COMMISSIONERS CINDY GARBER (R-Dist. 6), Jeremy Root (R-Dist. 5 and former chair) and John Plowman (R-Dist. 7) are shown in a March 2020 meeting.
Districts 5, 6 and 7 are primarily in the southern half of Shiawassee County. District 5 includes a southern part of Caledonia Township and all of Shiawassee, Antrim and Burns Townships. District 6 includes all of Bennington and Sciota Townships and a southern piece of Owosso Township. District 7 includes Woodhull and Perry Townships. Each district has roughly between 10,000 to 10,300 residents.
(Independent File Photo/Graham Sturgeon)
Several Shiawassee County residents have formed a recall committee toward removing Shiawassee County Commissioners Jeremy Root (R-Dist. 5), Cindy Garber (R-Dist. 6) and John Plowman (R-Dist. 7). After submitting the recall petition language, the elected official identified in that language will be notified. A public hearing will then be held before Probate Judge Thomas Dignan, Treasurer Julie Sorenson and Clerk Caroline Wilson to decide if the petition language is acceptable. From there, if the language is acceptable, the petitioner can begin the process of collecting signatures.
Any signatures submitted from a recall petition can’t be more than 60 days old – from start to finish. A minimum of 25-percent or more of registered voters within a district that participated in the last gubernatorial election must sign the recall petition in the allotted timeframe. If a petitioner manages to acquire the needed number of signatures from each district, those signatures have to be verified by the county clerk in order for the recall process to move forward.
Once the clerk has verified all of the signatures, any of the identified commissioners would have 10 days to resign. If they decide not to resign, their name is put on a ballot with any other possible party candidates – Republican and Democrat – for the recall election.
In discussing the recall committee, Anthony Karhoff of Bancroft, often in attendance at county meetings, reiterated that it is his goal, along with other committee members/supporters, to see that Root, Garber and Plowman either resign their positions or “step aside to let the county move forward.”
“Government should always be monitored,” offered Karhoff, talking about the commissioners. “They took advantage of this and it’s not right. A true leader will take care of the workers and volunteers first, before he takes anything for reimbursement.”
The recall committee has organized in response to the problematic July 15 hazard pay vote, where $557,000 of federal relief funds (ARPA) were disbursed with a large sum going to elected officials – the commissioners. Root received $25,000. Commissioners John Plowman (R-Dist. 7) and Brandon Marks (R-Dist. 4) received $10,000 each. The remaining commissioners including Garber, Marlene Webster (R-Dist. 1), Gary Holzhausen (R-Dist. 3) and Greg Brodeur (R-Dist. 2) received $5,000 each, under a questionable closed-meeting discussion followed by the vote. Brodeur was excused from the meeting so he was not a part of the decision. Webster has stated she did not know she was voting money for herself – and was the first to red flag the situation via social media – drawing an immediate response that quickly escalated through the county constituency and numerous news sources.
On Monday, July 26, Circuit Court Judge Mark Latchana of Genesee County, ordered a freeze on the hazard pay, granting a preliminary injunction to pull payments back from the commissioners until the commissioner meeting on Thursday, Aug. 12. An order of repayment was sent to the county on that day.
Shiawassee County Coordinator Dr. Brian Boggs has shared via email that all “elected officials turned theirs in several weeks ago. Employees were not asked to turn theirs in until the court order made clear the amounts, which was last week. They have since been turning them in.”
Matthew Shepard of Perry, a recall committee participant, emphasized he believes the “good old boys system is obviously well intact.” Shepard mentioned grievance letters that have been submitted to the county regarding the Veterans Affairs Committee and his frustration regarding some commissioners disrespecting those grievances in open meetings, along with other open meetings issues. Shepard is working to recall Plowman – alleging Plowman’s involvement in the July 15 vote – and believing Plowman has been behind considerable “wasteful spending.” Plowman has been involved with the board of commissioners for 18 years.
“They’ve stolen and misappropriated enough,” said Shepard. He mentioned a wooden plaque in commissioner chambers in the Surbeck Building (see photo on page 1). “The plaque says ‘In God We Trust,’ because we don’t trust them,” he offered about the commissioners.