ST. JOSEPH — An appeal of language contained in recall petitions seeking to force a special election in November with the aim removing New Buffalo City Council members John Humphrey and Brian Flanagan has been dismissed.
Berrien County Elections Administrator Sheila Reitz said on July 18 confirmed that the appeals were recently dismissed.
On May 12 Humphrey (who serves as mayor) and Flanagan filed a “Recall Election Petition Appeal of Clarity/Factual Review from May 3, 2022” in Berrien County Circuit Court.
Petition Language follows:
1) “At a meeting of the City of New Buffalo council on November 23, 2021, Mayor John Humphrey actually voted in favor of an ordinance to prohibit new short-term rentals in the R-1, R-2, and R-3 zoning districts.” – (This language also is used on the petition involving Flanagan).
In the appeal it is stated: “The petition implies that Short Term Rentals (STRs) in the City of New Buffalo have been a property right in the R-1, R-2, and R-3 zoning districts—and that I acted to withhold or defy that right—this is not factually accurate. The few STRs in those districts are a unique and limited property privilege that had come about due to the previous City Council allowing STRs to exist without a permit. By operating without a permit, STRs were in violation of local ordinances. What the petition language does not provide clarity on is that my vote was to enforce an existing ordinance, not create a new one as this language suggests.”)
2) “At a public meeting of the City of New Buffalo council on March 21, 2022, Mayor John Humphrey instructed a New Buffalo police officer to remove an individual while she was speaking during her allotted time at the session of the meeting reserved for public comment.” Humphrey’s response in the appearance includes the following: “I contest this decision on the basis that the statements do not provide “sufficient clarity” because they mislead the general public by providing partial facts without any context and are factually inaccurate.”
The Berrien County Election Committee during a May 3 factual and clarity hearing found that the petition’s language was “factual in nature and of sufficient clarity” which enabled the officers sought to be recalled to “identify the course of conduct that is the basis for the recall.” The commission thereby approved the petition for circulation.
During the July 18 New Buffalo City Council meeting, Humphrey said the recall appeal was not denied, it was dismissed due to a clerical error – the paperwork was not filled out correctly.
Michael Davis, who submitted the petition language with the county, said they continue to be circulated and are “very close to the 219 signatures needed.”
The deadline to put the issue on the Nov. 8 ballot is Aug. 5. The special election that would take place if the recall effort goes forward typically has those being recalled running against other candidates.