Clawson City Council to fill vacancy after mayor’s sudden resignation

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published May 24, 2021

 On May 4, Clawson Mayor Reese Scripture suddenly resigned. The city is accepting applications through May 27 to fill the vacancy on the Clawson City Council.

On May 4, Clawson Mayor Reese Scripture suddenly resigned. The city is accepting applications through May 27 to fill the vacancy on the Clawson City Council.

Photo provided by the city of Clawson

CLAWSON — At the top of the May 4 Clawson City Council meeting, Mayor Reese Scripture unexpectedly read a letter announcing her resignation and signed off the virtual meeting.

Scripture cited issues with how the city administration was handling its budget process.

On Nov. 5, 2019, Scripture clinched the mayoral seat with 61.33% support — or 1,345 votes — to former Mayor Deborah Wooley’s 38.48% — or 844 votes. As a resident, Scripture had sued the city for allegedly violating the Open Meetings Act and received an $18,000 settlement the day after the election.

The terms of the settlement agreement mandated that the city of Clawson create a set of standardized policies and procedures for new and returning council members at the opening of every term, as well as develop a comprehensive ethics ordinance.

City Attorney Renis Nushaj said he did not believe the city would be in contempt of court for foregoing such formal training.

Mayor Pro Tem Paula Millan took over the meeting, and interim Clerk Machele Kukuk formally swore her in as Clawson’s new mayor prior to the next City Council meeting, which occurred May 18.

Nushaj advised the four remaining members of council that, according to the city charter, they have 30 days from Scripture’s resignation to appoint a new member to the council. The appointee will serve the remainder of the term, which goes until the Nov. 2 election.

During the May 18 meeting, council could not come to a decision on who would take on the role of mayor pro tem.

Councilman Lou Samson made a motion to appoint Councilwoman Kathy Phillips, supported by Phillips, but Millan and Councilwoman Susan Moffitt voted “no,” so it failed. Likewise, Millan made a motion to appoint Moffitt, supported by Moffitt, but Samson and Phillips voted “no,” so it also failed.

“We will address this once we find the lucky No. 5 through our process,” Millan said.

The city encourages anyone interested in filling the vacancy on council to apply on the city’s website using the template the city uses for boards. To find the application, visit cityofclawson.com.

The deadline to apply is 5 p.m. May 27. As of press time, four candidates had applied for the position.

In her resignation statement May 4, Scripture said the city administration was “boxing this council into a corner” to “approve a budget that has no supporting goals and will be at best only superficially vetted by council, and that’s untenable to me.”

She cited a conflict of interest that arose from her full-time career as an Internal Revenue Service agent with a specific niche for auditing municipal pension programs.

“That’s left me no choice but to resign as your mayor,” Scripture said. “I wish I could stay and fight for the residents of Clawson, but I cannot.”

She said she felt City Manager Michael Smith expected the council to “rubber-stamp” whatever is in front of it because there was no time to make significant changes.

“For the citizens of Clawson, you’ve just lost the most active and caring mayor we’ve had in 30 years,” Samson said. “Because of her position with a governmental agency, she is held to a high standard — higher than most of us, and she can’t leave things unsaid or unfixed.”

Millan said she was “shocked and kind of saddened” by Scripture’s sudden resignation and the loss of the unique skills that she brought to the body.

“I hate that someone gave up a role I know they fought for … but I can understand being exasperated,” Millan said. “I just ask that we can move forward with grace and dignity for our community and ourselves.”

During the May 18 meeting, Smith and new Finance Director Kelly Rau presented a balanced budget — after making some adjustments to rectify an initial deficit — that largely followed the city’s status quo.

Smith also addressed Scripture’s resignation at the May 18 meeting.

“I believe we could’ve gotten through these items professionally and with hard work; on the contrary, all that was done on her side was directives and innuendos,” Smith said. “I believe we all will continue to work together to navigate through this difficult year.”

He singled out the pandemic as creating a difficult work environment, as well as a high turnover of staff.

“Breaking down barriers to get to the root of the problems, real or perceived, is tantamount to the success of any organization,” Smith said. “I believe we have a dedicated staff that is up to the task to do just that without revocation or threats of not living up to unrealistic expectations and timelines that are impossible, which sets us all up for failure.”

The next Clawson City Council meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. June 1.

For more information, call Clawson City Hall at (248) 435-4500 or visit cityofclawson.com.