Four Township board members may face recall
January 23, 2006 —
Business interests, residents' fears, and several dynamic personalities and philosophies are coalescing into an ugly political situation in Kochville Township.
Four of the five members of the Township Board may face recall if a petition is deemed valid and gains 25 percent of the number of voters in the 2002 gubernatorial election - 215 signatures.
David J. Phillips filed recall language with the Saginaw County Clerk on Tuesday, Jan. 10 against Township Supervisor Kenneth P. Bayne, Clerk George A. Schnepf, Trustee Lynn Kauer, and Treasurer Crystal Kauer. If enough Township voters sign the recall petitions, a recall election will be held later this year. On Friday, a clarity hearing at the Saginaw County Courthouse, including the Saginaw County Clerk, Treasurer, and Probate Judge, will determine if the petition meets the state's standards for clear language. Both Kauers are alumni of SVSU.
"I expect a lot of concerned residents to be here on Friday," Phillips says.
However, Bayne, who defeated Phillips by 12 votes in the 2004 Republican primary for township supervisor, feels that Phillips is motivated by little more than lingering malice from his electoral defeat.
"I don't think he's ever been able to accept the fact that he lost the election," Bayne says.
Phillips contends that he is not targeting Bayne and others for any political gain.
"I have no special interest in the Township other than I want equality," Phillips says.
The recall petitions single out Bayne for allegations that he improperly used his office to gain work for his landscaping company, Four Seasons Landscaping. Bayne contends that he has done business for 19 years in Kochville, and that his client base was already well established before taking office.
"He's not for the residents, and he's not for the businesses," Phillips says. "Who's he for? One business, and that's Ken Bayne."
The four members of the Board were targeted in the recall petition for voting in favor of rezoning 13.98 acres on the southwest corner of Pierce and Davis roads to mixed-use development. The proposed expansion of the Cardinal Townhomes complex has been delayed, pending a Feb. 28 Township-wide vote to approve the rezoning.
Bayne feels that it is no coincidence that the recall language included mention of the rezoning, and that it is telling that the Board members who voted in favor of the rezoning are the ones up for recall (Trustee Patricia Bourdow, the only Board member not targeted for recall, abstained from voting on the rezoning due to a potential conflict of interest).
"The opponents of the Cardinal Townhomes development have teamed up with other critics of our Township government, and they have collectively initiated this recall," Bayne says.
Phillips says the reason the other Board members are being targeted is because they kowtow to whatever Bayne says, even on some potentially illegal actions.
"None of the other Board members go against what he is voting for," Phillips says.
The recall petition also alleges the members engaged in nepotism when they appointed Crystal Kauer as treasurer, replacing Michelle Berger, who resigned less than one year into her term. Kauer is the wife of trustee Lynn Kauer.
"Their main goal is to have 'yes' people on the Board. The rule is Bayne's rule," Phillips says.
Bayne has contended that Kauer was the most qualified of the applicants, and that her husband abstained from the vote for her.
SVSU professor of social work Stephen J. Yanca, one of the leading opponents of the rezoning, is sympathetic with the recall effort, if not in action, then in thought.
"(The recall) is about people desiring to take back their township from developers," Yanca said.
Yanca feels that the recall effort has nothing to do with Phillips' previous loss in the election to Bayne, and that most of the criticism has roots in a dramatic increase in development throughout the township.
Phillips believes that many of the political dirty tricks related to the rezoning, including the hanging of dead skunks in Yanca's front yard, can be traced back to the Township officials who voted in favor of the rezoning.
"It's not a coincidence that the skunk (incident) happened the same night as the petitions were turned in," Phillips says
Bayne takes great offense in being called corrupt, both implicitly and explicitly, by Phillips.
"The Board has acted with honesty and integrity with every decision we've made," Bayne says, stating that Board always puts the general will of the Township over any individual's interests.
Bayne is critical of the recall laws, feeling that someone should be recalled only if the total vote against them in a recall is greater than the number of votes they received in the general election.
"The recall laws are unfair because they don't require proof that an official committed malfeasance, misfeasance, or nonfeasance," Bayne says. "A recall could be initiated for any of the thousands of decisions that someone disagrees with."
"The people on the Township Board," he says, "need to get the message that people don't want commercial development away from Bay and Tittabawassee Roads. Period."