(New Buffalo, MI) - An effort to recall two elected officials in New Buffalo for supporting restrictions on short-term rentals has failed, at least for now.
The Berrien County Clerk's Office has ruled there were not enough valid signatures to trigger a recall vote in November.
Two hundred ninety-four (294) in favor of recalling Mayor John Humphrey and two hundred seventy-one (271) signatures in support of recalling City Councilman Brian Flanagan were obtained on petitions seeking their ouster halfway through their four-year terms.
The signatures were submitted to the clerk's office on August 5. However, more than 80 of the signatures could not be verified.
Two hundred nineteen (219) verified signatures from people registered to vote in the city are required for a recall election to be called.
Local realtor Carie O'Donnell, who helped collect most of the signatures, said efforts are underway to challenge the decision.
O'Donnell said the reasons for throwing out the signatures included signatures from people not matching their signatures on file and people not being registered to vote in the city. She said several people who signed the petitions have already agreed to give written testimony on affidavits that the signatures belong to them.
O'Donnell hopes to have enough of the thrown-out signatures overturned as quickly as possible for a recall election to be scheduled for Humphrey and Flanagan.
"We'll see what happens in the next couple of days," O'Donnell said.
If enough thrown-out signatures are later ruled valid, Humphrey said he would exercise his right to investigate all of the signatures on the petitions and dispute any signatures he believes are not eligible.
Humphrey was not surprised by the difficulties in obtaining enough valid signatures. He said he and Flanagan were elected in 2020 by about a two-to-one margin after promising to impose restrictions on short-term rentals.
Humphrey feels supporters of a recall still don't outnumber the majority even after the opposition's recent distribution of what he called "propaganda" and "false information" to try and turn residents against them.
“I think it’s a very narrow set of people with one goal in mind, and that is the proliferation of short-term rentals in the city of New Buffalo. The petition circulators, the majority of them, were people who are currently suing the city over the short-term rental issue,” Humphrey said.