Disqualified Candidates Get Different Results in Birmingham, Farmington Hills and Hazel Park
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Aug. 14, 2019)
Birmingham, Farmington Hills, and Hazel Park, MI – Clerks in Birmingham, Farmington Hills, and Hazel Park got similar messages from the Oakland County Clerk’s Office, stating that a candidate had been disqualified and that the city would need to disqualify them and remove their name from the ballot.
In Hazel Park and Farmington Hills, the cities complied. But in Birmingham, officials said the candidate’s name should stay.
When candidates run for office, they turn in nominating petitions and an affidavit of identity form. Each candidate was disqualified because of an error on that form.
In Hazel Park the issue was with Councilperson Bethany Holland’s affidavit of identity. Instead of using the form provided by the City Clerk, Holland said she’d gone to the Oakland County Clerk website and done a search for “affidavit of identity” and printed up the form from the site that came up first. That form was a form from a previous year, before the State legislature required asking about citizenship.
The Oakland County Clerk’s Election Division contacted the City Clerk and informed them of the disqualification, and left it in the City’s hand how to proceed. A three person commission – made up of the City Manager, the City Attorney, and the City Clerk – determined that she was disqualified and should be removed from the ballot.
Holland was surprised to learn of the disqualification, telling Oakland County Times that she had not been informed or given an opportunity to address the commission making the decision.
Joe Rozell is the Elections Director for Oakland County. When asked about Holland’s contention that she got the form from the County website, Rozell said “Our website has the correct form. Our IT Department, which we don’t control, apparently still allows the old affidavit to be visible using the search bar at the top of the website. I have no idea why IT doesn’t update the website search engine with the current information.
“State law, and the State Supreme Court, are very clear on this issue. It’s the candidates responsibility to use the correct form. She files with the city, and not with us, so she should have obtained her affidavit and petitions from the city clerk’s office. This is the cities decision.”
Holland announced at the Council meeting Tuesday that she would be running as a write-in.
Councilperson Theresa Rich turned in her nominating petition and affidavit on April 17, well in advance of the July 23 deadline. The City Clerk accepted the forms and she had been certified until learning Tuesday of the disqualification.
In this case the City Clerk talked with Rich before making the decision on behalf of the City, Rich said in a social media post about the disqualification. It was the omission of one word on the affidavit that prompted the request for disqualification.
“Where it asks for ‘office sought,’ I wrote ‘City’ but did not add ‘Council.’ Yes, that was my mistake. All other lines were done correctly. And my lack of the word ‘Council’ was clearly not misleading to the FH Clerk’s Office because you can see toward the top that the Clerk’s Office stated that the office sought was “Council.”
“…In July, after the filing deadline, I received an email from the FH Clerk showing my name as one of the approved candidates. I assumed that everything had been reviewed and was fine. To my extraordinary disappointment, I was incorrect.
“On August 9, nearly four months after I filed the affidavit, I received a call from the FH Clerk about the one-word flaw on the affidavit. It was the first I knew about it…. Obviously, I was stunned.”
Rich said she is weighing her options.
“Well, I see three. And frankly, I don’t like any of them.
“Option One is to file a case in Circuit Court to overturn the Farmington Hills Clerk’s decision. This would be expensive. While a Genesee Circuit judge just six weeks ago allowed candidates with flawed affidavits to be on last week’s primary ballot in the Flint Mayoral race (including filing an amended affidavit after the filing deadline), there is at least one Court of Appeals case that would disallow it. Because of the lateness of this notice, the whole court process would have to be completed in the next two to three weeks. Frankly, this “option” does not seem reasonable or viable.
“Option Two is to do nothing. My last Council meeting would be in October. I will still be serving my community as an elected official because I will continue to hold my elected role as a member of the Oakland Schools Board of Education.
“Option Three is to wage a write-in campaign. Again, this would be expensive – a lot of cost for a position that pays $5k/year. I’d also need a LOT of volunteers to come in the top three with five opponents whose name will be printed on the ballot.
“Right now, I am leaning toward the write-in campaign because there is so much more I want to do to help my community.”
In Birmingham it was a Commissioner running for re-election that got the bad news. But in this case the City backed him.
Downtown Magazine reported there Pierre Boutros was disqualified over campaign finance reporting errors.
“After a review of our records, we have determined that Mr. Boutros failed to file a required amended 2016 Quarterly report. MCL 168.558(4) as amended states, ‘An affidavit of identity must include a statement that as of the date of the affidavit, all statements, reports, late filing fees and fine required of the candidate…have been filed or paid,’” Rozell wrote in his letter to the City Clerk.
According to the Birmingham-based publication, Boutros had 22 filing errors since running for office in 2015. The fines and penalties had been paid, but the paperwork hadn’t been correctly updated to go along with them.
City Manager Joe Valentine did not return Oakland County Times request for comment. Downtown reported “Birmingham City Manager Joe Valentine said that from the city’s standpoint, all of the election petitions from candidates, including Boutros’, have been certified because Birmingham statutory requirements have been followed, which are to make sure the heading is correctly filled out, the right number of signatures were collected and verified.”
“That is what we have done. Following campaign finance law is not under our jurisdiction,” Valentine said.
Rozell disagreed, telling Downtown “The city has a legal requirement to fulfill their obligation to read and certify the affidavits as part of the full application. You can’t just do part of the certification.”
Boutros had an attorney who was able to weigh in on the consideration process. The attorney claimed mistakes should have been brought forth in a timely manner so the candidate could have corrected them. He cited a 2016 court case, Berry v Garett,that could demonstrate a situation where mistakes in affidavits can be corrected.
Rozell disagreed “I don’t know if we would sue to have his name removed from the ballot,” Rozell said. “But a legal challenge would definitely stand up in court. There is definite precedence when it is a campaign finance law violation.”
As of Thursday morning, Boutros remains on the ballot.
Oakland County Times requested a list of other disqualified candidates. This post will be updated once that list is received. Oakland County lists candidates on their website, which will show “disqualified” for those that have.
As of Thursday morning, Rich had not been marked as disqualified, but another candidate, John H. Burns, had. Burns died in May.
Candidates wishing to run as write-ins need to register by Oct. 25, which is the second Friday before the election.
Hazel Park Councilperson Disqualified in Re-Election Attempt (Aug. 10, 2019)