Recall language approved against Pierson village president

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 1:05 pm on Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Pierson Village Treasurer Tesha Rush Gould and President Karl Van Haren leave Tuesday's recall clarity hearing in Stanton. Pierson Village Councilwoman Rebecca Starr is attempting to recall Van Haren from office. — Daily News/Elisabeth Waldon

STANTON — Recall language against the president of the Pierson Village Council was approved Tuesday at a clarity hearing.

Montcalm Clerk Kristen Millard, Probate Judge Charles Simon III and Treasurer JoAnne Vukin unanimously approved proposed recall language filed by Village Councilwoman Rebecca Starr against Village President Karl Van Haren.

The recall language states: “Shall President Karl Van Haren be recalled because he has harassed village personnel and residents and has been disrespectful to those who disagree with him? He has created a hostile work environment for village board members. He has caused strained relations between village board members, the village clerk and treasurer.”

Van Haren and Treasurer Tesha Rush Gould sat together at Tuesday’s recall hearing, while council members Duane Griffes, Cindy Keech, Verna Smigiel and Starr sat together. Clerk Lori Graham was not present.

Van Haren said he did not wish to make a comment at the clarity hearing.

“I think that (the recall language) speaks for itself,” Starr told Millard, Simon and Vukin.

Starr now has 180 days to gather six signatures in support of the recall. Only 24 people voted in the most recent Pierson village election. Just 25 percent of the most recent voter turnout is required for a recall petition, meaning only six signatures are needed.

A Pierson Village Council meeting was canceled at the last minute the night of Dec. 22. Montcalm County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Hannon and Deputy Justin Schafer attended the meeting at Millard’s request.
Hannon delivered a copy of Starr’s recall language to Van Haren that night.

Van Haren and Gould handed council members copies of a multiple-page letter from village attorney Jeffrey Sluggett. The letter detailed proper procedures for council members. Council members were then told by Van Haren that the meeting was canceled and that all questions must be directed to Sluggett.

Gould and Van Haren then went into the village office and locked the door, leaving the four council members and two sheriff’s deputies standing in the village hall. Council members seemed confused and stunned by the abrupt cancellation notice and by the actions of Gould and Van Haren.

Van Haren has been village president since December 2010, succeeding Jim Smigiel, who resigned. Several council members and officials have resigned throughout the year and the council was unable to meet in July, August and September due to lack of a quorum.

The next regular Pierson Village Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Pierson Village Hall.

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