There are three, two-year terms for city council up for grabs in the November 2021 election. Gary Casey is running for his own seat, Ed Bonser decided not to run again, and Jason Kniesc resigned with no notice at the beginning of August. Because of the timing of Kniesc’s resignation, anyone interested in running to replace him for a two-year term would have missed the deadline to get on the ballot and be left with no choice but to run as a write-in candidate.
We will have at least three write-in candidates this time. (I say “at least” because the deadline to run as a write-in candidate hasn’t yet expired.) Two of the write-ins are being pushed by Mayor Haven, and he has been quite the busy little bee – sending letters to the editor; snail mailing paper letters to some of his constituents, formally signed as the mayor (because he’s apparently only “mayor” to some people but not others); invading our personal email boxes by glomming onto the city manager’s weekly newsletter and writing incoherently about rules; and likely holding clandestine meetings at his house to plan ways to get his preferred candidates elected to city council.
Before I get to the write-in candidates, I want to say a word about Haven’s use of taxpayer-funded vehicles to boost his preferred city council candidates. Both write-in candidates’ biographical letters borrow key words, phrases, and concepts that track the letter that Haven asked the city manager to attach to the weekly city manager’s email (as well as an additional letter that I’ll discuss in the next paragraph). Haven’s emailed letter was presumably intended to provide implicit support to the candidate letters that were being distributed throughout the community at the same time. The city manager’s email was sent through our taxpayer-funded government email system.
Haven prepared a separate letter that he addressed “Dear Absentee Voter.” This letter was expressly written to support Haven’s preferred candidates, and included biographies of the two write-in candidates, a sample ballot, and instructions regarding how to properly vote for a write-in candidate. This letter was signed “Eric Haven, Mayor, City of the Village of Clarkston Michigan” and included Haven’s government email address and government telephone number (along with his personal email address and telephone number). In other words, Haven is using his taxpayer-funded office email and his taxpayer-funded office phone to campaign for specific candidates. This is necessarily true because the letter only discussed the campaigns of his preferred city council candidates and, in this context, he was inviting recipients to use his taxpayer-funded telephone and email address in furtherance of the campaigns.
I’ve linked to a publication from the Michigan Municipal League that discusses proper versus improper campaign conduct by government officials. It expressly says public officials cannot use a public office telephone or email to campaign “or advertise it as a way of contacting the public official for campaign purposes.” You’ll note that the publication also includes a discussion about fines and the possibility of jail time for public officials who violate the law. That publication is linked here.
Moving on to the write-in candidates who’ve been very busy as well.
But are these write-in candidates qualified to be on the ballot? Let’s take a look at that.
Write-In Candidate #1, Bruce Fuller
Bruce Fuller claims to have lived here for thirty-three years and still doesn’t realize that he lives in the City of the Village of Clarkston. When asking for a temporary appointment to the city council to fill Kniesc’s spot until the election, he referred to our legislative body as the “Clarkston Village Council,” and in the materials he’s passing around town, he refers to it as “the Village council.” This is consistent with Haven’s moronic (and factually and legally incorrect) slogan – “We Became a City to Remain a Village.” Frankly, I think that it’s important that someone actually know which government position he’s running for (and what city he lives in) before he asks people to vote for him. And, like Haven, this candidate doesn’t live in the historic district, so it’s a safe bet that he won’t give a damn if you have to go to court over your choice of porch.
While the foregoing might affect your decision to vote for Fuller, that doesn’t rise to disqualification. But Fuller’s Write-In Candidate Declaration of Intent form might. Fuller did not affirm that he is registered and qualified to vote at the address he’s listed on the form (the circle next to this affirmation was left blank). I’m not sure why the Clerk accepted an incomplete form, but she did. I’ve linked to a copy of the form that the Clerk provided to me on October 6, 2021 in response to my FOIA request here: Bruce Fuller Write-In Candidate Form.
Section 4.3 the Clarkston Charter (linked at the end of this post) requires that a person be registered to vote in the city and be a resident of the city for one year immediately prior to the election at which he or she is a candidate for office. If Fuller is able to properly affirm that he is registered and qualified to vote at the address he’s listed, then he needs to file an updated form to support his eligibility to be a candidate for city council.
Write-In Candidate #2, Laura Rodgers
Haven’s second choice, Laura Rodgers, claims to have lived in the City of the Village of Clarkston for three years. (I refer to her as Haven’s second choice because he didn’t nominate her for consideration for the temporary replacement for Kniesc.) Based on the statements that Rodgers has made on her personal blog, “Life on Main Street,” she purchased her historical home on Main Street in September 2018. After reading her blog posts, it’s clear that she apparently believes that the Clarkston Historical Society was involved in approving her renovation plans – as opposed to the Historic District Commission. Geez, don’t you think if you’re running for city council, you might want to understand the distinction? The Clarkston Community Historical Society preserves local history and collects and displays artifacts in the local library. The Historic District Commission is a separate public body that can issue stop work orders, force you to court, and require that you incur endless legal fees just because they don’t like your windows. Huge difference.
But, more importantly, and dispositive for being qualified to have a place on the November ballot, has Rodgers really lived here since September 2018?
The September 21, 2020 entry of Rodger’s blog (pdf link here 20200921 – Laura Rodgers – Blog post; web link here: And so it begins… (lifeonmainst.com) states that she and her husband packed up their possessions for storage and moved in with her daughter and son-in-law for the duration of the extensive renovations they’d planned at their Main Street home. Her last blog post on August 18, 2021 (pdf link here: 20210818 – Laura Rodgers – Blog post; web link here: A house is made with walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams. Ralph Waldo Emerson (lifeonmainst.com) stated that she and her husband were still waiting for the house to be completed and she didn’t think it would even be finished by this September, thirteen months after she moved out. Recent casual observations of her property suggest that she’s still not living in the home.
Rodger’s Write-In Candidate Declaration of Intent form lists her residence address on Main Street, but she didn’t check the box affirming that she was registered and qualified to vote at that address. This form was signed under oath, and she swore these statements were true. Once again, I’m not sure why the Clerk accepted an incomplete form, but she did. The form that I’ve linked here is the form that the Clerk provided to me on October 6, 2021 in response to my FOIA request: Laura Rodgers Write In Candidate Form.
So, is Haven’s second-choice candidate even eligible to be a candidate for city council? Once again, section 4.3 the Clarkston Charter (linked at the end of this post) requires that a person be registered to vote in the city and be a resident of the city for one year immediately prior to the election at which he or she is a candidate for office. MCL 168.11(1) of Michigan Election Law (linked at the end of this post) defines a “residence” for registration and voting purposes to mean that place at which a person habitually sleeps, keeps his or her personal effects, and has a regular place of lodging. If a person has more than one residence, then the place where s/he spends most of the time is the official residence for purposes of the law.
If being a “resident” of the city merely means having a City of the Village of Clarkston address that you don’t live at, then I guess that I can rent my basement out to someone in Wyandotte for $1 a month so that they can run for city council in Clarkston. That scenario sounds ridiculous – because it is. Unless Rodgers can prove that her daughter and son-in-law live within the city limits of the City of the Village of Clarkston, she appears to be ineligible to run for city council this election season because she has not been physically living here as a resident for the past year. MCL 168.11(1) seems to indicate that she can’t even vote here this November.
I hope that Haven and both write-in candidates immediately clear this up. This will avoid legal fees for taxpayers for yet another election complaint asking that a candidate (or candidates) be removed from qualification for election for failure to follow the charter requirements, and in this case, state law as well. Haven should be familiar with election complaints, since one of them involved his secret campaign for mayor in violation of the charter that I wrote about here:
If one or both of these candidates isn’t qualified, then Haven has no one to blame but himself – because he definitely should know better. And for those voters who have already turned in their ballots trying to vote for candidates who end up not being qualified, their votes will have been wasted.
As I said, this needs to be cleared up immediately.