Judge rules in fight over indicted Taylor Mayor Rick Sollar’s eligibility for ballot

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Taylor — Indicted Mayor Rick Sollars was certified to appear on the August primary ballot Tuesday, one day after a Wayne County judge ordered the city's election commission to do so. 

Wayne County Chief Circuit Judge Timothy Kenny granted a temporary restraining order late Monday, said Mark Brewer, an attorney for Taylor City Clerk Cynthia Bower.

Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars

The ruling comes ahead of a Monday hearing where Kenny is expected to decide whether Bower made the right call last month when she declared Sollars ineligible for the ballot over his failure to file campaign finance reports and pay fines before filing to run for reelection.

Taylor's three-member Election Commission followed Kenny's order to put Sollars on the ballot. But Brewer said he'll argue next week that Bower followed the law when she declined to certify Sollars. 

"The law is very clear that the clerk has a duty not to certify when somebody filed a false affidavit as Mr. Sollars did," Brewer told The News, referring to the affidavit Sollars signed attesting that his candidate committee was up to date on campaign finance filings, fines and fees.

"He swore under oath that he filed all campaign paperwork and paid his fine when in fact he had not," Brewer said. "The clerk had a duty not to certify him. That will be the argument we'll be making to the judge."

Under Michigan law, anyone filing to run for office must submit an affidavit of identity, including "a statement that as of the date of the affidavit, all statements, reports, late filing fees and fines required of the candidate or any candidate committee" have been filed or paid. 

Sollars' attorney, Gary Gordon, could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

Kenny noted in the Monday ruling that Sollars "is likely to prevail" on claims that Bower "exceeded her authority in investigating the truth of Plaintiff's affidavit of identity and in determining that Plaintiff is ineligible to appear on the ballot."

"The court further finds that irreparable harm is likely if no Temporary Restraining Order is entered, that the harm to Plaintiff if no Temporary Restraining Order is entered outweighs any harm to Defendants as a result of this Temporary Restraining Order, and that the public interest is served by the issuance of this Temporary Restraining Order," Kenny wrote. 

Bower deferred comment to Brewer but previously said she "had no choice but to not certify" Sollars after investigating a legal challenge to his candidacy submitted by a City Council hopeful.

Martin Drouillard, a Taylor City Council candidate, lodged the complaint arguing Sollars' campaign committee failed to file campaign finance reports and resolve late filing fees prior to the April 20 filing deadline. 

Drouillard's attorney, Andrew Paterson, asserted that when Sollars signed and submitted his affidavit and nominating petitions, his campaign committee documents from 2018, 2019 and 2020 had not been filed and a number of fees were delinquent. 

Lisa Williams, a spokeswoman for the Wayne County Clerk's Office, told The News in an email that Sollars filed seven outstanding campaign statements on April 23 and paid $4,000 in late fees. 

Sollars was indicted in December 2019 on federal bribery and wire fraud charges on allegations he helped a developer obtain city-owned properties in exchange for free work on his home and vacation chalet.

He's accused of heading up the conspiracy with real estate mogul Shady Awad and Jeffrey Baum, the Taylor community development manager, and receiving bribes. In exchange, the mayor helped Awad's real estate development company, Realty Transition, and other developers obtain dozens of tax-foreclosed homes in the city, federal prosecutors said. 

FBI agents in 2018 conducted raids at Taylor City Hall and searched Sollars' home and chalet, seizing $205,993 found in the mayor's house. The 33-count indictment alleged the conspiracy spanned from 2015-19. 

Sollars was first elected to the post in 2013 and announced his plans to run for a third four-year term in a January video message on his Facebook page, touting improved city finances, services, parks and affordable housing opportunities under his tenure. 

Beyond Sollars, three other mayoral candidates also are expected to be certified to appear on the ballot: incumbent Councilman Tim Woolley, State Rep. Alex Garza, D-Taylor, and Jeff Jones, a former congressional candidate for the state's 12th District.