HOLLY, Michigan – Having taken the advice offered by Holly Township officials in April, Holly resident George Kullis assembled a citizens’ petition and gathered what he thought was the required amount of signatures. In doing so, it was Kullis’ hope that the Holly Township Board of Trustees would consider creating a November ballot proposal that would allow voters to weigh in on whether the board should remain at five members, or increase to seven.
On April 18, township officials discussed the matter, and in a vote of 3-2, rejected the idea. At the time, Clerk Karin Winchester explained that the township had been required to place it on the November 2008 ballot after the township reached a certain amount of registered voters.
Treasurer Mark Freeman agreed, saying that the voters had already spoken to the issue four years ago, having turned it down by a margin of just 23 votes. “Now to put it on again, it should be, in my opinion, a citizens’ petition because the voters already voted on it, and they voted it down,” he said at the April meeting.
Kullis said he is in favor of expanding the board to seven based on the fact that currently, administrative positions held at the township equate to the majority vote of the board, and that having three board members occupy the same office space can potentially cause Open Meetings Act violations. “The three wage-earners in that office make up the majority of the vote – it’s kind of like making the fox in charge of the hen house,” Kullis said.
Days after the April meeting, Kullis said he spoke with Winchester, asking her how many signatures would be necessary on the petition in order for the board to reconsider.
“She told me I needed 10 signatures,” Kullis said. “I told her we had that many people sitting in the room that night of the meeting – 10 signatures sounded like a ridiculously low number, but she said there aren’t really any guidelines to follow, and said that it just had to come from the people.”
“I never would have said he needed just 10 signatures,” Winchester said Thursday. “I said he would probably need 10 percent of the number of people who voted during the last election – not 10 people – he must have misunderstood me.”
Over the course of two hours, Kullis gathered 13 signatures, and promptly returned the petition to Winchester.
“She looked at it and thanked me for submitting it,” Kullis said. “That would have been the time for her to say that I had misunderstood what she said,” he added. “Not a month later during the meeting.”
Repeated follow-up phone calls to Winchester for additional comment went unreturned.
“Ms. Winchester’s job is to help serve the public,” Kullis said. “If there was a problem, she should have brought it up then and helped me with it.”
During the meeting, board members discussed how many signatures should be required, eventually settling on 590 – that is, 10 percent of the 5,950 registered voters who voted in the last election.
As for whether or not Kullis can spearhead an effort to gather the nearly 600 required signatures by the township’s next meeting in July remains to be seen.
“I don’t know if time will allow it with the Fourth of July holiday coming up,” Kullis said. “It would probably take a few days of gathering signatures at the supermarket or what have you – I just don’t know if I have the time to do it,” he added. “This whole ‘misunderstanding’ just cost me another month.”