Bid to recall Westland council president advances

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Wayne County Election Commission on Thursday cleared the way for a recall petition that seeks to oust Westland’s City Council president.

The panel approved the language, which seeks to have longtime councilman James Godbout removed from office for a 2016 vote “in favor of a water rate increase while being delinquent on his personal water bill,” during an afternoon meeting at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in Detroit.

The recall petition is spearheaded by Steve Boron, a 50-year resident of the city, who said he is tired of what he characterizes as poor decision-making and incompetence. He’s hoping to gather enough signatures to have the measure on the August ballot.

“In all of my time here, I have never seen such careless and reckless spending and disregard for public opinion,” Boron said.

The election commission’s sole role in the process is to determine whether the language is clear and factual. Two other petitions — one targeting Godbout for his past support of a lighting assessment and another over a bond issue — were not considered by the commission on Thursday. Under law, officials noted, it was only necessary to approve one of the petitions.

Godbout said he was disappointed the measure was advancing but said he plans to stay focused on serving the city.

“It’s just part of the continual anti-everything movement that a small group of individuals in the city are continuing ... they are virtually against everybody,” he said. “It just doesn’t matter.”

Boron said he didn’t mind the other two petitions weren’t considered. Godbout’s vote for the increase while being delinquent is “the most damning.”

“That’s going to resonate with a lot of people,” he said.

Godbout admitted Thursday he had been behind on his water bills, noting he’d fallen upon hard times while his son struggled with medical issues.

“You have got to prioritize which bills you’ve got to pay,” said Godbout, adding he made arrangements to take care of the bills with Westland’s finance department. He could not recall Thursday how much had been owed but said he’s taken care of it.

Godbout, who has served on council for 17 years, is now in the second year of his four-year term. He also had been targeted along with other elected city officials in a 2012 recall attempt that fell short.

Boron and Godbout said that roughly 5,000 signatures would be required to put the recall on the ballot. Once the circulation begins, there’s a 60-day window to collect the signatures, Boron said.

He intends to begin circulating the petitions after he gets a formal letter from Wayne County, indicating the specific instructions and number of signatures needed. A couple dozen individuals, Boron said, have signed up to knock on doors and obtain the signatures.