Recall petition language approved

Mary Hallett, treasurer of Cedar Creek Township, reads a statement during a Wexford County Election Commission hearing to evaluate the language on a petition that calls for her recall.

CADILLAC — The Wexford County Election Commission has approved the language on a petition intended to initiate recall proceedings against Cedar Creek Township Treasurer Mary Hallett.

The election commission, which includes Judge Edward Van Alst, Wexford County Clerk Elaine Richardson and Wexford County Treasurer Jayne Stanton, held a hearing to review the language on Thursday.

The commission previously rejected the first draft of petition language in a hearing on July 13.

The new language reads, "Treasurer Mary Hallett voted to increase her own salary but voted against consulting an attorney regarding landfill issues and refused to support a motion to hire an attorney to draft protective ordinances."

As he had during the previous hearing, Judge Van Alst informed Hallett and Nancy Scungio, the person who submitted the recall petition, that the hearing would not evaluate whether statements were true, false, good or bad.

"That's not what we're here for," Van Alst said. The commission was there only to evaluate whether the statements were factual and of sufficient clarity so that voters could understand the allegations and so that Hallett could defend herself.

The statements couldn't be conclusions or opinions, Van Alst said. And if any part of the petition language was not a factual statement or was unclear, the whole thing would be rejected.

But the commission unanimously approved the recall petition language.

Scungio is now free to circulate the petition, but she has to use exactly the language that was approved during Thursday's hearing.

Scungio has just days to get enough signatures; they're due by Aug. 3 if they're going to make it on November's ballot.

Hallett, who disputed the clarity of the language during the meeting, arguing that it wasn't clear what was meant by "protective ordinances," has previously said that the statements in the petition are not entirely truthful. She initially voted against consulting a lawyer but later voted to meet with one, though she ultimately did not support a motion to hire a lawyer.

A group of township residents had attempted to get the Cedar Creek Township board to hire a lawyer to draft ordinances to regulate the landfill owned by American Waste. But Hallett argued that any ordinance passed would apply to all residents, not just the landfill.

Hallett told the Cadillac News that she's been told she has a lot of support in the township, even as "they are putting false information into the public to slander my name, especially on Facebook."

"We'll leave it up to the whole township to make this decision, not just a small group," Hallett said after the hearing.