Recall language against school board member rejected
WEST BRANCH — Recall language filed against West Branch-Rose City school board member Mike Eagan was rejected Aug. 6 by the Ogemaw County Election Commission, which determined it was not factual or of sufficient clarity.
The language was filed July 26 by John Janczewski of Cumming Township, who claimed Eagan supported a child molester when he sat with Neal Erickson’s family at Erickson’s sentencing July 10. Erickson, a former teacher in the district, was sentenced to 15-30 years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
John Janczewski is the father of the victim, who was a student when the crime occurred.
The members of the election commission, Ogemaw County Clerk Gary Klacking, Treasurer Dwight McIntyre and Probate Court Judge Shana Lambourn, all rejected the language.
John Janczewski gave five reasons for recalling Eagan in his language.
“1. Public official in court sat on Erickson’s side and supported a child molaster (sic),” the language states. “2. Public official showed no remorse to the victim’s family or ever mentioned the victim. 3. Public official supported Erickson by sitting with the teachers that wrote the judge leincy (sic) letters including his wife, even knowingly (sic) he was guilty. 4. Mike Eagan knew Erickson was guilty and still supported a child molaster (sic). 5. Mike Eagan being a retired teacher from WB-RC schools and a public official on the school board because or (sic) his positions and being in the public’s eye as a (sic) educator + school board member, knowling (sic) supported a guilty child molaster (sic).”
All three commissioners challenged the factuality of the statements, as well as their clarity.
“I believe all five statements are not factual,” McIntyre said. “They’re more of an opinion than factual. And there are too many spelling and punctuation errors for this to go on the ballot.”
Klacking went through each statement one by one. He said it needs to be clear when the issue goes on the ballot who the language is speaking about. Addressing Erickson only by his last name is not clear, he said, as well as referring to Eagan only as a public official.
Klacking also challenged the factuality of the statement that because Eagan sat on the side of Erickson’s family, he was supporting a child molester.
“He sat on that side, but it’s rather opinion or it’s rather subjective,” Klacking said. “If you would have stopped after the words ‘a public official sat on Erickson’s side, period,’ that, in my opinion, would be factual. Because aside from what Mr. Eagan says, we can’t really get inside of his mind to know what he’s thinking. I know you have your opinion and you’re entitled to that.”
Klacking said that because of the length of the language, it was unclear.
“Brevity is the key,” he said. “It’s better to be short and clear than running it out.”
Lambourn agreed that the language did not meet the requirements.
“I find it is not of sufficient clarity and the petition is not completely factual, because parts of the statement are based upon opinion,” she said. “Based upon the decision of all of the commission, we do find that it’s not completely factual, and it’s not of sufficient clarity at this time.”
Lambourn said John Janczewski could appeal the decision, and could also resubmit language in an attempt to recall Eagan.
John Janczewski and his wife, Lori, were both visibly upset following the decision.
When told by Klacking that they could re-file language at any time, Lori Janczewski responded, “We’ll just have our lawyer do it.”
The Janczewskis told the Herald following the hearing that they were upset with the outcome. John Janczewski said he didn’t feel Klacking was clear enough with what he needed to file, and said he was “embarrassed” in the hearing.
Klacking said after the hearing that he is not allowed to give advice on the language of the recall.
“I cannot give anybody advice on how to write that,” he said. “He asked me a couple of times. I cannot do that.”