Calumet ordinance issue not going away
CALUMET — The adoption of Ordinance No. 160, which repeals two previous ordinances that permitted the Village Council to appoint clerks and treasurers has not had the desired effects. Ordinance No. 160 was adopted by the council during a special session Monday, after the council mishandled one ballot petition and a second one was lost. The two village residents who circulated the petitions, Virginia Dwyer and Peggy Germain, declared publicly at Monday’s meeting that neither of them are prepared to let the matter drop and have threatened criminal charges against the Village Council as a whole. In fact, in regard to the adoption of Ordinance 160, Dwyer and Germain have both said it only complicated matters, because the village lacked a legally required 2/3 majority when voting to approve the adoption. The motion passed by 3-2. Dwyer said that according to the Michigan General Village Law Act (GVLA), the council lacked the legal number of trustees to cast the vote.
In an email to the Daily Mining Gazette, Dwyer included sections of the GVLA supporting her assertion that the vote was adopted illegally.
“This information states the law on ordinances and what constitutes a majority vote,” Dwyer wrote. “Also I am including information from the general law village handbook as to what a majority is.”
The GVLA states the following:
(1) Except as provided in subsections (2) and (3), in each village, the following officers shall be elected: a president, 6 trustees, 1 clerk, and 1 treasurer. The president and trustees constitute the council. In all votes for which not less than a majority vote of council is required, the calculation of the number of votes required shall be based on the maximum number that constitutes council.”
Dwyer said that by Michigan law, the village council must comprise seven members.
Currently, however, the council is composed of the president, Brian Abramson, and five trustees: Tim Bies, Andrew Ranville, Rob Tarvis Ken Olkkonen and Elise Matz. Of these, only Abramson and Ranville were elected by the voters of the village.
“They, by law, needed a majority vote to repeal both ordinances,” Dwyer said. “That’s four votes. The vote was 3-2 and they called it ‘passed.’ That’s not correct. Four votes were needed. The other issue is that it took a 2/3 vote to pass both. That’s 5 votes.”
For nearly the past two years, Germain added, the council has conducted business, including adopting ordinances, with only four trustees and a president, while the meeting minutes for Nov. 16, 2021 list David Geisler as “acting clerk,” a position Houghton County Clerk Jennifer Kelly has said does not exist under Michigan law.
The GLVA allows for referendums on these four types of ordinances: reducing the number of trustees from six to four; changing the clerk’s position from elected to appointed; changing the treasurer’s position from elected to appointed; and assigning duties of other officials to a manager. Currently the village has no ordinance permitting the number of trustees to be reduced from six to four, but continues to function with the trustee vacancies, even though Dwyer, Germain and Lori Weir have submitted letters of interest.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is the first in a series that will examine the issues concerning the village of Calumet and its government, and what these issues mean to the residents.