Revisionist History: Court Voids May 3 Charter Revision Vote Due to Ludington's City Council's Failure to Follow Law

This afternoon, the weather outside the Lake County Courthouse was frightful, but the court decision inside was delightful.  Honorable Judge Mark Wickens, serving as 51st Circuit Court Judge, listened to arguments from Ludington City Attorney Ross Hammersley and from Ludington citizen Tom Rotta before he came to a conclusion in a quo warranto case at a hearing that would decide the fate of a local election proposal. 

The court found that Ludington's City Council had failed to fulfill statutory requirements in regard to fixing the costs of a charter revision and rate of compensation for the charter revision committee, that the error led to the electorate not knowing anything of the costs of said revision and that the error materially affected the outcome of the May 3rd election.  As a result, Plaintiff Rotta was afforded relief permitted under the filing of his quo warranto complaint, some of which are sweeping.

The order will indicate that the charter revision question on the May 3rd ballot which passed will be declared void, effectively meaning that the voters never approved the measure.  This has the additional effect of voiding the election of the nine members of the Charter Revision Committee who can only serve if the proposal to revise passed.  The decision will also grant the plaintiff his court costs and disbursements for prosecuting the issue.

Despite the City of Ludington having this civil action in their grill since mid-May, they have pushed forward without a care and have had Charter Revision Committee meetings twice a month, have hired special charter attorneys, and paid out some of the other expenses they successfully hid in this year's budget.  

The City of Ludington is likely to try one of three paths.  They may appeal the case to the Michigan Court of Appeals which may be unlikely to reverse the trial court on the main point while leading to additional charges to the taxpayers if they push forward with the committee declared unlawful.  They may try another election in 2023 where they do it correctly.  Or they may just give it up and use the knowledge they've garnered over the last 7 months to offer suggestions on simple charter amendments to offer up to the electors.  

When prodded for a comment Rotta offered:  "Today's decision is a victory for democracy and representative government.  A voter who cannot fully understand a ballot question has been disenfranchised as surely as if they weren't allowed to vote; perhaps more since they may be deceived into voting for something they would otherwise vote against if they knew all the facts.  It's regrettable that the city has decided to go forward with continuing to spend money on this endeavor when their preparations for the May election was obviously deficient and this result that happened today in Baldwin was likely to happen."

To better understand the points that Mr. Rotta used to his advantage today we offer the brief he submitted in response to the defendant's motion for summary disposition, where he also asked the court for summary disposition (but on his behalf).  In full disclosure, the author of this article is closely related to the plaintiff (response quo).

Views: 445

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Excellent work, X!  I hope that the incoming mayor Barnett with a dual paycheck is haunted by his "shame on you Tom Rotta" and is shamed himself.  I hope the clerk, Deb Luskin realizes how stupid her "... kind of an arbitrary amount that would need to be fixed" sounds.  I hope Wally Cain respects you because the city attorney Hammersley never "looked into" the fixing of the CRC salary apparently.  And the city manager, the assistant to the city manager and the clerk should all be ashamed of their running the show "behind the OZ curtain of Ludington" deceiving the people.  Thank you Judge Wickens for upholding the law.  Thank you Tom Rotta for standing for justice and for the enormous effort and costs that you are not paid for the hours involved.

Mark Barnett made me what I am today back in 2008, it's only right he gets to come back in and appreciate it when I'm waxing.

Deb's statement was actually accurate, if only they bothered to listen to her wisdom, this could have been done right.  Judge Wickens gave an indication of which way he was leaning just after the other side asked for an extension to draft a motion for summary disposition, which I graciously allowed.  It appeared the judge leaned towards my legal theory back then, but I was still pleasantly surprised to hear him find it won the day and the case.

The hours I spent on this case is truly worth it from my perspective, as I believe I have saved the charter from potentially harmful changes created by COL sycophants, appointees, and councilor relatives.  I have no pity for the charter revision committee that knew they were illegitimate and continued on for twelve meetings after this lawsuit was initiated; their task was wasted time, mine wasn't.

Yes, you are right X about the "...arbitrary amount that would need to he fixed ..." (for salaries)  comment by the clerk.  What I meant was that the amount of salary for the Charter revision team "was not yet fixed."  That should have been an embarrassing admission by the clerk to the public.  As a clerk upholding the law, could she not point out that it was wrong not to set a salary before a vote?

How did "they" think they could get away with that?  Was it mere ignorance?  Or does it point out another flagrant breaking of law?  

Did the committee get paid already for those meetings they've had?  If so will those salaries be nullified and returned?  What a mess.  Now to convince the public to reconsider or will this be just a "technical" glitch and they will continue on their OZ journey?  That's a shame that our public is so misled.  Thanks again for educating and fighting for what is right!  I'm waiting for Barnett to acknowledge his arrogance, ignorance and outright bullying of you.  A good leader and a praying Christian would humble himself.  Where's Toto to pull back the OZ curtain .... oh is that you X?

The relevant statute states that the costs and compensations just need to be fixed before the election, so sure it would have been smart to fix them in the original resolution on 11-8-2021, but the city council had up to their last meeting in April 2022 to fix them and never did.  One could say the city clerk knew what needed to be done and should have made sure the council did their duty to make the election right, but one could blame the seven councilors for not knowing their duties under the law, the city attorney for not following up, or even the city manager for an oversight failure.  Coincidentally, the clerk put out a FAQ sheet for the revision question in late 2021 saying the council would need to fix the costs and compensation but doesn't mention those numbers, since they had not been officially determined at that point.

I think there was a concerted effort to keep the cost of the charter revision hidden from voters so that the revision proposal would have a better chance to pass.  Articles in local media before the vote fail to mention anything about costs and compensation in the MCP and the COLDNews, and even TV 9&10 and only positing proponent's views of the need for a charter.  

I don't like my media and local government actively withholding these important numbers away from the electorate.  It will be a hot mess because they recently contracted with a specialist charter attorney and that will need to be terminated, along with the nine mostly-lifetime bureaucrats on the CRC.

As for these clowns, with little discussion they voted unanimously to remove term limits of city councilors from the charter at the December 1 meeting.  How deaf can they be.  Councilor Cheri Stibitz's dad led the discussion and made the motion to make it so that his daughter could be Queen of the Fourth Ward for the rest of her days if she wants to.  Yeah, these guys are that blatant.  The husband of Councilor Kathy Winczewski (in her last term now) also voted for it.  Surprise, surprise.  Wake up people, these guys are, correction were, unilaterally trying to weaken your charter.

Congratulations X and to that close relative that wrote this article. I sure hope the citizens of Ludington get off their ignorant asses and stop voting these corrupt politicians into office. Something they do over and over again. And then these numbskull corrupt politicians continue to hire brain dead attorneys who help drain away tax money by defending the sleaze balls that run Ludington and their illegal policies. What a circle fest of idiocy that exists in Ludington's politics. The bully Barnett and his buddies are still in control after all these years. Round and round she goes. I would hate to see what dire straights Ludington would be in if X was not looking out for it's citizens. I also wonder what idiocy will be printed in the LDN about this. LDN, the NY Times of Ludington.

Freedom Seeker has brought up some very good questions about the the City representatives of the past and present as well as the committee's compensations.

Speaking of Barnett, he's gonna be ticked off when he gets wind of this.  The CRC met the day before our hearing date on Friday, and he was scheduled to officially resign so that he could serve as mayor.  All that work he did as chairman of the CRC this last year... All for naught because of that guy he once claimed was hiding under the bleachers throwing rocks at all the good people in Ludington.  

The next four years will be epic, and this close relative will continue to write about the battle of good versus the evil that is sure to muster and dwell at city hall.  Will David have a chance versus Goliath?  Stay tuned.

I wonder when the COLDNews will report this story, I gave it to them on Friday afternoon, even before I wrote my own scoop on it.  Seems like it would be big news that a vote on a May 2022 ballot issue was voided by the courts and a charter revision committee that had already been active seven months has to take its bat and ball and go home. 

It would have been a sure bet that it would have made the Saturday edition if my writ for quo warranto failed.

COL-LDN probably didn't authorize the story for the weekend edition. Sheer embarrassment? COL ThiNking of an appeal? Maybe also so they didn't spoil the changing-of-mayors party? Typical propaganda techniques by COL. If they don't acknowledge the Ruling or admit it maybe it will go poof.

At the last-minute tonight at the city council they called a closed session before the first public comment period, sending everyone out before they had a chance to speak.  According to the city attorney, they were discussing that lawsuit during that time under sections 8(e) and 8(h) of the OMA.  When they reconvened a half hour later, they took no action.

Whether that's good or bad, I don't know.  I do know the meeting slowly turned to maudlin as official business was subverted in importance to sentimentality over Mayor Miller's last meeting.  Incumbent Steve Miller got only 39% of the vote, losing to challenger Mark Barnett's 61%.  I was able to figure out why he lost so bad by the end of the night.  It's a quite common affliction among our ruling class.

Interesting. Does a closed session in that matter qualify under sections 8(e) and 8(h)?

Looking forward to your comments. And very interested in what is the common affliction? If I had to guess I'd say ....

You think that among those officials, including three attorneys supposedly-well-versed in municipal law you would get compliance with the Open Meetings Act when they have an anal-retentive parliamentarian like me in the peanut gallery.  Nope, the simple motion 4:35 into the meeting stated without amendment:

"I seek a motion from council to go into closed session, pursuant to sections 8(e) and (h) of the Open Meetings Act as the purpose of moving into this closed session, limiting discussion to specific pending litigation. Do I have a motion?"

8(h) requires the body to show that they have "material exempt from discussion or disclosure by state or federal statute" to deliberate over, they mentioned nothing before or after their motion. 

8(e) allows them to "consult with its attorney regarding trial or settlement strategy in connection with specific pending litigation".  They never mentioned my litigation as they should have, but in that case, there is no scheduled trial, nor is there any settlement as the judge has ruled for summary disposition in favor of the plaintiff's claims. 

This closed session was definitely illegal, but our city officials don't care anymore.  Their secondary motion allowed Mayor-elect Mark Barnett into the closed session without any plausible reason for his participation.


© 2024   Created by XLFD.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service