Archived Story

Back taxes send village seat back to incumbent

Published 10:43am Friday, October 2, 2009

By MARCIA STEFFENS
Dowagiac Daily News

Although Richard Lee was declared the new Cassopolis Village President in the Sept. 15 village election, incumbent Clare Mallo will return to his chair on the council.

The 288 votes cast were not in question, as the totals did not change after the Board of Canvassers completed their work, according to Village Clerk Judy Hartman.

In her statement to the press, she said on Sept. 17, the canvassers “became aware that Mr. Richard Lee had delinquent 2008 property taxes and adjourned until they could ascertain their responsibility in the matter.”

On Monday, Sept. 21, they determined the vote count was accurate, but sent their review to the clerk, who sought legal opinion from the village attorney, Robert Callaghan, who directed Hartman to the village law:

“The General Law Village Act of 1895, Section 62.7 (as amended) prohibits anyone who is in default on Village property taxes from holding any office in the Village. The law further states that all votes cast for an individual in default are void and that he/she can not be sworn into office, nor can he/she run for- or be appointed to- any office until the next regular election of the Village. The current President is to remain in office until his/her successor can be elected and qualified.”

She has sent Lee a notice by registered letter, but has not heard back from him, she said.
Mallo will be president for a two-year term, until the next regularly scheduled election, according to Hartman, in September 2011.

Village Manager Kevin Gillette was unable to be reached for comment.

“While this is a very unpleasant situation, we are not alone. The Village of Vandalia found themselves in a similar situation after their last election. In this case three trustees, after being sworn in, were found to be in default on their property taxes and had to be removed from office and others appointed to fill the vacancies, Hartman said.

Richard Lee, who served as village president in the 1990s and also previously as a trustee, had beat Mallo by 15 votes.

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