By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR – The effort to recall Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand may not be a sure thing for the November general election ballot. Although petition organizers submitted 4,352 names to Wayne County Elections officials last month — exceeding the required 3,827 needed for ballot placement — Lamarand said Thursday that more than 700 of those names may be ineligible.
Wayne County Elections officials spent the better part of two days at Taylor City Hall last week, and are expected to verify or deny the petition Tuesday.
Representing a group known as Take Back Taylor, petitioner Charles Johnson submitted petitions last month to recall Lamarand. If signatures representing 25 percent of the registered voters participating in the most recent gubernatorial election are certified, the question to recall Lamarand would be put before voters in November.
Lamarand had until Thursday to challenge the submitted petitions; more than 2,000 names were called into question for review by, first, Taylor City Clerk Mary Ann Rilley before being returned to Wayne County Elections officials.
According to Lamarand, the summary presented by Rilley to the county “determined about 700 signatures at fault,” citing problems including invalid petition forms, the legitimacy of some signatures and other issues. If at least 525 names are eliminated from the petitions, the recall challenge will not proceed.
The recall effort produced additional questions from Lamarand, including accusations that members of the Taylor Fire Department collected signatures while on duty. The City Charter prohibits employees from political activities while on the clock. Four members of the department were notified on Aug. 26 that they faced a possible suspension if it is proven they collected petitions signatures while on duty. As of press time, the investigation continued.
Taylor Fire Chief Bob Tompos confirmed that four firefighters were being interviewed, but had not been suspended as of press time. Pompos said he did not know if the charges are true, nor if it can be determined.
“It’s in the hands of City Hall,” Pompos said of the investigation. “I’ve made my opinion known that it’s not unusual for people to trade hours, and I don’t know if there’s any way to prove if someone was doing something on duty.”
For Pompos, the bottom line remains fire service, and suspending four firefighters would further strain a short-handed, under-funded staff, he said.
“If you suspend four guys, I have to cover their shifts with overtime I just don’t have,” Pompos said.
Allegations that firefighters or other city workers helped gather petitions while on city time were not a factor in the names he challenged on the petitions, Lamarand said.
“That wasn’t part of it, that’s a separate issue we’re dealing with internally,” Lamarand said. Instead, Lamarand challenged petitions that he said were improperly prepared on the basis of state statutes. All told, about 2,000 of the total signatures were challenged, and are being reviewed by the county.
“It appears the county is taking our challenges seriously and doing their due diligence,” Lamarand said. “That’s their job. All we can do is wait and see. We feel we’ve presented well more than 525 as invalid.”
County Elections officials were not available for comment by press time.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])