TRAVERSE CITY — Two members of the Traverse City Area Public Schools Board of Trustees say the language of recall petitions filed against them is not clear and not factual.
Board Treasurer Matt R. Anderson and Secretary Pamela G. Forton filed appeals against the Grand Traverse County Election Commission, which approved the petition language in November.
The appeals were filed Friday in 13th Circuit Court. The court has 40 days to set an appeals hearing, and no petition signatures can be collected during the appeal period.
Both appeals say that Anderson and Forton never voted to terminate former TCAPS Superintendent Ann Cardon’s contract, but instead, at a special meeting held Oct. 28 authorized Board President Sue Kelly to sign a separation agreement with Cardon.
In addition, Anderson’s appeal, written by attorney Gregory M. Luyt, makes the claim that the petition filed against Anderson violates state law because it was filed before he completed a year in office. That term began Jan. 1.
Anderson and Forton’s terms both expire in December 2022.
“To say anything in the recall petition other than the fact that Cardon resigned and signed a mutual separation agreement is totally unclear to the people and I believe it is unfair to me as a public official,” Anderson said.
“I voted to authorize Sue (Kelly) to sign a mutual separation agreement on behalf of the board,” Anderson said. “That’s far different than voting to terminate someone, which never happened.”
Forton, who wrote her own appeal, did not return a call to the Record-Eagle.
Kelly is also being recalled, but the language in her petition was erroneously filed in Grand Traverse County rather than Leelanau County, where she lives. It was filed in Leelanau on Thursday and a hearing to approve it is set for Dec. 18. If approved, Kelly will have 10 days to appeal.
Kelly said she will speak at that hearing. If she does not agree with the Leelanau County Election Board’s decision she will also appeal, she said.
“At no time did anyone terminate (Cardon),” Kelly said. “She resigned. We can’t stop someone from resigning.”
TCAPS Transparency formed as a result of the “Ann Cardon outcry,” said Ian Ashton, co-founder of the group that is working on recalling the three school board members.
“It’s disappointing that we have yet another delay, but it is a part of the process,” Ashton said. “It’s unfortunate that we have to wait, but this is going to happen.”
The group had been looking at holding the recall election in May, but is now targeting November, Ashton said. A total of 11,633 signatures is needed per candidate.
A copy of the minutes from the Oct. 28 special meeting submitted with both appeals states Anderson and Forton approved a motion “... to authorize the Board President to sign a mutual agreement with the superintendent on behalf of the TCAPS Board of Education.”
A letter from Cardon that was entered into the record at that meeting states, “It is with disappointment that I tender my resignation and all employment with TCAPS effective immediately.”
Language in the separation agreement states “the Superintendent and School District have decided to amicably terminate their relationship.”
Cardon was given $180,000 in severance pay.
Forton’s appeal states that the Election Commission must determine whether the stated reason for their recall is factual. “The clear, irrefutable record demonstrates that it is not,” it states.
The recall petition creates a “grave and unacceptable risk of misleading voters ... “ according to Forton’s appeal.
Anderson’s appeal states that if any reason for the recall is not factual or clear, the entire recall petition must be rejected.
“There’s a lot of misinformation and innuendo going around,” Anderson said. “We need to look at the facts.”
Cardon left the district Oct. 17 after 78 days on the job, with neither she or the district offering up any reason for her departure.
The move drew public outcry, with people pouring into board meetings to share their anger and frustration at what they said was a lack of transparency from those appointed to serve Traverse City students.
The district has denied a Freedom of Information Act request from the Record-Eagle for a six-page letter apparently authored by Kelly that details complaints made against Cardon.