Warren council candidate wants state to oversee election

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Warren — Following the recent suspected theft of campaign literature, a second Warren political candidate has asked for state oversight of the city’s general election next month.

Jonathan Lafferty, a candidate running for a District 2 city council seat, said Thursday he mailed letters to the Michigan Attorney General and Secretary of State, joining an earlier request by mayoral candidate Kelly Colegio to “ensure the fair counting of ballots.”

Last month, Colegio asked for state oversight, accusing the city clerk of trying to suppress the vote.

Jonathan Lafferty

“Because of some things that have happened recently to me, I have some serious concerns,” Lafferty said. “I have not heard any satisfactory explanations yet and fear it might also result in ballots not being counted properly on Nov. 5.”

Lafferty believes 2,800 pieces of his campaign literature — sent out Oct. 4 before the city was to mail out absentee ballots — never made it to their destinations. That is about half of what he mailed out, Lafferty said.

“Some are believed to have been stolen or destroyed and others finally did make it to addresses but about 11 days after they were dropped off at the post office,” he said.

Lafferty said his mailings were “strategically” mailed out to coincide with about 3,000 absentee ballots sent out to District 2 voters by the city clerk’s office on Oct. 8. Those voters live in a section of the city roughly bordered by 10 Mile, 14 Mile, Ryan and Hoover roads.

“We did everything the same way we had before the August primary, when we had no problems,” said Lafferty. “I suspect it is because I received the most votes of five candidates — including one who has the backing of the mayor. I don’t know what else to think.”

Lafferty received 1,512 votes, 38% of those cast, compared with 1,449, or 36%, for Richard Sulaka II. The two will face off Nov. 5 for the council seat, and Lafferty believes Mayor James Fouts, or one of his “agents,” is responsible for mailers disappearing.

"These accusations are ludicrous, absurd and delusional," Fouts said. "I don't run the post office. That's also an insult to the hard-working men and women at the post office."

"Desperate candidates say and do desperate things," said Fouts. "I'm trying to run the third-largest city in Michigan. I don't have time for dealing with stuff like this."

Lafferty said he spoke with someone from the U.S. Postal Inspector’s Office who advised him the misdirected mail was the result of “human error,” not deliberate malicious intent.

“I don’t know what that even means,” said Lafferty, a Comerica Bank vice president and former Macomb County commissioner. “Some of the mail was found to have been sent to Florida and finally made its way back here.”

The Postal Inspector’s Office did not respond to questions about the investigation Thursday from The News. 

“Our Bureau of Elections staff has reviewed the letter Ms. Colegio sent and found nothing that raises concerns about the administration of the mayoral election in Warren," said Mike Doyle, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of State. "It is a disagreement between two parties — the city attorney and Ms. Colegio.”

Dan Olsen, a spokesman, for the State Attorney General’s Office, said he could not locate any information on Lafferty’s request.

A copy of Lafferty’s letter obtained by The News reads, in part:

“Considering the depth of corruption that I have alleged in the U.S. Postal Service and the potential for biased influence from city hall administration on our city clerk’s office, I hereby enjoin the request of Ms. Colegio and implore the intervention by your office to ensure a fair election occurs …"


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