Judge boots 4 Warren council members off ballot, cites term limits
Mount Clemens — A Macomb County judge ruled Friday that four Warren City Council members must be removed from the August primary election ballot because they have exceeded the city’s term limits and are ineligible to run again.
Warren council candidate Connor Berdy had filed a complaint May 10 against Warren’s city clerk Sonya Buffa; the Warren City Election Commission and County Clerk Fred Miller, arguing that incumbents who exceeded 12 years of service in city office should not be permitted to run for another term.
Berdy requested that council members Scott Stevens, Steven Warner, Robert Boccomino and Council President Cecil St. Pierre all be removed from the ballot. Judge James Maceroni of Macomb Circuit Court agreed Berdy had “no other adequate legal remedy.”
Berdy celebrated in a news release, saying, “this was a thorough 11-page opinion that the Judge spent several days working on. We fully expect it will be upheld if the City appeals.
“It’s a new chapter for Warren city government.”
Not so fast, said Boccomino, the Warren City Council secretary, when reached for comment Friday.
“There’s no need for panic,” Boccomino said. “Regardless of which way the judge ruled on this, an appeal was expected — either by Berdy, if it was not in his favor, or by the city.”
“We have a right of appeal to the state’s higher court and I expect we will fast-track this and have something filed on Monday and hopefully a decision back by the end of the week,” he said.
Boccomino noted: “The final ballots don’t have to printed up before the beginning of July.”
“None of us want to be removed by a judge,” he stressed. “If the voters don’t think we are doing a good job, let them decide by electing someone else in to office.”
Boccomino said the issue stems from Warren City Council amending the city charter in 1998 to provide for term limits of three terms or 12 years on the council. In 2010, voters approved an amendment to change the council from nine members to seven, with five elected by districts and two at-large.
A city attorney opined that the district and at-large seats were distinct offices, and a council member could serve three terms in each.
It’s Boccomino’s view — and, he believes, of his colleagues — that the term limits began in 2010, not when council members were elected under different rules. Boccomino, who seeks a district seat, has served one term as an at-large councilman and two terms as a district councilman.
St. Pierre has been on council for six terms, four before the amendments and two after the amendments, and has filed to be an at-large councilman. Stevens, an at-large councilman, has served three consecutive terms as at at-large councilman and seeks a district seat in 2019.
Warner, the council’s vice president, seeks a district seat and has served two terms as a district councilman and one term as an at-large councilman.
“I think we will work this out in an appeal,” Boccomino said. “If not, perhaps there are other options. Someone might even run as a write-in candidate and set up another legal question of whether they were being denied a right to run for office and denying voters their right to vote.”