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Sept. 30, 2020

The Daily Gazette 

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Meet Mike: Our award-winning Executive Editor

    
Mike Killbreath is a veteran newspaper man who began hosting a radio show in 2011. He currently serves as Executive Editor at The Daily Gazette and at My AM Advantage while hosting "The Morning Gazette Radio Show" on the local radio air waves live every weekday morning from 8 am until 9:30 am. Mike's background includes winning awards at the state and national levels for investigative reporting, local columns, feature writing, sports writing and sports columns. He has also served as President at the Flint Area Chamber of Commerce since 2011 and has served on its Executive Board since mid-2010. He also counts experience on other local Chamber of Commerce boards and has served for many years on numerous civic groups and non-profit organizations. Mike also hosts the longest-running local sports talk show on the local air waves with his Saturday 10 am broadcast of The Daily Gazette Sports Weekend Show. He talks sports every weeknight, too, on The Michigan Sports Zone Show and The Daily Gazette Sports Night Show. You can find Mike's programs by clicking to
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Flint City Councilman Allan Griggs posted this photo on his Facebook page this past weekend. Columnist Mike Killbreath says perhaps it's a signal that the councilman is prepared to go to war with a group aiming to remove him from office with a recall attempt.

​​​​​Time for state legislators to consider new way to approve proposed language on recall petitions filed for local officials

   Tuesday's meeting of the Genesee County Elections Commission once again displayed why state legislators need to consider tweaking the law. It's not working if politics can get in the way of following the law on approving proposed language to recall an elected official.

   Politics got in the way again on Tuesday.

   Three Democrats voted to reject language that had been proposed to remove a fellow Democrat from office. If you read what was presented in this space a day before, it's obvious the fix was in.

   Genesee County Clerk / Register of Deeds John Gleason pretty much said so. In fact, I needed to listen to my tape of our conversation over and over to make sure I heard him right.  And yep, he clearly and plainly said, "They got to them." Gleason was referring to the other two members of the Genesee County Election Commission (Deb Cherry and Judge Jenny Barkey) and Genesee County Corporation Counsel David Leyton — also a Democrat.

   Gleason told us he would follow the instructions of his Corporation Counsel on how to vote, and he guessed he would be advised to vote, "no" on recall language proposed against 8th Ward Flint City Councilman Allan Griggs. He predicted the other two members of the committee would also oppose the language proposed by businessman Don Pfeiffer to kick Griggs out of city politics.

   Griggs says Pfeiffer, community activist Arthur Woodson and 1st Ward City Councilman have "been after me since I got elected" and proclaimed that all three should be "eliminated." He subsequently posted a photo on Facebook of himself standing next to a tank. I guess we're to assume he's ready for war.

   He fired a surprising opening salvo from his artillery by attempting a play on the word, "aye."

   Pfeiffer's proposed language asked to remove Griggs from his 8th Ward seat because he voted "aye" on appointing Lynn Sorenson to the City Planning Commission. "I did not say aye, I said yes," quipped Griggs in his brief statement to the election commission members.

   A "fatal flaw" had been found, according to comments Griggs had made last week to MLive after news of the recall filing was first reported via a Facebook Live video from Yours Truly.

   Pfeiffer said Gleason guessed to him that it was the fact that the proposed language lacked documents containing any supporting evidence for what was being claimed in his filing. "That went out the window when I told him his guy, Dave (Linder) who took the filing ,explained that the supporting evidence needed to be turned in within 24 hours of the hearing," Pfeiffer said. Comments subsequently published in this space yesterday indicated from Gleason that the so-called "fatal flaw" was likely that the timing of the recall would be called into question.

   Gleason initially told Pfeiffer a filing would not be allowed because state law had been changed a few years ago to prohibit recalls during the last year for officials elected to four-year terms. An official at the Michigan Secretary of State's Office told us Gleason wasn't correct about his position. The filing can indeed be allowed if it's done outside the one-year window before Griggs faces re-election in November of 2021. The election to replace Griggs would be set for May of 2021, if 421 signatures by valid voters authorize a trip to the polls for 8th Ward residents to decide the fate of the first-term councilman.

   When informed of what we found out, Gleason said it did not matter. "Nobody in Genesee County follows the law," he sniped.

   The state statute on the matter dictates how commission members are to determine if proposed language is "clear" and "factual." It reads as follows about the duties of the trio to "determine whether each reason for the recall stated in the petition is factual and of sufficient clarity to enable the officer whose recall is sought and the electors to identify the course of conduct that is the basis for the recall."

   Pfeiffer fumed after the vote during the hearing. The resolution on record at Flint City Hall about the vote by Griggs reads that he voted, "aye." Previous recall language proposed in front of Genesee County's trio has been rejected because resolutions were not cited properly. 

   Judge Barkey said the term "aye" sounded like "something a pirate would say" and claimed if she was confused about it despite "going to a million meetings" — how could voters not be confused?

   Cherry concurred and offered a second to the motion. That meant Judge Barkey's sentiments would pass since only two votes were needed to send Pfeiffer back to the drawing board.

   Gleason offered support for Pfeiffer, yet didn't vote yes or no before Judge Barkey made a motion to adjourn the meeting.

   And you can't make this stuff up. After hearing from Gleason about attending hundreds of meetings where the chair asks, "All in favor, vote aye" — Judge Barkey sent Mr. Pfeiffer into a rage.

   Actually, honest to goodness, no lie. She said this: "All in favor of a motion to adjourn, please say aye."

   "Take that, sit down, shut up and go away," said Pfeiffer. "She told me to consult an attorney and I will. I followed the law. There was obviously some round robin going on where the fix was in, just as Gleason pretty much told you was the case before the hearing. It's criminal, in my opinion."

   Or at least reason for state legislators to step in.

   They changed the way recalls were conducted a few years ago largely because Genesee County had pretty much became the capital of recall land over a decade or so. No longer would a special election determine a yes or no vote on kicking an elected official out of office, followed by candidates facing off at the next election day to see who would replace him or her. Now, it's straight to election day with the individual facing the recall on the ballot with as many other challengers who sign up to try and take his or her job.

   The way the law is currently written, each of the 83 County Election Commissions around our state are comprised of the county clerk, the chief judge of probate of the county or probate court district, and the county treasurer. The commission members are responsible for furnishing specified election supplies (including ballots) for statewide August primaries, statewide November general elections and special primaries and elections held to fill vacancies in federal, state and county offices. In addition, the Commission members are responsible for holding hearings to determine if the wording used on recall petitions is "factual" and of "sufficient clarity."

   You would think Genesee County's trio would be better than most around the state. The judge is joined by two former state legislators. Both Cherry and Gleason served terms in the State House and in the State Senate.

   Maybe lawyers should decide the fate of proposed wording, except Gleason says politics get in the way on our local rulings despite Leyton and Judge Barkey being lawyers. Maybe our current state legislators should consider letting voters make up their own minds on whatever language filers come up with on recall petitions. 

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​Mike Killbreath hosts The Morning Gazette Radio Show weekdays from 8 am until 9:30 am on CCNRadio.net. He also hosts The Daily Gazette Sports Weekend Show every Saturday from 10 am until noon, and The Daily Gazette Sports Night Show weekdays from 6 pm until 7 pm.

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