plans to continue on a path in politics.

“It’s definitely a goal of mine to return back to municipal government,” Gomoll said.

In a Sept. 3 memo to the Clawson mayor and City Council members, Clawson City Attorney Renis Nushaj said he had spoken to Gomoll and “she has announced, in writing, her wish to rescind her candidacy out of respect for and in keeping with our Charter’s mandates.”

He added that he had prepared an affidavit for her “execution to be notarized which is awaiting her signature.”

As of press time, Nushaj said he was not aware that Gomoll had signed the affidavit at either his law office in Troy or the Clerk’s Office at Clawson City Hall.

“I do have an email from her stating she is obviously agreeing to abide by the charter by indicating she would not accept the position if she were to be one of the top vote-getters,” Nushaj told the Royal Oak Review. “I don’t doubt she will sign the affidavit.”

He added that he was not aware of the city having to deal with the issue of its age restrictions for elected office in the past, although other provisions have been challenged, “some successfully, some not.”

“As far as provisions go, it is not one that makes a lot of sense,” Nushaj said.

Clawson City Clerk August Gitschlag said that when he was vetting Gomoll’s affidavit for candidacy, he was four weeks on the job and unaware of the age provision in the city’s charter. He said he made sure there was a birth date listed, as well as checked the petition signatures to validate they fulfilled the city’s requirement of at least 25 qualified electors.

“It was so absurd to me that there would be an age limit,” Gitschlag said. “I missed that.”

On Nov. 2, Clawson voters will be asked whether they wish to revise the city charter, as well as elect the nine-person Clawson Charter Commission. Should the proposal pass, Nushaj said it would be the purview of the Charter Commission to address sticking points, such as the age restriction for elected office.

Mayor Reese Scripture said she had reached out to Gomoll to encourage her to submit an application to be considered for other city boards or committees, but that she had not received a response.

Scripture, who is not running for reelection, is a proponent of an overhaul of the city charter.

In a memo in the agenda packet for the June 29 meeting in which council approved the two ballot items pertaining to the charter revision, Scripture wrote that the charter is “outdated, contains illegal provisions, and is generally not reflective of the needs of a City that has evolved, along with the rest of the world, over the last 70 years.”

During the July 26 meeting, Scripture said the forced resignation of four members of city government “is another complete and total example of why the charter commission is so important and why it should be looked at, because it is ludicrous.”

The charter mandates that any elected or appointed officials — barring the city attorney or health officer — who run for other elected office in the city must resign their duties.

Former Mayor Pro Tem Paula Millan and Councilwoman Kathy Phillips, who are both running for the position of mayor, submitted letters of resignation, as well as former Planning Commission Chair Glenn Shepard and Planning Commissioner Georges, who are both running for seats on council.

On July 26, the City Council voted 2-1 to appoint Shepard and Georges to fill the two vacant seats on the council until the Nov. 2 election.