Sunday, February 5, 2023

Belvidere Township supervisor and clerk resign

Board votes to pay supervisor $4,000 in exchange for his resignation

“I have not done anything wrong, but I with a clear conscience cannot let the anti group do this to the township,” said Belvidere Township Supervisor John Anderson as he unexpectedly announced his resignation on Wednesday morning. In return for his resignation, the township board voted 3-1 to pay him $4,216 as his salary through May 2, which is when a recall election was slated to take place against Anderson. His resignation effectively cancels the recall. Anderson has served as a township official for 10 years. — DN Photo | Elisabeth Waldon

BELVIDERE TOWNSHIP — The first meeting of the new year was also the last for Belvidere Township’s longtime supervisor and clerk.

Supervisor John Anderson and Clerk Sheila Smith both unexpectedly announced their resignations during Wednesday morning’s meeting.

The resignation of Anderson, who has served for the township for 10 years, makes a planned recall effort against him moot, which was scheduled for May.

“When I first was notified about the recall, I was upset since the person who filed the paperwork (township resident Judith Spring) didn’t even know me,” said Anderson as he announced his resignation. “Then I discovered who was actually behind the recall, which then made more sense.”

Anderson confirmed with the Daily News after the meeting that he was referring to newly elected Trustee Tarin Minkel.

Belvidere Township Treasurer Forrest Herzog, left, and newly elected Trustee Tarin Minkel are two of three members remaining on the Belvidere Township Board after the supervisor and clerk both unexpectedly resigned on Wednesday morning. — DN Photo | Elisabeth Waldon

In response, Minkel told the Daily News, “I am not Judith and if I was behind the recall, my name would have been on the form. Any township resident has the right to file a recall petition. Judith is a resident who used her voice as she can and she shouldn’t be diminished for it.”

“My first response was fight,” continued Anderson in announcing his resignation. “My second response as a believer was to pray about it and let the Lord guide me to see what direction he would give me on this journey. I believe he has given me an answer which will be in the best interest of Belvidere Township and all parties involved.”

Anderson then made a motion that he would resign if the township board would agree to compensate him for his salary through May 2 (which is when the recall election was scheduled) for a total of $4,216.

“Instead of a contentious time up to the recall election, I am purposing a solution for a quick resolution to the situation,” Anderson said. “That way the township will not have to pay for a special recall election that will most likely cost more than $5,000 when done. I also want to say that I have not done anything wrong, but I with a clear conscience cannot let the anti group do this to the township. I have enjoyed serving the people of Belvidere Township and always considered it an honor to help solve problems our residents have had whenever possible. I have done my job the way God has directed me to.”

Smith said she believes a recall election would cost closer to $10,000. She said the election on its own would cost around $3,500, but she also cited a new early voting law which she said might require three election inspectors to be at the township hall for eight hours per day for nine days leading up to the election which would cost another $2,808 (at $15 and $12 per hour for the three inspectors).

Smith added that the township board also put something into effect for Smith’s non-statutory duties, meaning she would get paid an additional estimated $3,000 to handle the recall (election work and early voting work are statutory duties for clerks, but Smith told the Daily News after the meeting that she is to be paid extra according to the voting rights ballot proposal 18-3 from the 2018 election).

“So $9,300, basically,” Minkel summarized during the meeting.

“I want to say thank you for proposing that decision, especially looking at the cost,” Minkel told Anderson.

“Well, I will tell you this is not where I started, but when I gave it over to the Lord, this is my direction,” Anderson told her. “And I’m at peace with it, I am comfortable.”

The board voted 3-1 to approve Anderson’s motion to pay him in exchange for his resignation, with Minkel, Treasurer Forrest Herzog and Trustee Andrew Reynolds voting “yes” and Smith voting “no.”

The Daily News asked Montcalm County Clerk Kristen Millard to help clarify the cost of a recall election. Millard said she estimates May’s now-canceled election would cost about $5,000, “and that’s estimating on the way high end,” she said.

Millard said to her knowledge, the new early voting law is only for state and federal elections, and as the Michigan Bureau of Elections hasn’t provided any guidance yet, Millard doesn’t think townships have to worry about it anytime soon.

CLERK RESIGNS

After Anderson’s unexpected announcement, Smith had some news of her own.

Belvidere Township Clerk Sheila Smith unexpectedly announced her resignation on Wednesday morning. Smith has served as a township official for more than 30 years. Listening at left is Trustee Andrew Reynolds. — DN Photo | Elisabeth Waldon

“Given the changes that occurred in the last year in my family with the passing of my brother, it is with a heavy heart that I am tendering my resignation as Belvidere Township clerk,” she said. “I would like to thank Belvidere Township residents for all the support they have given me over the years.”

Smith has been clerk for the last 27 years and served on the township’s Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals for four years for a total of more than 30 years of service.

“I have tried my best to get you into a position where you’re all set with things through May,” Smith told her fellow township board members. “I’m not leaving you in the lurch.”

Smith cautioned her colleagues that they will need to create a budget and hold a budget hearing, prepare for an audit in May, monitor her township cell phone, handle township hall rentals and schedule a Planning Commission meeting for a special land use request regarding the old VFW building. The township board will also be revisiting its failed solar energy ordinance. The board voted earlier during Wednesday’s meeting to send the Flat River natural rivers overlay district portion of the ordinance — which failed as part of the failed solar ordinance in last November’s referendum — back to the Planning Commission for a public hearing.

Smith also noted whoever the new clerk is, they will need to undergo training in order to handle the township’s qualified voter file (QVF).

“I am available to help, but I am not going to be free,” she said. “You will have to pay me for consulting if you so choose.”

Smith said her husband Mike will also be resigning as the township’s deputy clerk and maintenance man.

“We’re going to start doing some things for ourselves,” she declared.

Belvidere Township Clerk Sheila Smith, center, and Supervisor John Anderson, right, both unexpectedly announced their resignations on Wednesday morning. Listening at left is Trustee Andrew Reynolds. — DN Photo | Elisabeth Waldon

The remaining three township board members have 45 days to appoint a new supervisor and clerk. Armon Withey previously filed to run as supervisor against Anderson in May’s now-canceled recall.

Herzog, Minkel and Reynolds voted to hold a special meeting at 2 p.m. Thursday (today) to figure out how to move forward.

Losing Sheila as a township clerk is a loss that will be felt throughout the county,” Millard told the Daily News. “She was always up to speed on new laws and requirements, was one of the first to take any required election related training and would share her knowledge with other local clerks, was very knowledgeable of the QVF and electronic pollbooks, was very familiar with the voting equipment and how it worked, was always one of the first to preliminary test the equipment, ballots and programming, always offered to help other clerks in every aspect of their jobs and always went above and beyond what was required of her. I have relied on Sheila to help her fellow clerks for many, many years and appreciate her in so many ways. I will most certainly feel her absence.”

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