Village of Pierson turmoil continues

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 12:45 am on Saturday, August 04, 2012

Karl Van Haren

PIERSON — This tiny village is in turmoil as the second recall vote in three months approaches, while the village council is unable to meet due to multiple resignations and no quorum.

Village President Karl Van Haren survived a recall attempt May 8 by just three votes. A total of 24 votes were cast against the recall of 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 the recall vote.

Rebecca Starr

Village Councilwoman Rebecca Starr had initiated the recall against Van Haren. In return, Van Haren filed his own recall language against Starr and her fellow council members Duane Griffes and Verna Smigiel. That recall is scheduled for Aug. 7, during the Montcalm County primary election.

Verna Smigiel

Starr attempted to resign from the village council on June 5.

However, the council has not yet accepted her resignation due to a lack of quorum. Two other council members have also resigned — Larry Atkin, who had just recently been appointed to the council, and Lucinda “Cindy” Keech.

Duane Griffes

Atkin and Keech could not be reached for comment.

“The voters spoke,” said Starr of Van Haren surviving the recall. “They wanted to keep Karl and I cannot work with Karl. He’s absolutely intolerable. He’s violent, arrogant and intolerable. I just can’t keep looking the other way. I just couldn’t do it anymore.”

“It would be in everyone’s best interest to start attending village meetings,” Starr added.

Van Haren did not return a message seeking comment.

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.”

Griffes and Smigiel could not be reached for comment.

According to General Law Village Act 3 of 1895, a vacancy occurring in an elected village office must be filled by appointment by the council and the appointee shall hold office until the next regular village election.

All vacancies must be filled by the village president with consent of the village council.

If the membership of the village council is reduced to less than a quorum — by removal, death, resignation or otherwise — the remaining council members must call a special election for the purpose of filling all vacancies, if a petition signed by not less than 10 percent of the qualified voters of the village is filed with the village clerk within 10 days after the vacancy or vacancies occur.

If a petition is not filed within 10 days, then the remaining council members may either call a special election or may appoint a sufficient number of trustees to constitute a quorum of the council, who shall then fill the remaining vacancies.

If all the officers and trustees of a village have died or moved from the village and no successors have been elected or appointed to fill the vacancies, the township clerk of the township within which the village is located (Pierson Township) shall, upon petition of 10 percent of the qualified voters residing in the village, call a special election for the election of officers and trustees of the village to be held on a regular election date.

The township shall perform all other duties with respect to the election as the village might have done if the vacancies didn’t exist.

The expenses of the election must be paid by the village.

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