November 21, 2018

Judge determines Rice’s removal from office invalid

Posted

ARENAC TWP. — Twenty-third Circuit Court Judge Kathryn Root released a court order stipulating that Debra Rice is still the township treasurer and that Arenac Township is not to hold an election for the office in 2018.

Late last year the township board acted on recommendations from its attorney and vacated its treasurer position during a special meeting Sept. 28, 2017, because Rice had allegedly moved to Bay County.

During the meeting, Township Supervisor Tim Hagley said it was brought to his attention that Rice and her husband were living in Linwood and had their house in Arenac Township torn down. He said he researched the issue at the Bay County Register of Deeds office and discovered Rice and her husband Glen had a primary residence exemption on their property tax on a property in Fraser Township in Bay County.

Citing Michigan Compiled Law 168.368, Hagley said the position had to be vacated.

“It’s state law. You do not reside here,” he said, addressing Rice. “There is a supervisor in Sims Township being prosecuted for the same issue.”

Hagley was referring to former Sims Township Supervisor Robert Quackenbush, who had been charged with election law violations for allegedly voting in Sims Township while having a primary residence exemption on a home in Saginaw County.

Rice and her husband Glen argued against the allegations, saying they still lived in the township and the information Hagley was operating off was bad.

Root approved a motion for preliminary injunction and issued several orders including that the township not hold an election for the seat because it has not been determined vacant.

“(The) applicant has prevailed on the issue that the township lacked authority to declare a vacancy without seeking the application to the attorney general for a quo warranto,” the order reads.

Rice was an elected official in the township and her term isn’t scheduled to expire until November 2020.

According to County Clerk Rick Rockwell, because of timing of the order, primary ballots have already been collected by the township which have the name of Heather Bauman, who had been acting as treasurer following an appointment by the board.

Rockwell said he is waiting on information from the state’s election board but believes the matter will work itself out because according to the judge the seat is not up for election.

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