Canvassers chair faces ethics complaint tied to Grosse Pointe school race

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

A group of Grosse Pointe voters want the chairwoman of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers to be removed, saying she has a conflict of interest involving support for school board candidates in the district.

In a complaint filed Friday with the Wayne County Ethics Commission, the voters’ group alleges Monica Palmer's involvement with the school board election is a conflict of interest with her role on the county board of canvassers, which certifies elections.  

More than 100 people march through the Village of Grosse Pointe, Sunday morning, August 9, 2020, who support the option of face to face learning when school opens in the Grosse Pointe School System this year. They march on Kercheval for 3/4 of a mile from Cadieux to Fisher Rd.

“Monica Palmer should resign or be removed for her conflicts of interest as Chairperson of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, which certifies elections, and her operation of a dark money PAC promoting candidates in the Grosse Pointe school board election,” says Thomas Bruetsch, attorney at the Detroit law firm of Schenk & Bruetsch. 

“Palmer’s involvement in the PAC is incompatible with her public office, violates the county’s ethics ordinance, and undermines voters’ confidence in the free and fair elections she is charged with overseeing.” 

In a press release, Bruetsch cites Section 40-4(C) of the Wayne County ethics ordinance, which states, “a public servant shall not engage in, or accept employment or render services for a private or public interest when that employment or service is incompatible with the discharge of that public servant’s official duties.”

“Palmer’s position with 'Taxpayers for GP Schools,' a private interest promoting candidates in an election she oversees as chair of the board of canvassers, is a clear conflict,” Bruetsch maintained in his formal complaint.

Bruetsch said the ethics complaint comes on the heels of three campaign finance complaints submitted to state officials last week. He said those complaints “provide evidence that Palmer’s secretive PAC “Taxpayers for GP Schools,” along with school board member Cynthia Pangborn and candidate Lauren Nowicki, violated the Michigan Campaign Finance Act by coordinating activities in violation of state law.

Palmer disputed the allegations.

“I’m not resigning — I’ve done nothing wrong and there is no conflict of interest,” said Palmer, who was appointed onto the Board of Canvassers two years ago.

“The PAC was formed to educate the community on issues,” she said. “We do not endorse or support any candidates for election. A clerk runs for re-election and certifies election results. How am I any different?

“I’m not counting votes, I’m one of four members who certify results,” Palmer said.

She said she has not read the ethics complaint, but “from what I have heard it makes some false claims and allegations.”

“I will be meeting with legal counsel over the weekend to consider my legal options,” Palmer said.

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