TRAVERSE CITY — Northern Michigan is now home to another recall effort.
TCAPS Transparency received approval on its petition language to recall three Traverse City Area Public Schools Board of Education trustees Tuesday morning, just days after a local campaign submitted approximately 14,000 signatures to recall embattled Republican state representative Larry Inman.
Members of the election committee, at a hearing before Judge Melanie Stanton, voted 3-0 Tuesday to OK a submission of recall language against TCAPS President Sue Kelly, Treasurer Matt Anderson and Secretary Pam Forton.
Approval of the motion, brought forth by TCAPS Transparency co-founder Ian Ashton, is the first step cleared in the movement to overhaul the TCAPS board — a movement that began in the wake of the controversy surrounding former TCAPS Superintendent Ann Cardon’s resignation.
Ashton said he was “relieved and excited” to get the committee’s approval.
“I was so nervous this morning. You never know how something like that is going to go,” he said. “Having read the guidelines and rules for submitting a recall, consulting with about 10 other people and a lot of attorneys, we thought we had it right. So it was nice to have it confirmed and ... at least get past that first hurdle.”
The language states the reason for the recall is because the board members in question “voted for Superintendent Ann Cardon to start August 1, 2019, but then within 78 days of service [she or he] voted to terminate Ann Cardon’s employment with TCAPS on Oct 17, 2019, in a mutual separation agreement, costing the district and taxpayers $180,000 in severance pay.”
Kelly, Anderson and Forton now have 10 days to appeal the decision — a move Anderson confirmed Tuesday he will make.
Anderson is disappointed in the committee’s ruling and said the language of the recall petition is “not factual.”
“The approved language is false and misleading,” Anderson said. “I never voted to terminate the contract of Ann Cardon nor did the board of education ever terminate the contract of Ann Cardon. Those words are used right in the recall petition language.”
Cardon submitted her letter of resignation and signed the mutual separation agreement Oct. 15. Board trustees approved the agreement two days later at a special meeting. Language in the separation agreement states “the Superintendent and School District have decided to amicably terminate their relationship.”
“I respect our democracy. I respect the rules and laws that govern our democracy. People have the right to work within those bounds,” Anderson said. “I personally feel in my case that the reasons I’m being recalled ... are factually incorrect and false.”
Kelly, Forton and Anderson are not eligible to be recalled until Jan. 1, 2020. That would be the earliest TCAPS Transparency members could submit the necessary 11,633 signatures for each candidate to force a special election. The deadline to submit signatures is Jan. 31, 2020, in order for the election to be on the May 2020 ballot.
Recall efforts are given 60 days to collect signatures, but the state department often advises people to wait until the appeal process plays out before gathering any signatures.
The Michigan State Board of Canvassers has 40 days to rule on the appeal, which would give TCAPS Transparency members about 15 days to get the 11,633 signatures if the board takes that long.
Ashton said he is setting up an appointment with Grand Traverse County Clerk Bonnie Scheele to determine if they are able or if they should collect signatures before the appeal. Volunteers would have to begin Dec. 2 to have the full 60 days to gather signatures and submit their petition to the state Bureau of Elections for validation, a process that could take up to 35 days.
“I want to make sure we get our timelines right, because I believe we will be operating on a less than 60-day schedule, which means it’ll have to be a full-on sprint,” Ashton said. “There’s a lot of moving pieces here.”