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Hanks files second petition to recall Hatton

Marie Havenga • Aug 4, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Michelle Hanks has filed a second petition to recall Spring Lake Village President Joyce Hatton.

Hanks, the owner of the Seven Steps Up concert venue, originally filed a recall petition with Ottawa County on July 3. The county elections committee approved the language on that petition on July 19, but Hatton filed an appeal on July 28.

Hanks filed the second recall petition late Wednesday, with simplified language. Her reason for wanting to recall Hatton on the latest petition is simply because Hatton is promoting the disincorporation of the Village of Spring Lake.

“Simple enough,” Hanks said.

During the July 19 petition language hearing, Judge Mark Feyen told Hanks the election commission's decision on her petition language would have been much simpler had she said something more basic, such as “Hatton favors disincorporation.”

A hearing on the new recall petition is scheduled for 3 p.m. Aug. 16 at the Ottawa County Probate Court’s Juvenile Court Classroom off Fillmore Street.

The Ottawa County Elections Commission — Ottawa County Probate Judge Mark Feyen, County Treasurer Brad Slagh and County Clerk Jason Roebuck — will decide if the language on the new petition is factual and clear to voters. They approved the initial petition language with a 2-1 vote.

The reasons for recall stated on the original petition were that Hatton (1) made inappropriate comments comparing a parking ordinance to the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, and (2) that she continued to push for the disincorporation process when Village Council and a special work group recommended against it, at great expense to taxpayers.

“I don't know what's going to happen to her appeal,” Hanks said Thursday. “I can simply start a new recall petition. I submitted documents today that showed newspaper articles and minutes from the meetings that show her vocal promotion.”

Hatton said Thursday that she plans to continue with her appeal of the elections commission's approval of the initial recall petition language.

“I'm not dropping the appeal because the appeal goes ahead on its own steam,” she said. “We have up to 90 days to serve them, but we aren't going to wait.”

Hatton was referring to serving papers to the commission members. The appeal process is basically filing a lawsuit in Ottawa County Circuit Court.

Ottawa County Elections Coordinator Steven Daitch said Michigan law doesn't have a mechanism to withdraw a recall petition, so the initial petition can't technically be withdrawn.

It will expire 180 days after the language is certified. However, it can't be certified until the appeal is resolved.

The new petition would not exactly supersede the initial petition, according to Daitch.

“But it kind of does,” he said. “There's nothing in the law that says it does, but I think that's Michelle's intention.”

Hanks said she will not circulate the first petition if the second one is approved.

“I tried to withdraw it, but they said there's no mechanism in the law to withdraw it,” she said.

Although the elections commission approved the language of her initial petition, Hanks said she wanted to simplify things anyway.

“In the first one I was trying to sound like an attorney,” she said. “I'm not one, so I don't know why I was trying to sound like one.”

Hanks said she disapproves of Hatton promoting disincorporation because she is the elected village president.

“She can do it as an individual and not as an elected official,” Hanks said.

Hatton on Thursday said the county made her aware that Hanks has filed a new recall petition.

“I have no response at all,” Hatton said. “As far as I'm concerned, I'm not paying any attention to it. I really am not very knowledgeable about what her plans are. It's a free country. I'm assuming people will vote their conscience on Aug. 8.”

On Tuesday, Aug. 8, village voters will decide whether or not to amend the Village Charter to allow a mechanism for disincorporation.

In 2012, Hatton collected enough signatures to get the disincorporation question on the ballot, but an Ottawa County judge ruled that the charter did not contain a mechanism for it.

Hatton ran for village president last fall on a platform of disincorporating the village and making it part of Spring Lake Township. She took 43.4 percent of the vote in a three-way race.

Hatton believes village residents would save money by not having to pay property taxes to both the village and township. But a special village work group, headed by Hatton's nephew, Tony Verplank, determined any potential savings would be minimal.

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