Court: Inman recall campaign has until Wednesday to prove signatures

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — The campaign to oust state Rep. Larry Inman has until Wednesday to persuade election officials it gathered enough petition signatures to put a recall before voters, the Court of Appeals has ordered.

Rep. Larry Inman, left, and his attorney, Chris Cooke

The court decision on Tuesday gives the Inman recall campaign the chance to prove that hundreds of signatures that the Michigan's Bureau of Elections deemed invalid should have been declared valid.

Asked if the campaign believes it can rehabilitate the needed 94 signatures, the recall campaign's attorney, Michael Naughton, responded on Tuesday, "I don't know."

The court order is the latest development in weeks of litigation over a push to give voters the opportunity to remove Inman, R-Williamsburg, from office.

Inman, a third-term lawmaker, has faced charges of attempted extortion and solicitation of a bribe. On Dec. 10, a jury found Inman not guilty of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation but deadlocked on the two other charges, which remain unresolved.

The recall campaign needed to collect 12,201 valid signatures to get the recall before voters. The campaign submitted 13,859 signatures to the Bureau of Elections on Nov. 22.

However, the Bureau of Elections initially blocked the recall because the signed petitions circulated among voters mistakenly omitted a word from the language that was approved for the petitions by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers.

That led to a court fight, and the Michigan Supreme Court decided on Dec. 30 that the petitions shouldn't have been rejected over typos.

After that decision, Michigan election officials and the recall campaign refocused on the campaign's signatures. The Bureau of Elections had found that the campaign submitted only 12,107 valid signatures — 94 short of the required total.

The recall campaign originally had until Dec. 23 to try to prove some of the 1,752 signatures declared invalid should be deemed valid. Tuesday's court order extends that window to Wednesday "to preserve plaintiff's rights" and to "completely implement" the Michigan Supreme Court's Dec. 30 decision.

If election officials decide that enough signatures should be rehabilitated, they have until Friday to call for a recall primary and recall election. Democratic candidates would be able to file for the recall primary until Monday.

The recall primary would take place on March 10 if enough signatures are rehabilitated. The winner would face Inman in a recall election in May.

Inman's attorney, Chris Cooke, has previously said the recall effort should end because it was based on an indictment that was ruled "defective" by the jury's verdict on Dec. 10. A separate legal challenge against the recall is still pending.

"It never should have been circulated in the first place," Cooke said of the recall petitions.