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  Thursday, June 3, 2010

 

Recall petition, deemed unclear,
fails against township clerk

 

By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer

MOUNT CLEMENS — The Macomb County Election Commission rejected language on a petition attempting to recall Shelby Township Clerk Terri Kowal at its meeting June 3.

The petition, filed with the Macomb County Clerk's Election Department May 21 by Joy Sebastian of Shelby Township, alleged that Kowal should be removed from office based on a vote earlier this year to promote her daughter, Amy Drake, to the position of senior coordinator of the Parks, Recreation and Maintenance Department.

The petition language stated that, "At the Board of Trustee meeting held on 2/22/10 the Shelby Township Clerk Terri Kowal voted to give her daughter a 23 (percent) pay raise by promoting over other qualified candidates. Terri Kowal failed to disclose her relationship and hide fact the appointee is her own daughter."

The petitioner was not present at the language hearing.

"The only issue before the commission is the clarity of language itself," said Judge Mark Switalski, who sits on the commission with County Clerk Carmella Sabaugh and Chief Deputy Treasurer Jerry Moffitt.

Kowal, a 19-year veteran of the Shelby Township Board of Trustees, was unable to attend the hearing because she is on medical leave from her post. Her husband, attorney Paul Kowal, spoke on her behalf, pointing out various errors contained in the petition.

"There are so many misstatements as to make it unclear," Paul Kowal said, pointing out that there was no Feb. 22 board meeting; that the minutes showed Terri Kowal did disclose that she was related to the employee recommended for promotion to the senior coordinator position; that Drake was the only candidate recommended by the department head for the job; and that the pay increase was only about 16 percent.

"I have copies of the minutes from the meeting, where she clearly states that relationship," Paul Kowal said.

The minutes of the Board of Trustees' Jan. 19 work session show that Kowal disclosed that the employee up for promotion to the position was indeed a relative of hers. When the board voted on the matter at its Feb. 2 meeting, Kowal said, according to the minutes of the meeting, that "she has no problem saying this is her daughter."

Paul Kowal also told the three-member commission that the township board voted 6-1 to promote Drake, so even if Terri Kowal had been asked to abstain from voting, it would have made no difference in the outcome.

Macomb County Corp. Counsel George Brumbaugh reminded the commission that the facts are not to be taken into consideration in this case, and that accuracy is "for the voters to decide."

In the end, Sabaugh and Moffitt declared the language unclear, overriding the vote of Switalski — who simply said, "I find that it is clear, but it fails 2-1" — and quashing the petition.

Paul Kowal said this was the first time in his wife's tenure that Terri Kowal had ever faced a recall petition.

Election officials said the petition to recall Supervisor Richard Stathakis, approved in 2009, expired June 2. No signatures were ever turned in to the election department.

You can reach Staff Writer Kristyne E. Demske at kdemske@candgnews.com or at (586) 498-1041.