Late legal opinion, filing adds intrigue to Warren clerk race

Every local office on the ballot in Warren, Center line contested

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published April 26, 2019 | Updated April 29, 2019 10:24am


WARREN/CENTER LINE — An opinion from Warren’s city attorney about a charter provision that would seemingly bar holders of county or school district offices from qualifying to run for elected local positions did not sit well with one candidate in the clerk’s race.

“Somebody is making an attempt to remove me from the ballot,” Macomb County Commissioner Andrey Duzyj said April 26.

Duzyj, an elected Democrat representing Warren’s District 1 on the Macomb County Board of Commissioners, filed an amended affidavit to run for the office of city clerk on March 1 after his initial filing on Feb. 4. He said he was in New Jersey for Easter weekend and was still there when he got a call from the Clerk’s Office at about 3 p.m. on Tuesday, April 23. The call came an hour before this year’s filing deadline for candidates wishing to run for elected city offices.

“I got a call from the City Clerk’s Office telling me that they had run an attorney’s opinion of the city of Warren, and that they had come up with some idea that I was not going to be able to be on the ballot unless I resign my position with the county,” Duzyj said. “The whole thing was just odd.”

He later received a letter signed by Warren City Clerk Sonja Buffa that included a legal opinion from City Attorney Ethan Vinson. Buffa said that her office sought the opinion immediately after resident Paul Kardasz posed the question on March 20. She said Kardasz made a follow-up inquiry and that Vinson informed her that the opinion was ready on April 18, the Thursday before Easter weekend.

In the letter signed by Vinson, obtained by the Warren Weekly, the city attorney opined that city charter Section 4.3(b) requires individuals serving at the county or school district level to resign before they are eligible to run for election to a city government office.

“Plainly, a current elected official of a county or school district is not eligible to run for office within the city government until he or she resigns his or her current position,” Vinson concluded.

The language in the charter would seemingly predate the election of Mark Steenbergh, who ran for the office of Warren mayor in 1995 and was elected while serving as the chair of the Macomb County Board of Commissioners.

Buffa’s office was required to send a list of candidates to Macomb County elections officials by April 29, after press time. The deadline for candidates to withdraw from the race was 4 p.m. April 26, after the Warren Weekly went to press.

A decision to omit Duzyj’s name from the list of candidates will almost certainly end up in Macomb County Circuit Court. Duzyj said he’s already contacted legal counsel.

“Somebody wants me out of this race. I’m fighting this to the bitter damn end,” Duzyj said.

In an intriguing twist, barring another last-minute decision at the withdrawal deadline, the list of candidates sent to the county will include Buffa’s name. Warren’s longtime deputy clerk was appointed as city clerk in January by the Warren City Council following the resignation of Paul Wojno, now representing the city in the Michigan Senate following his election to state office in November.

Buffa previously said she wasn’t interested in seeking election to the city clerk’s seat in 2019 and that she would be content to return to her job as the office’s top deputy after November. That changed between January and April. She filed just before the deadline to do so eclipsed on April 23.

“I’ve been thinking about it. People have been telling me I should run. I really thought about it,” Buffa said. “This is my path. “This is what I’m supposed to be doing. I want to serve the people. I want to be the best that I can for the city and have a chance to prove it, and continue doing what I’ve been doing for 19 years.”

She said Wojno told her she should run for the seat, but Wojno later said that wasn’t the case and that he would not endorse any candidate.  

At press time, six people had filed to run for the next four-year term as Warren’s clerk: Buffa, Duzyj, Joe Hunt, former Warren City Councilwoman Donna Kaczor Caumartin, Warren City Councilman Keith Sadowski and Alan Shepperd.

Look for continuing elections coverage at or find the Warren Weekly on Facebook at

Dozens file to run for local offices

Every Warren office on the 2019 primary election ballot will be contested as more than four dozen candidates filed to run for various city posts, including mayor, clerk and treasurer, and all seven seats on the City Council. Two seats are also up for grabs on the Center Line City Council.

Here’s the list of filings as of press time April 26. Candidates had until 4 p.m. on that date to withdraw. A list of certified candidates was expected to be compiled after the deadline. Look for the final list online at or find us on Facebook at

City of Warren
MAYOR (One four-year term)
Kelly Colegio
Brett Felton
James Fouts
Matthew Kuehnel
Kristina Lodovisi
Keith O’Higgins
Chris Pasternak

(One four-year term)
Lorie Barnwell
Arnold Simkus

(One four-year term)
Sonja Buffa
Donna Kaczor Caumartin
Joe Hunt
Keith Sadowski
Alan Shepperd

(One four-year term)

Khaja Shahab Ahmed
William Clift
Frederick Horndt
Melody Magee
Ron Papandrea
Pete Sutliff

(One four-year term)

George Chapp
Patti Hatfield
Jonathan Lafferty
Richard Paul Sulaka II
Jeremy Wallace

(One four-year term)

Mark Dennings
Jocelyn Howard
Melinda Moore
Susan Smiley
Scott Stevens

(One four-year term)

Melvin Logan
Steven Warner
Garry Watts

(One four-year term)

Robert Boccomino
Eddie Kabacinski

(Two positions, each for one four-year term)

Connor Berdy
Gary Boike
Patrick Green
Kelli Kalvinski
Angela Rogensues
Cecil St. Pierre
Diane Young

City of Center Line
(Two four-year terms)

Aaron Delikta
Ron C. Lapham
James Reid
Lee Ann Rutila