ALPENA - The three Alpena Municipal Council members who are facing recall in November have filed their "Justification of Conduct in Office" responses with Alpena County Clerk Bonnie Friedrich before Tuesday afternoon's deadline. Mayor Matt Waligora and Councilmen Mike Nunneley and Dave Karschnick each responded to the claims made by recall petitioner Cindy Johnson and will appear on the ballot alongside Johnson's claims.
After a hearing was held confirming the clarity of the language Johnson had presented, each of the three men could, in 200 words or less, enter a rebuttal to her accusations. Friedrich said a clarity hearing is not needed for the responses, but a meeting will take place to wrap up the recall procedure.
"The election commission will meet on Aug. 15, and basically it will be a summary of the procedures and to verify the necessary steps have been taken," Friedrich said. "It also will provide a record that everything that needed to be met was met and to review the responses, so if they are over 200 words they can be adjusted. After that it is ready for November."
All three of the councilmen deny violating Michigan's Open Meetings Act, as claimed by Johnson and reminded voters that former City Manager Thad Taylor, who the three voted to dismiss in April, was done so legally and no details as to why were released because of Taylor's decision to have the process play out in executive or closed session.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.
The following are the rebuttals as submitted.
"Statement of Reason"
(All three are the same. This is Karscnick's as an example.)
1. At the Alpena City Council meeting on April 16, 2012, Mr. Karschnick voted to terminate City Manager Thad Taylor without cause.
2. Mr. Karschnick violated the Open Meetings Act by deliberating with the City Council majority outside of a public meeting to reach a decision to terminate City Manager Thad Taylor prior to the April 16, 2012 meeting where the decision was announced.
3. The decision to terminate City Manager Thad Taylor was justified by Mr. Karschnick as part of a "new direction" for City Government, which has never been otherwise explained or defined to Alpena's voters;
4. The decision to terminate City Manager Thad Taylor is an added burden on a City budget which is already facing a deficit.
*The rebuttals are printed exactly as submitted:
"Justification of Conduct in Office"
"somebody could absolutely lie on a recall petition. But if it's a specific lieit's their right, and if it puts the public on notice and it puts the (elected) individual on notice and there's enough signatures and it otherwise complies with the lawit goes (on the ballot)." Thomas LaCross Alpena County Probate Judge July 17, 2012
The language "without cause" comes directly from the contract negotiated, signed, and agreed to by Mr. Taylor.
I've served Alpena government for 10+ years, I assure you I complied with the Open Meetings Act. Per City Policy, I notified Council/Manager, in person and in writing, three weeks before the meeting to request this agenda item-Mr. Taylor's response "I'm not surprised."
I've never been quiet about my direction for Alpena-Accountability and Fiscal Responsibility-fighting issues like the Water Meters and Rates, Boat Hoist, Recycling tax, APLEX Funding, Starlight beach bathroom, administration pension policy and for inter-governmental consolidations-saving Millions in tax dollars.
The City budget simply cannot legally be "in deficit."
I expect $100k a year manager to provide vision, solutions, direction and accountability. I repeatedly conveyed my position.
Former Mayor Carol Shafto-April 18, 2012 "I expected this"
As part of an elected council that is directed by City Charter to fill the position of city manager, I voted to fill it with someone different than my predecessors chose.
I followed the laws and policies regarding the release of specific information related to Mr. Taylor's performance and pertaining to the decision that I made to vote for the termination of his employment contract. I will not justify my actions by releasing statements that could be misconstrued and perhaps damaging to his credibility.
New direction seemed an obvious statement given that the position of city manager would be filled with someone new. For me, that means new and fresh ideas for efficiency, internal and intergovernmental relationships, and a business friendly government.
I made an independent decision without violating the Open Meetings Act. I have protected the city from liability and the rights of an employee who requested closed session.
I supported council's decision to cut our salaries by fifty percent to significantly reduce the affect on the budget. I consider this as an investment in the city's future.
I have remained true to the platform of my original campaign and I have conducted myself professionally as Mayor of Alpena.
#1 No cause means just that, Employee is the only one that can ask to go into close session, if Mr. Taylor had not ask for close session, then I would have listed my reasons. The without cause protects the employee if that person would seek new employment.
#2 I did not violate the open meetings act.
#3 I never said I was looking for a new direction or new vision.
#4 We are setting on a two and one half Million Dollar fund balance.