Pierson village president survives recall

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 11:06 am on Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Karl Van Haren

PIERSON — The president of this small village survived Tuesday’s recall attempt by just three votes.

A total of 24 votes were cast against the recall of Karl Van Haren, compared to 21 votes cast in favor of the recall. About 40 percent, or 45 of the village’s 112 registered voters, participated in Tuesday’s recall vote.

Van Haren did not return a message seeking comment.

Pierson Village Councilwoman Rebecca Starr initiated the recall against Van Haren.

The recall language against Van Haren stated: “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.”

Starr said more people turned out to vote than she anticipated. She credited Van Haren surviving the recall due to fliers he passed out door to door throughout the village containing “misleading information” about how village funds were spent.

“The voters were misled,” she said. “I think once they realize they’ve been duped, they’re going to be angry.”

Van Haren’s justification of conduct in office statement was also included on Tuesday’s ballot.

“Thank you for voting in this election as it will help determine one of the officials who make up this council,” Van Haren’s statement reads. “I’ve done my best to look out for your interests as a village. I have consistently asserted not to proceed without careful examining of village funding before taking on the task of moving the village forward in a positive manner such as grooming the village easements.

“At times recall law is absolutely justifiable, although this recall attempt is an abuse of law, being targeted by residents with another agenda. A personal vendetta against me; in part, for removing infected ash trees from 66’ of village easement in order to maintain and control water shedding at First/Elm. Rebecca Starr, a current trustee and direct neighbor of mine; she’s not only orchestrating the recall but feels a sense of entitlement to this property because of dead end.

“Reasons for submitting recalls don’t need to be truthful; just clear to the public who vote on it. Rebecca Starr’s endeavors will cost the village over $4,500. I stepped up when no one was willing to take on this job; my term would have ended in six months.”

Van Haren started his own recall effort against Starr and her fellow council members Duane Griffes and Verna Smigiel.

Van Haren needed six signatures to file for the recall. He turned in nine signatures to the Montcalm County Clerk’s Office last Friday, meaning the three council members will face a recall vote on Aug. 7 during the regular Montcalm County primary election.

The recall language against Starr states: “Shall Trustee Rebecca Starr be recalled due to conducting official village business and holding meetings out of her home with fellow council members? She has prevented the village from moving forward in a positive manger. She has created a hostile work environment for the clerk and treasurer.”

The recall language against Griffes states: “Shall Trustee Duane Griffes be recalled due to his willful neglect of duty? He has financially burdened the village of Pierson by his misuse of the village attorney for his own personal gain. He has caused strained relations between the village council members, treasurer and village clerk.”

The recall language against Smigiel states: “Shall Trustee Verna Smigiel be recalled for interfering with the work schedules of the village employee and office staff? She has degraded village personnel during public council meetings with her explosive temper and disrespect toward those who disagree with her.”

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