Flint, MI — A Flint resident submitted recall language against City Councilwoman Judy Priestley on May 23, 2023, citing that she was “failing to work effectively with her colleagues.”

Adam Ford, who filed the language, told Flint Beat he thinks every city council member should be recalled, but he’s just doing his part as a resident of the fourth ward, which Priestley represents.

“[They] don’t really work well together, and I think they all deserve blame for it,” he said.

Ford added that he’s especially upset about Priestley because he’d asked her to investigate John Cole, a Flint man who has been charged with multiple sex crimes.

“She didn’t really seem like she wanted to look into it,” he said.

While Ford’s language against Priestley has been submitted, multiple steps remain in the recall process.

How the recall process works

The process for a recall involves a hearing, gathering signatures and a ballot item in either a May or November election, according to state law.

Now that the recall language against Priestley has been submitted, Genesee County Clerk Domonique Clemons said the next step is a hearing with the election commission.

That hearing is set for 8 a.m. on June 8 in Judge Jennie E. Barkey’s courtroom at the Genesee County Probate Court.

The election commission is made up of Barkey, Clemons and County Treasurer Deb Cherry, who collectively have to determine whether the information in the recall language is factual.

If the recall language is not factual or has spelling errors, then the recall is denied.

“A lot of times people, when they fill out the recall language, really get into providing a narrative . . . they think they need to provide all this information; this person is not good for the community, and they’re not being effective and they’re a bad leader,” Clemons said. “Those aren’t facts. Those are statements of opinion.”

Whether the recall language is approved or denied, the elected official or the person who filed for the recall can appeal the election commission’s ruling within 10 days.

If the recall language is deemed factual and without spelling errors, and no appeals are filed in the 10 day window after approval, the recall petition moves forward to the next step: gathering signatures to get it on the next eligible ballot.

In a city council recall, the number of signatures required to trigger a recall election is 25% of the votes cast in the council member’s district for all candidates for the office of Governor in the last gubernatorial election.

Since the recall petition for Priestley has not yet had a hearing, Clemons said he’s not sure of the number of signatures needed, but he estimated it may land somewhere between 400 to 700.

All signatures must be provided within 180 days of the approval of the recall petition language, Clemons said, but Michigan law states that signatures are no longer valid after 60 days.

So, though signature gatherers have 180 days to submit signatures, the required amount of signatures have to be from the previous 60 days before filing.

Once the signatures are turned in, Flint’s city clerk and Clemons will go through each of the signatures, checking that names match the addresses of each resident’s voter registration and that the signee lives in the area of interest for the recall.

For Priestley’s potential recall, that means signatures must come from residents living in Flint’s fourth ward, should the petition language be approved on June 8.

Once the clerk determines that there are enough signatures, candidates who wish to run for the petitioned official’s remaining term can begin filing to run.

The law automatically places the official subject to the recall on the ballot, too, unless they choose to withdraw their name.

“The great thing about American democracy is that anybody can get elected to office, Clemons said. “The really bad thing about American democracy is that anybody can get elected to office—and that means some really not good people can get elected. But we have a system that allows the voters to remove folks that are bad actors.”

Priestley declined to comment on the recall language against her.

Sophia is Flint Beat's City Hall reporter. She joins the team after previously reporting for the Livingston Daily and the Lansing State Journal, along with some freelance work with The New York Times....

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