Efforts to recall Buchanan mayor continue

Published 5:35 pm Monday, December 4, 2023

ST. JOSEPH — Organizers of a recall effort against Buchanan Mayor Sean Denison haven’t given up despite having a setback at Monday’s clarity hearing for the recall wording they submitted in mid November. Another recall has also been initiated, this time against City Commissioner Dan Vigansky.

Berrien County Elections Administrator Kathryn Klemesrud reported Monday that the misspelling of the word “Buchanan” on the paperwork led the Election Commission to reject the recall wording. She said organizers have refiled recall wording and a new clarity hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 18.

The recall wording submitted by residents Carla Johnson and Monroe Lemay Nov. 17 stated, “City Commissioner Sean Denison suspended Benjamin Eldridge as the Buchanan City Manager”. The resubmitted wording on the new recall is the same, organizer Carla Johnson said.

Johnson said supporters of Denison including his attorney Darren Malek of Kalamazoo spoke during and after the hearing, making more allegations about the grievances and complaints against Eldridge.

She said that Malek also said that the wording was inaccurate because Denison is the mayor and the recall wording calls him a city commissioner. Election commission members disagreed, saying that the city commissioner label was accurate since the people of Buchanan did not elect Denison mayor, his fellow commissioners did.

Denison could not be reached for comment.

Johnson said election commission members did not appear to have any issue with the wording submitted against Denison except for finding the typo in the spelling of “Buchanan”.

Klemesrud confirmed that recalling wording has also been filed against Vigansky and the date of the clarity hearing on both recalls. The clarity hearing will be at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 18 at the Berrien County Administration Building on Main Street in St. Joseph.

The Vigansky recall wording was submitted last week on Nov. 30 by Buchanan resident Jacob Brown, Klemesrud said. Brown is a member of the city’s planning commission.

Brown submitted three sets of wording: two relative to a June incident in which Vigansky allegedly made disparaging remarks against African Americans and one relative to a Nov. 8 incident at the Buchanan City Hall in which Vigansky allegedly harassed and retaliated against city staff for filing grievances against Eldridge.

The Vigansky recall wording noted that the June incident where Vigansky allegedly said “you people” and “those people” is the subject of a complaint to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

Denison made similar charges against Vigansky at the Nov. 27 city commission meeting and commissioners set a public hearing to consider censoring him on Dec. 11. That hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. prior to that night’s city commission meeting.

Vigansky is accused of allegedly making racial remarks at a June Buchanan Area Recreation Board meeting, failing to keep the grievances against Eldridge confidential, calling the grievances retaliatory without reading them and confronting and harassing city staff at city hall about the grievances.

The Buchanan City Hall has been in turmoil since early November when Eldridge was put on paid suspension pending an investigation of 42 grievances/complaints against him. Eldridge spoke in his own defense at a special meeting last week before submitting his resignation.