Clawson officials running for other offices resign to adhere to city charter

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published August 11, 2021

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CLAWSON — Four city officials recently resigned in order to comply with the city of Clawson’s charter, which 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.

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 Planning Commission Chair Glenn Shepard and Planning Commissioner George Paul Georges, who are both running for seats on council.

City Attorney Renis Nushaj said the charter is “unequivocally” clear on the matter and that it has arisen several times in the city’s history, with the opinion of prior councils and legal counsel aligning on the same side.

During the July 20 City Council meeting, Nushaj gave his opinion at the request of members of council. Councilwoman Susan Moffitt asked how the city would ensure those seeking other local offices do resign.

“It’s everybody’s obligation to resign,” Nushaj said. “Everybody must resign — that’s what it says.”

“So the city comes to a screeching halt basically for the next three to four months,” Phillips replied.

Moffitt refuted Phillips’ statement, saying, “Not by any stretch of the imagination. All of the employees that are running the city are still there,” to which Phillips said she was not talking about them.

“Even our body, honestly, it will run very well without the two of us. It will run the same,” Millan said.

Millan formally announced her resignation at the conclusion of the July 20 meeting, thanking those who have “been so kind and encouraged me and supported me in my City Council days.”

“I have submitted my signatures to run for mayor, so this will be my last meeting as I will be resigning according to what our charter says,” she said. “This has been an interesting ride, and I’m looking forward to more of a ride if the citizens feel that I’m worthy. We have a lot of things going on … and the people of Clawson are what makes a difference here.”

Millan went on to encourage all residents of the city to get involved and make a difference to “keep Clawson awesome.”

During a special City Council meeting July 26, the three remaining members of council — Mayor Reese Scripture, Councilman Lou Samson and Moffitt — convened to formally accept the resignations of Millan, Phillips, Shepard and Georges.

Scripture said those running for a position on the charter commission do not need to resign from any current elected or appointed roles in the city because a charter commission revision has not yet been approved by voters.

In November, Clawson voters will be asked whether they wish to revise the city charter, as well as elect the nine-person charter commission.

According to the official candidate list, seven residents are currently running to be on the charter commission, in alphabetical order: G. David Bowlin, Dan Dwyer, Samantha Hanser-Maynard, Bradley T. Irwin, Tracy E. Nasrey, Talia Parker and Laura L. Slowinski. The names of write-in candidates who filed after the July 20 deadline will not appear on the ballot.

Moffitt said she felt the push to create and elect a charter commission was rushed and she would have preferred for council to have worked out the details within the last year.

“It speaks to the haste in which this whole concept was put on the ballot and thrown together,” Moffitt said. “Hopefully, public opinion acknowledges that and speaks to the lack of preparation and thought behind the project and vote accordingly.”

On July 26, Scripture and Samson both voted in favor of appointing Shepard and Georges to fill the vacant seats on City Council until the election Nov. 2, as well as appointing Samson to the role of mayor pro tem. Moffitt voted against all three motions.

“Other councils have been wise enough not to appoint people who are running because it gives an unfair advantage, and hopefully, the public will take that into consideration for the people engaging in such activity,” Moffitt said. “In past practice, that has not been an acceptable thing to do and I hope the public opinion weighs on those candidates.”

Six candidates are running for two four-year City Council terms, in alphabetical order: Bruce Anderson, Georges, Stacey N. Gomoll, Nathan Hara, Shepard and Scott Tinlin.

Scripture is not running for reelection.

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.”

“I never would have called for the mayor pro tem’s resignation, Councilmember Phillips’ resignation or those from the other body,” she continued. “I think it’s asinine that we are losing that experience and expertise for three months while we have things to get accomplished. It just stalls things that have been stalled way too long and over and over again.”

She said she felt it was a “stupid” rule and is “challengeable,” according to Nushaj’s legal opinion.

“It’s another reason precisely why we need a charter commission to clean these things up and make this functional,” Scripture said.

During a special City Council meeting July 29, City Clerk August Gitchlag swore in Shepard and Georges to the vacant seats on council, as well as Samson to the position of mayor pro tem.

“Thanks to Paula Millan and Kathy Phillips for their dedication and participation on the council for many years,” Samson said July 29. “We appreciate them.”

When reached by phone Aug. 4, Scripture said she proposed appointing Shepard and Georges to the vacancies on council because there is case precedent and “because nobody had any experience, and those two had experience, and the last thing this city needs right now is inexperience on council.”

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