By ZEINAB NAJM
TAYLOR — Mayor Rick Sollars was deemed ineligible to appear on the city’s Aug. 3 primary election ballot by City Clerk Cynthia Bower following the April 20 filing deadline.
The decision was made late April 23 after she reviewed a legal challenge filed by attorney Andrew Paterson on the behalf City Council candidate Martin Drouillard.
Paterson said that Drouillard is challenging the certification of Sollars as a candidate in the upcoming August primary election. According to the Detroit News, Sollars became ineligible for failure to file campaign finance reports and pay $2,500 in late fees.
Bower told the News that she investigated the challenge and that she must protect the integrity of the election.
“It’s a difficult decision to make, but I had no choice but to not certify his candidacy,” she said. “The law is very clear and the candidate must not have any outstanding fines or reports. I had to follow the law.”
According to the clerk’s website, each candidate was required to submit a nominating petition including at least 150 signatures to the clerk by 4 p.m. April 20. The requirements also included an affidavit of identity and a statement of candidacy. Qualifications are that the candidate has to be 18, a registered voter and be a resident of the city for at least one year.
The three candidates listed for mayor are state Rep. Alex Garza (D-12th District), Jeff Jones and Council Chairman Tim Woolley.
In a Facebook post on April 24, Sollars said he is running for re-election.
“I am pursuing every legal option available to ensure that a select group of candidates do not take away your ability to vote for the mayoral candidate of your choice,” he wrote. “This has become a disturbing trend in Michigan politics to disenfranchise voters rights to support the candidates of their choosing. I am saddened to see this effort being backed by current elected officials and others with aspirations of being your voice in the future. I have never quit on the City of Taylor and I am humbly asking you not to quit on me. I am fully committed to being your mayor once again.”
When reached for comment, Taylor Communications and Marketing Director Karl Ziomek said the mayor is not going to have any comment until his legal team, campaign team comes up with a statement.
“I believe what they’ve done is — his attorneys have requested the clerk reconsider this issue with a letter and backed up it up with some legal judgments that they think support reversing the decision,” Ziomek said. “At that point she would either reverse or they would probably go to court over this.”
Sollars also has the choice to pursue a write-in campaign if he doesn’t seek an appeal.
The News reported that Bower said she reviewed the allegations and consulted with state election officials before rendering her decision that Sollars did not qualify for the ballot.
In the challenge, it says that Sollars filed his affidavit of identity along with nominating petitions with the clerk to qualify as a candidate for the office of mayor. Sollars also owes the $2,500 in late filing fees, according to the Wayne County Clerk’s Campaign Finance System and also failed to file at least seven campaign finance reports under the Michigan Campaign Finance Act.
The fees owed to the Wayne County Clerk are from 2019 and 2020 with the unfilled finance reports which are from 2018 to 2020.
Sollars was first elected as mayor in 2013 and announced his re-election intentions in January. He is currently facing a federal bribery and wire fraud lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan which has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Dec. 19, 2019, a 33-count indictment charged Sollars, businessman Shady Awad and Taylor Community Development Manager Jeffrey Baum for conspiracy to commit bribery in a scheme spanning from 2015 to 2019, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider announced. Sollars pleaded not guilty.
The indictment also charged Sollars and Awad with seven counts of bribery each, and charged Sollars and Baum with 18 counts of wire fraud.
For the City Council primary race, 19 candidates are seeking seven seats including incumbents Daniel Bzura, Charley Johnson, Caroline Patts, Herman Ramik and Angie Winton.
Amy Atwood, Jill Brandana, Tina Daniels, Sam Ditzhazy, Nick Dmitruchina, Drouillard, Douglas Geiss, Chrissy Masters Carmona, Justin Mordarski, Korey Morris, Lindsey Rose, Ira Slaven, Asha Tyson and Chris Verdun round out the candidates.
Bower and Treasurer Michelle Tocco are unopposed on the ballot.
The primary will trim the candidates for mayor to two and candidates for council to 14 for the Nov. 2 general election.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])