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Judge allows recall against Flint's mayor to proceed

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Today, a judge put a recall campaign against Flint’s mayor back on track.

Circuit Court Judge Geoffrey Neithercut says Genesee County election officials were correct when they approved language in a recall petition against Mayor Weaver.    

The petition language cites the mayor signing a contract to hire a new trash hauling company for the city of Flint in response to an 'emergency.' A court later issued an injunction blocking the city from hiring Rizzo Environmental. 

Rizzo was later linked to a federal corruption investigation of local governments in southeast Michigan. Rizzo has not been named as part of the investigation nor have charges been filed against Rizzo or its employees. Flint's old trash hauler, Republic, eventually won the new contract.  

Weaver's attorney tried to overturn the election board decision arguing that since a court ruling voided the contract the mayor signed to hire Rizzo, then the language in the recall petition was inaccurate, and therefore not legally valid.

But Judge Neithercut decided the language in the petition was correct, since Weaver did sign the document, whether the document itself was void or not.

The decision opens the door to recall supporters to begin collecting signatures to put a recall on the November ballot.

Mayor Weaver issued a short statement after the verdict, only saying “that she will continue to do the job the citizens of Flint elected her to do.”

Weaver was elected in November, 2015. Weaver’s attorney Kendall Williams says they are reviewing their legal options.  

Credit steve carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
“The way things are going right now I think we’ll have signatures in two weeks," says recall petition organizer Arthur Woodson

“There is always an opportunity to appeal to the Court of Appeals,” says Williams, but he added he needs to talk to his client first. Other Weaver administration officials left the courtroom without comment.

Recall supporters on the other hand had plenty to say. They embraced in the hallway after the verdict. 

Recall organizer Arthur Woodson admits time is short to collect the roughly 6,000 signatures needed to put a recall on the November ballot. But Woodson believes they can collect enough signatures in time.

“The way things are going right now I think we’ll have signatures in two weeks,” Woodson told reporters outside the courtroom, surrounded by his supporters, “We’re serious street soldiers.  We’re disciplined.  We know what it is that we need.”

Woodson also felt the need to apologize to Judge Neithercut.

Sunday, Woodson posted a message to his supporters on Facebook, urging them to contact the judge’s office. From the bench, the judge admonished those who did.  Neithercut also raised the potential of finding some of them in contempt of court for trying to influence his legal decision.

Woodson says his Facebook post was a “huge mistake.”

“It was my incompetence, my ignorance,” says Woodson, “If the judge arrests me for 10 days or five days, I would understand.”

For now, Woodson’s focus is on collecting signatures to oust Flint’s mayor.   They'll have 60 days to collect enough valid signatures to put the question on the ballot.   August 4th is the deadline to qualify for the November election.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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