ALPENA - The recall petitions have been turned in, but research showed the next step isn't quite what had been expected for the county clerk.
Cindy Johnson and a group of other local people have gathered enough signatures that, if verified by the Alpena County Clerk's office, will place a recall proposal against Alpena Municipal Councilmen Mike Nunneley and Dave Karschnick, and Mayor Matt Waligora. County Clerk Bonnie Friedrich now has 21 days to verify the people who signed the petition are registered voters in the city.
Friedrich said last week she would only review the petition's structure and afterward forward the signatures to City Clerk Karen Hebert for verification. After researching the issue this weekend, however, Friedrich discovered the job of sorting through the hundreds of names will fall to her office.
"The law was changed a few years ago, so I don't have to turn the names over to the city," Friedrich said. "I will be keeping them here to verify. I have 21 days from the day the petitions are returned to us, but I anticipate having them done well before that."
Johnson, who has led a group of local people heading the recall effort, needed to collect 804 names for each of the three officials and have them submitted to Friedrich before Aug. 3. She said a preliminary count shows Nunneley received 975 signatures, Karschnick 975 and Waligora 960.
"There were a lot of long hours and hard work, but we are pleased with the response we received," Johnson said. "The community members were amazing whether they signed or not. During the extremely hot days, they would offer us water or to go inside and cool off. The Alpena community once again stepped up."
Friedrich said there are already some names on the petition that will not be able to be used. She said one of the forms containing signatures wasn't signed by the person collecting signatures and was tossed out. There also were several people who signed and used a date before the ballot recall language was approved. She said once the names are verified, the council members can go through the names and dispute any they believe don't meet the criteria needed.
"I have sent them each a letter informing them they have the right to come in and inspect the list of names or make copies. They will have to pay for the copies the same as anyone else would," Friedrich said. "If they choose, they can challenge any of the names on the petitions, and then I will have to check them again through the qualified voter file, which contains an electronic of most of the voter's signatures, or pull the master cards from city hall."
If there are 804 verified names after the process, the recall will be placed on the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election.
The recall effort was initiated after the three council members voted to terminate former City Manager Thad Taylor without cause, as Taylor's contract allowed, and also because some believe a violation of the Open Meetings Act took place before the vote occurred during executive session in April. The recall language also states the termination and forthcoming hiring is a burden to the city's budget.
Nunneley, Karschnick and Waligora can submit a response to the allegations in 200 words or less, which also would appear on the ballot.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.