July 23, 2014 - It would have been deja vu for candidates interested in running for office in the City of the Village of Clarkston.
A notice on the city's website last week stated the filing deadline for candidates for the Nov. 4 election was July 24. The Clarkston News pointed out to city officials that the was incorrect.
The Clarkston City Charter states candidates must submit petitions by the first Tuesday after the first Monday in August. This year, that day falls on Aug. 5, also an election day.
Richard Bisio of Clarkston, former City Council member, said the same mistake happened in 2010 and 2011. After the second error, he contacted the Secretary of State Elections Divisions for clarification of election laws.
"There was an apparent conflict between state law and the City Charter. I asked for guidance from the Secretary of State Elections Division," Bisio said.
Clarkston Mayor and three City Council seats are up for grabs in the November election. In order to be included on the ballot, interested candidates must submit nominating petitions with at least 20 valid voter signatures by the deadline.
Every time the error has occurred, city officials said dates set by state law and the City Charter conflict. City Clerk Sandy Miller, like previous city officials, said staff decided to follow state law over city charter.
In 2010, election date misinformation caused confusion and frustration for council hopeful Becky Summerlee.
On Aug. 3, 2010, Summerlee thought she had a week to collect 20 signatures and submit them by an Aug.10 deadline.
Later that day, a council member told her the deadline to submit information was wrong and was instead due the same day.
Summerlee discovered the Aug. 10 date was accurate, but by then it was too late for her to run.
Dennis Ritter, city manager at the time, said officials misread state election deadlines.
"What happened is she (the clerk) saw 'village' in the 'Important Dates and Filing Deadlines' list from the Secretary of State's office," Ritter told The Clarkston News.
Ritter also said it was a simple mistake and assured it would not happen again, but it did just a year later.
In 2011, a public notice printed in the July 13 edition of The Clarkston News said nominating petitions were due Aug 16. Soon after, the deadline was changed to Aug. 2 to meet the City Charter date.
Lori Bourbonias of the Michigan Secretary of State Bureau of Elections said the Military Overseas Empowerment (MOVE) Act of 2010 changed filing dates for city office seats.
MOVE was created to ensure military members and overseas voters had enough time to cast their votes and be counted.
However, the law doesn't affect Clarkston because the city election is non-partisan, meaning no official political party is listed on the ballot. MOVE only impacts partisan municipalities, generally larger cities.
After the 2011 election, City Attorney Tom Ryan said the city was allowed to set petition filing deadlines earlier, but not later than the date set by state law.
State election officials concluded the city should follow the date set by City Charter.
After the 2011 debacle, Ritter said when state law and the City Charter conflict, the issue should be addressed by officials. However, no change have ever been made.
Clarkston City Manager Carol Eberhardt said the city charter dates take precedence.
Nominating petitions for city council and mayor positions are available at City Hall. Deadline for the petitions is 4 p.m. on Aug. 5.
For more information, contact City Clerk Sandy Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or call City Hall at 248-625-1559.
Staff writer covering Independence Township and Clarkston area.