Stanton city attorney clarifies election confusion

By Meghan Nelson • Last Updated 6:25 pm on Thursday, May 11, 2017

Stanton City Mayor Ken Burris reviews Tuesday’s meeting agenda. Burris took over as mayor in February only four months after the office was up for election. There was a dispute about whether Burris had to run for re-election. According to the city charter and the city’s attorney, Burris does not have to run for election until the position expires in 2018.

STANTON — Two weeks ago, Stanton city commissioners and the mayor realized they may have missed the filing deadline to run on the November ballot.

The city’s charter and state law had conflicting deadlines, with the state’s deadline three weeks earlier than the charter’s designated date. Stanton officials asked city attorney Cliff Bloom to look into the discretion.

City Manager Elizabeth Pynaert brought a letter with Bloom’s opinion to the City Commission meeting Tuesday, where she discussed it with commissioners in closed session.

“Because there was a letter that was sent from the attorney that was privileged and confidential, that’s why we went into closed session,” Pynaert said.

Under the Open Meetings Act, a public body may go into closed session to “consider material exempt from discussion or disclosure by state or federal statute.”

Pynaert said attorney-client privileged written communications are part of that exemption.

The attorney’s opinion addressed election deadline confusion, as well as whether the appointed mayor and commissioners need to run for election and how many signatures are required to run as a write-in candidate.

According to Bloom, appointed Mayor Ken Burris does not have to run in November’s election. According to section 6.6 of Stanton’s charter, “Vacancies occurring in the office of mayor shall be filled for the balance of the unexpired term of the mayor by the mayor pro tem.”

Burris took over as mayor in February after Larry Petersen unexpectedly resigned. Petersen had just been elected as mayor last November.

“Our city attorney has advised the commission that the filing date for the election is the state law, not our charter, the 15th Tuesday before the election, April 25,” Pynaert said.

The positions of Karl Yoder, Krista King and Jennifer Blum will be up for election as write-in candidates. Yoder and King’s seats are up for two-year terms, and as an appointed commissioner, Blum’s seat is up for a partial term to end in December 2018. Blum, King and Yoder did not file by the state deadline.

Commissioner Chuck Miel, who did file by the state deadline, will appear on the November ballot for a two-year term.

According to Bloom’s opinion, Stanton’s charter dictates that between 10 and 25 signatures are needed to run for election, opposed to the 6 to 10 signatures required by state law.

“Every other elected official, if there’s a resignation in the first half of the term, they have to run on the ballot,” Montcalm County Clerk Kristen Millard told The Daily News. “Cities are a unique animal in that their charter does dictate how some of the things happen.”

Millard said she has not seen the city’s charter and until she sees Bloom’s legal opinion, she will move forward with having the mayor’s office up for election in November.

“Until the city can prove otherwise, that’s how we move forward with every other municipality,” Millard said.

Information about how to run for a local election in Michigan can be found at online or by contacting a local clerk.

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