TRAVERSE CITY — Embattled Mayor Michael Estes will face the public today to address his drunken driving arrest and his future as mayor.
Estes, 63, was arrested Oct. 23 on his way home from a candidate forum and charged with first-offense drunken driving. He was widely favored to win re-election to a third term on Nov. 5 prior to his arrest.
Estes last week told the Record-Eagle his first reaction was to resign and withdraw from his re-election bid. He later said he was encouraged by the positive reaction of friends and associates who asked him not to step down.
“I don’t know what his plans are ... but I think he should remain mayor,” said Commissioner Mary Ann Moore. “Whatever your opinion of him is, he’s worked very hard at being mayor.”
Estes scheduled his statement for 10 a.m. at the Governmental Center, 400 Boardman Ave. In a prepared release Estes said he will make a very brief statement and will not answer questions following his announcement.
The commission has one meeting remaining before the election and Moore, as mayor pro tem, arranged prior to Estes’ arrest to preside at the meeting because she is not seeking re-election. Should Estes resign today, Moore would become acting mayor. She doesn’t expect the city commission to fill the vacancy prior to the election.
Estes’ name will remain on the ballot. Should he win re-election he could take the seat or opt not to accept the position. But there’s a chance Estes’ political future may be out of his hands if he goes through with plans to plead guilty to the drunken driving charge.
State law may require Gov. Rick Snyder to remove Estes from office if any person presents him with proof of the conviction. Neither Snyder’s office nor Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office immediately responded to questions about the applicability of Public Act 116 of 1954.
The act states: “The governor shall remove all city officers chosen by the electors ... when the governor is satisfied from sufficient evidence submitted to the governor that the officer has been guilty of official misconduct, willful neglect of duty, extortion, or habitual drunkenness, or has been convicted of being drunk ... .”
Estes said he was not aware of the law and it does not affect his decision, which he declined to announce in advance.
“I will adhere to whatever the law says,” Estes said.
Should Estes be removed or opt to not accept the position as Mayor, the new city commission can either appoint a replacement, call for a special election, or appoint a temporary replacement until a special election is held.