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Recall to remove Bucci from board falls short

By: Joshua Gordon | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published August 14, 2018



MACOMB TOWNSHIP — With the primary election over and voters now looking to the November general election, Macomb Township residents won’t see a recall vote as part of the ballot after a petition to remove Trustee Dino Bucci from the board failed to get enough signatures.

Resident Tom Sokol submitted paperwork in April to the Macomb County Clerk’s Office and had his recall petition approved in May. To successfully put the recall vote on the November ballot, Sokol had to collect 6,900 signatures before the Aug. 3 filing deadline.

However, Sokol said he and his team of volunteers only racked up 3,100 signatures, thus the petition will not result in a recall vote. The number of signatures needed was based on 25 percent of the total Macomb Township voter turnout for the 2014 gubernatorial election.

For Sokol, the need for the petition stemmed from Bucci being brought up on an 18-count federal indictment that included charges of embezzlement in his position as a trustee. The petition was based on the fact that Bucci has not attended a Board of Trustees meeting since being indicted last November.

Sokol said the biggest challenge he had to overcome for signatures was people were confused on if Bucci was still on the board or not since he has not attended a meeting, as well as the fact that he resigned from the Zoning Board of Appeals in June.

“There was mass confusion amongst residents because he resigned from the ZBA, and with huge media attention, a lot of people thought he resigned from the (Board of Trustees) too,” Sokol said. “The sense of urgency was taken away because a lot of people didn’t understand he was still on the board because he was indicted, but he still needs his day in court.”

Another factor in the unsuccessful petition, Sokol said, was a lack of funding as it was all volunteer based and some promised money from consultants never came in, so the team could only do so much to reach voters.

While Bucci is scheduled to be back in federal court in September, Sokol said the only way for voters in Macomb Township to have a say in who would fill Bucci’s seat should he be removed from the board was through a recall vote. If Bucci is removed by Gov. Rick Snyder, or his successor starting next year, the board would appoint someone to Bucci’s seat until the next election.

According to Michigan Election law, only the governor can remove an elected township officer.

Snyder’s attorney, Travis Weber, sent a response in July to the Board of Trustees after Supervisor Janet Dunn sent a letter to Snyder asking him to remove Bucci. Weber stated that Snyder needed proof that Bucci had been served with the claims made by the board.

Township Attorney Thomas Esordi provided that proof in late July. Weber also said Snyder wanted to see how the recall petition process played out.

Sokol said his team attended many events in the community, including summer concerts, events at the Recreation Center and the Tons O’ Trucks event that they ultimately weren’t allowed to petition at. Sokol said he had over 50 people helping to try and get signatures throughout the process.

“I can’t emphasize how happy I am due to all the volunteers and how many people engaged with us and know more now,” Sokol said. “I still take it as a positive experience because there are a lot more people paying attention and engaging and getting involved now.”

Fellow resident Ted Nicodemus, who helped Sokol in the petition process, said he also agreed that awareness was a positive from the experience, but he still feels filling Bucci’s seat should be up to the voters.

“If it falls to the governor or (Bucci) gets convicted, it is left up to the Board of Trustees to fill that position,” Nicodemus said. “I felt the recall effort was the best option for everyone to get a say in who the next board trustee was.”

Sokol said with the recall petition failing, he hopes Snyder takes notice and continues with his investigation into if Bucci should be removed. He will now try to encourage residents to reach out to Snyder’s office asking him to take action.

“We are trying to create awareness around contacting the governor’s office and asking him to remove Dino Bucci,” Sokol said. “The recall process was preferred, but I would rather have a new appointee appointed at a public meeting than being stuck with someone like Dino Bucci that is not showing up to work.”