By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR – Voters in Taylor will decide Nov. 8 whether to remove Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand from office during a special election prompted by a citizen-driven recall campaign.
The Wayne County Elections officials approved Tuesday 4,218 signatures, easily meeting the 3,800 needed to put the question on the general election ballot.
Heading into last week’s confirmation by the county, Lamarand challenged the number of signatures submitted and the methods by which they were obtained. Lamarand estimated that more than 500 signatures would be declared invalid, and that the campaign to remove him from office would fail.
Organizers of the petition, a group informally known as Take Back Taylor on a web site launched in protest of city administration and operating as the Committee to Recall Jeff Lamarand, were equally confident.
“We have a voter list as well,” committee member Michael Demmer said. “We went through our own certification process.” Demmer said that the group estimated in excess of 4,800 valid signatures, but will not debate the approved number.
“We’re on the ballot, that was the goal,” Demmer said.
Opposition to Lamarand, a former city councilman elected to Mayor in 2009, grew quickly in the troubled, divided Taylor. In 2010 citizens rallied to recall Lamarand and six members of the city council; that effort fell short of the required number of signatures for ballot placement.
Earlier this year, political conflicts increased as Taylor officials wrestled with a budget deficit. The decision in April to layoff dozens of city employees, including police officers and firefighters, rekindled the recall campaign. The ballot language for the Nov. 8 question specifically states the termination of nine police officers as motivation for removing Lamarand.
Demmer said that the loss of police — the nine officers have since been recalled — is just one of many reasons for the recall effort.
“This campaign is going to be about a hundred issues,” Demmer said. “There are a litany of causes or reasons we came up with. Fiscal irresponsibility is what leads to all of our problems.”
Taylor, along with hundreds of municipalities in Michigan, were required to submit this year a balanced budget free of deficits or else face possible takeover by the state. The cash-strapped city wrestled with disproportionate benefit and retirement obligations and Lamarand said that decisions made to protect the city allowed for a successful recall campaign to put the question before voters.
“I gave them the ammunition,” Lamarand said. “I had to lay off firefighters to make the budget work. We’ve done what we had to do to protect the financial interests of the city.”
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])