By ZEINAB NAJM
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR — Mayor Rick Sollars is ineligible to appear on the city’s primary election ballot after Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny ruled in favor of City Clerk Cynthia Bower May 13.
The reasoning behind the ruling is due to Sollars’ owing $2,500 in late fees, according to the Wayne County Clerk’s Campaign Finance System.
Bower decided that Sollars was ineligible to be on the ballot because of failing 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; the unfiled finance reports are from 2018 to 2020.
Sollars signed a required affidavit April 15 stating that all required reports had been filed and any filing fees or fines had been paid. He submitted late campaign statements and paid $4,000 in late fees April 23, after the April 20 candidate filing deadline.
“The question is, the clerk is now presented with information that shows to a reasonable person that the information of the fines and failure to file mandatory reports under the campaign finance act exist and that the affidavit of identity was the nonetheless signed,” Kenny said. “With that information, the statue directs that the Taylor city clerk was obliged to not certify to the Board of Election Commissioners the name of Mr. Sollars. The statue says the officer shall not certify, it is not discretionary that she is not to do that. She did in fact carry out that particular responsibility.”
The decision by Bower was made April 23 after she reviewed a legal challenge filed by attorney Andrew Paterson on the behalf City Council candidate Martin Drouillard.
Including Paterson, attorney Mark Brewer was representing Bower in the hearing, Jason Hanselman representing Sollars, Edward Plato representing the Taylor Election Commission and John Knappmann representing candidate and state Rep. Alex Garza (D-12th District) intervening party.
Brewer said following the hearing that it was a complete victory for Bower. A request for comment from Sollars was not returned by press time.
Kenny granted a temporary restraining order to Sollars May 3 putting his name back on the primary ballot until a show cause hearing was scheduled and held, but dissolved that order May 13.
“In terms of injunction relief the court looks to see whether or not Mr. Sollars — the likelihood that the party seeking the injunction will prevail on the merits,” Kenny said. I think that is simply not true.”
The motion for preliminary injunction and writ of mandamus were both denied by Kenny.
“The danger that the party seeking the injunction will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is not issued, the court believes it is not irreparable harm — it certainly may diminish the likelihood of prevailing if one has to run as a write-in candidate but it is not irreparable harm,” he said.
“The risk that the party seeking the injunction would be harmed more by than the absence of the injunction than the opposing party would be by the granting of the relief — I think that is also not the case in favor of the plaintiff. I think having the name of an ineligible candidate on the ballot is, in fact, certainly something that could be of harm to the opposing party.
“The harm to the public interest, if the injunction is issued, the harm to the public interest in this particular case would be having an ineligible candidate on the ballot and that would also be a harm to the public.
“With regards with mandamus to replace Mr. Sollars’ on the ballot, to have him certified — there are several criteria to consider.”
Sollars has a right to appeal, but no further court dates have been announced.
The candidates for mayor are state Garza, Jeff Jones and Woolley. Sollars is seeking his third four-year term as mayor.
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.
Sollars is facing a federal bribery and wire fraud lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. In December 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.
Sollars pleaded not guilty. Also, the indictment charged Sollars and Awad with seven counts of bribery each, and charged Sollars and Baum with 18 counts of wire fraud.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])