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Sign of the times? Lack of signature on oath challenged

December 15, 2010 - Goodrich-During Monday night's village council meeting former councilmember David Lucik questioned a procedural issue regarding newly elected councilman Doug McAbee.

According to the Charter of Goodrich, a signature is required for the oath of office document within 10 days of the date the official is notified in writing of their election to office.

McAbee told the council and about 50 in attendance that he did receive the documentation required from Village Clerk Patricia Schierup; however, he failed to sign the form and return it to the village offices. The signatures on the oath, which is prescribed for public officers by the Michigan Constitution, is necessary to take the office, or in this case, the village council seat. If the oath is not signed, according to the section, the office is vacant unless the council by resolution extend the time in which the officer may sign.

"Horton and Morey signed the oath," said Lucik, who lost the Nov. 6 election gaining 311 votes. "McAbee did not."

"I've been on the council for several years and the rumor was that he did not sign the oath," he said.

"So I sent a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) to the village for the information regarding the oath. Right now I'm not sure if we can prove if my rights are violated. Also, (Village Attorney) Belzer should have possibly taken the case under advisement. Not sure if there is any recourse, we may call the (Michigan) attorney general or a judge."

Village Council President Patricia Wartella said someone from the village offices should have contacted McAbee.

"We had a lot of issues at that time," she said. "I recognize the fact (he did not sign that oath), I feel the village offices should have notified him."

Following the disclosure, Wartella called a recess halting the meeting for about 30 minutes while Schierup went upstairs and printed a copy of the oath document.

She returned and McAbee signed the form during the meeting.

"He did take the oath of office," said Jack Belzer, new village attorney who attended the meeting. "It just appears to be an administrative internal glitch. I don't see anything that deters him from being a councilmember. I'm confident with him (McAbee)—he did what he should do. When you take the oath of office, which he did—it's an internal administrative thing. It's not ideal."

Lucik did not agree.

"Time will tell," he said.

Attorney Catherine Mullhaupt, director of member information for the Michigan Township Association, said it appears the newly elected council person did not follow the rules.

"It's only my opinion, but whether he signed the oath (document) would not matter," she said. "He's beginning a new term of office, the clerk or the council should have been sure all the paperwork was in place. This does not trump state law—the oath was taken—the signing of the document was administrative. There's no harm, thus no foul. He's a newbie, cut him some slack. It's simply certification of the oath, which did occur in public. The oath document is a paper trail—barring any unseen aspect of the case he is on the council."

Genesee County Elections Supervisor Doreen D. Fulcher reviewed the document presented by Lucik at the meeting.

"It's a village charter that appears to be violated—not a state law. The question is up to the village clerk to understand these rules."

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