On Oct. 26, Monica Palmer, left, and her attorney, Michael Schwartz, discuss Taxpayers for GP Schools during a press conference in Farmington Hills.

On Oct. 26, Monica Palmer, left, and her attorney, Michael Schwartz, discuss Taxpayers for GP Schools during a press conference in Farmington Hills.

Photo by Maria Allard

Complaint filed against Wayne County Board of Canvassers chairperson

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published November 10, 2020


WAYNE COUNTY — A local attorney has filed a formal complaint with the Wayne County Ethics Board against Wayne County Board of Canvassers Chairperson Monica Palmer.

On Oct. 26, Thomas Bruetsch, of Schenk & Bruetsch, in Detroit, filed the complaint citing “a conflict of interest” in Palmer’s involvement with the Board of Canvassers because the Grosse Pointe Woods resident is the president of Taxpayers for GP Schools.

The  political action committee placed several ads in local newspapers prior to the Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education election Nov. 3 that were considered controversial because they presented the district in a negative light.

The Wayne County Board of Canvassers is responsible for canvassing the votes cast within the county. They certify elections for all local, countywide and district offices that are contained entirely within the county they serve.

Palmer also is spearheading an effort to recall GPPSS Board of Education members Christopher Lee and Margaret Weertz.

As listed on the Wayne County website, www.waynecounty.com, the current members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers are Palmer, Republican; Jonathan C. Kinloch, vice-chairperson, Democrat; William Hartmann, member, Republican; and Allen Wilson, member, Democrat.

“Monica Palmer has rendered services for a private interest — Taxpapers for GP Schools. That entity has sponsored multiple election communications supporting candidates for the Grosse Pointe Public Schools Board of Education,” Bruetsch’s complaint states.

“Such service is incompatible with Ms. Palmer’s obligation to fairly and objectively canvass votes, certify elections and potentially conduct recounts,” the complaint states. “She has a clear conflict of interest as a person with obligations to a third party that are adverse to her duty to the public interest in exercising her official duties. For these reasons, Ms. Palmer cannot maintain her position as a member of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers.

“Section 40-4(C) of the Ethics Ordinance states, ‘a public servant shall not engage in, or accept employment or render services for a private or public interest when that employment or service is incompatible with the discharge of that public servant’s official duties,’” Bruetsch said in the complaint. “Palmer’s position with Taxpayers for GP Schools, a private interest promoting candidates in an election she oversees as chair of the board of canvassers, is a clear conflict.”

On Nov. 1, Palmer’s attorney, Michael Schwartz, issued a statement on her behalf regarding the complaint. According to Schwartz, Taxpayers for GP Schools is a nonprofit group that does not endorse or oppose any candidates.

“The ordinance does not apply to Ms. Palmer because neither she nor Taxpayers for GP Schools rendered services for a private or public interest,” Schwartz said in his statement. “They provide educational information without endorsing or opposing any candidates or issues. Moreover, Ms. Palmer does not engage in conflict of interest because she has no personal interest in the outcome of any election, nor does she receive any benefit from electoral results.”

On Oct. 26, Palmer and Schwartz held a press conference at his Farmington Hills office to discuss Taxpayers for GP Schools.

“The PAC’s mission is to educate the taxpayers on what’s happening in Grosse Pointe Schools,” Palmer said.

“The PAC is completely financed by citizens living in the Grosse Pointe school district,” Schwartz said.

Citizens can donate money at their free will. Schwartz said that, because Taxpayers for GP Schools is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, donors do not have to reveal their identities.

“It’s a way to protect them. If their names, addresses and phone numbers are revealed, that could lead to problems for them,” Schwartz said.

“There is intimidation and bullying happening if you don’t agree with the (school) administrators,” Palmer said.

“You don’t have to release the names of donors,” Schwartz said. “They didn’t want to be identified. If someone has a great dislike for this contributor, they bully you, they harass you.”

According to Schwartz and Palmer, that includes the burning of campaign lawn signs, egging houses and disparaging comments on social media. Schwartz would not comment on how much money the PAC group has raised, nor would he reveal how many people are members.