The “Committee to Restore Accountability in Warren” group filed 760 petition pages on July 31, aiming to potentially roll back a term limits extension for Warren's mayors. The group later formally withdrew its petitions and requested an end to the signature validation process.

The “Committee to Restore Accountability in Warren” group filed 760 petition pages on July 31, aiming to potentially roll back a term limits extension for Warren's mayors. The group later formally withdrew its petitions and requested an end to the signature validation process.

File photo by Brian Louwers


Effort aimed at undoing Warren mayoral term limits extension called off

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published August 8, 2018

WARREN — There will be no question about mayoral term limits on the ballot that goes before Warren voters in November — at least, not one put there by an initiatory petition.

The group aiming to potentially roll back a term limits extension for Warren’s mayors — a controversial extension narrowly approved by the voters in August 2016 — formally withdrew its petitions and requested an end to the signature validation process after the city offices closed for the weekend on Aug. 3.

The “Committee to Restore Accountability in Warren” filed 760 petitions on July 31, just minutes before the deadline to get the question on the ballot for the city’s general election in November. Each petition page could have accommodated the signatures of up to 10 people, but some of the petitions were not full, and City Clerk Paul Wojno said a significant number of signatures had already been invalidated by the time he received the statement requesting an end to the process from former City Councilman Mark Liss, the committee’s treasurer.   

In order for the initiatory petition process to move forward, organizers believed they would have needed at least 4,909 signatures, representing 5 percent of registered Warren voters at the time the documents were submitted. However, legal questions were already being raised after City Attorney Ethan Vinson wrote a letter to Wojno and Mayor Jim Fouts, a day before the petitions were submitted, opining that the city charter would require at least 15 percent.

Liss, a city attorney in Royal Oak, and two former Warren city attorneys disagreed with Vinson’s assessment, but the statement sent to Wojno nonetheless put an end to the validation process.

The statement says: “The Committee to Restore Accountability in Warren, a ballot initiative effort, recently completed the process of submitting signatures to correct city of Warren term limits. Ours is a just mission. It is with great regret, however, that we announce our decision to formally end the validation process and withdraw our designating petitions.

“This issue only exists because of the votes of a handful of City Council members. They chose to put this on the low-turnout August ballot in 2016. If they do not choose to put it on the general election November ballot where it properly belongs (as originally occurred where voters approved uniform term limits at nearly 80 percent), an all-volunteer group of Warren residents will have ample time to resubmit signatures for a future election cycle.

“This was a valiant effort, and we are proud of the thousands of Warren residents who made their voices heard. We now call on the City Council to hear their voices and place this on the November ballot, or we will revisit this issue in another election cycle.”

Term limits of 12 years across three four-year terms for all Warren elected officials — the mayor, clerk, treasurer and City Council members — were put in place in 1998 after 77.6 percent of the city’s voters approved a council-initiated city charter amendment on the November ballot. According to county records, 39,799 votes were cast on the question during a general election that also featured candidates for governor and other statewide candidates, as well as various federal, state and county seats.

In August 2016, another council-initiated charter amendment to extend term limits for Warren’s mayors to 20 years across five four-year terms was approved by 52.7 percent of the 14,836 voters who weighed in on the question that appeared on the ballot during an off-year primary election.

Fouts previously said the attempted rollback of extended terms for the city’s mayors was an attempt “to hijack the election by the voters of Warren.” He also accused the organizers of using “outsiders trying to reverse the democratic process and the vote that was taken a couple years ago.”