Clawson Lawsuit Over Council Appointment Settled, Vacancy to be Filled
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Jan. 16, 2023)
Clawson, MI – A year-long legal dispute over whether a Clawson councilperson should serve or not has finally come to a settlement, leaving a vacancy that will be discussed at the Jan. 17 council meeting.
At a special meeting Jan. 11 council members discussed the fact that a settlement has been reached in the case of George Georges vs. the City of Clawson. The lawsuit arose after an unusual situation for the city.
A Clawson City Councilperson resigned at a Nov. 2021 City Council meeting from a partial term council seat he was appointed to, in order to be appointed to a newly vacant seat giving him another year on council in spite of losing in the Nov. 2 election.
George Paul Georges had been appointed to council following the resignation of Kathy Phillips, who left earlier this year as required by the city charter so she could run for Mayor. Paula Millan, who was also on council and running for mayor, left the vacancy for which Georges resigned his current seat in order to be appointed to. One of those vacancies was not on the ballot because the resignation was accepted after the filing deadline, meaning it would have to be filled by appointment.
Prior to the votes, City Attorney Remis Nushja explained that the position would be filled by the new council at the organizational meeting. However Mayor Reese Scripture, who did not seek re-election, asked Georges to resign then moved for his appointment to fill the vacancy. The item was not on the agenda; the discussion came up during the City Attorney’s report at the end of the meeting.
Sue Moffit was the only councilperson to vote no. Supporting the resignation and appointment were Glenn Shepard and Louis Sampson, along with Mayor Scripture.
In the election, Bruce Anderson (1,363 votes) and Glenn Shepard (1212 votes) earned seats. Shepard had been appointed earlier this year. The first runner up was Scott Tinlin with 795 votes. George Paul Georges was fourth with 730 votes. Also in the election, Paula Millan was elected mayor.
At the first meeting of the new council, the Nov. 15, 2021 Organizational Meeting, Mayor Milan and council members voted not to seat Georges based on the fact that he had not taken the oath of office for the seat he was appointed to within the ten days of appointment as required by Charter. According to the Charter, if a member does not take the oath, they are expressing that they do not wish to serve.
Council made the decision not to seat Geroges until an outside legal opinion was made. In the meantime, the seat would remain vacant – which is has for over a year while Geroges’ case was pending in Oakland County Circuit Court.
Details of the settlement have not been released to the public, though it is clear that Georges will not be on council as Council has begun discussing how to fill the vacancy. Georges told Oakland County Times that he could not comment on the situation until after the next City Council meeting, which is Jan. 17.
Having come to a settlement means that Clawson can now fill the vacant council seat. Council could decide to have a special election, they could invite the candidate with the next highest votes to serve, or they could make an appointment.
At the Jan. 11 meeting, the current City Attorney explained that a special election would cost the public about $15,000. Councilmembers Glenn Shepard and Louis Sampson had suggested approving a special election at that special meeting. Approving at that time would have given potential candidates less than a week to pull petitions and gather signatures, an even more challenging task given that City Hall would be closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Mayor Millan opposed the idea because of the short time frame and because she wanted more public input before proceeding with any of the options. The process for filling the vacancy is scheduled to be discussed at Tuesday’s council meeting.
“I feel like putting someone in a seat to serve for our community is something electors should have input on,” she said. “And this whole process, although well-played from a side, was not in the best interest of our community – and it did not set well with people who took the time to go out and vote. And I am not for superseding anybody’s ability to weigh in on this.”
According to the City Charter, the council has 30 days to fill the vacancy, from the date of the vacancy being official, which is when the settlement is signed. This leaves two regular Council meetings to handle the business of an appointment. If an appointment is not made, the Council will be in violation of the City Charter.
“It’s our goal to have a full working council and do it in a way that is not usurping anyone’s authority or ability to have a say in what we do here,” Mayor Millan said.
For more on the City Clawson, including meeting agendas and videos of past meetings, visit https://www.cityofclawson.com/.