By Irum Ibrahim
Entirely East Lansing
Although being sued discourages many workers, it has made City Clerk Marie Wicks more dedicated.
Wicks was sued in August, for presumedly invalidating numerous signatures of a marijuana petition. The petition proposed that adults 21 and older should be allowed to possess one ounce or less of marijuana on private property.
While the petition was submitted timely on July 29, there was not enough time to canvass it to validate it by Aug. 12.
“In order to have been placed on the ballot, the petitions needed to be canvassed and certified by me in order for council to add a clarifying statement during the Aug. 6 meeting. At that point, the language would be certified to me by Aug. 12.,” said Wicks. “Mr. Hank submitted his petition on July 29 which was the last day. It would have been physically impossible for me to conduct a primary election on Aug. 5 and conduct a canvass of his petition during the week before a major election.”
Hank argued that rights of the First Amendment were being destroyed through Wicks’ actions and the response of her defenders. He also claimed that Wicks was not doing her job.
“In the summer, I asked Marie twice when the petition is due, and she gave the wrong dates both times: Aug. 29 and Aug. 13,” said attorney Jeffrey Hank.
However, Wicks said she mistakenly gave him the wrong dates for the petitions in 2013 and not in 2014.
According to Hank, the petition was submitted more than a month late by Wicks on Sept. 12.
“Marie was dillydallying. She thought she could take her time and choose with election the petition could go on,” said Hank.
On Monday, Sept. 16, Jeffrey Hank asked Wicks to make the right steps. However, Wicks did not and was sued by Hank the next day.
“Hank asked me to place the marijuana question on the ballot which is something I cannot do myself. Council has the opportunity to add clarifying language and the law is very clear that the attorney general and governor have the opportunity to weigh in,” said Wicks. “The county clerk also made it clear that it was too late in the process for her to place the question on the ballot.”
Petition circulators are expected and required to obtain signatures only from voters registered in East Lansing. However, hundreds of signatures were signed by voters either unregistered or registered outside of East Lansing.
“This lawsuit has translated to more work for everyone in the office,” said Wicks. “That said, my relationship with my colleagues is stronger than ever. They are a huge support network for me,”
Mayor Nathan Triplett said that Wicks was only doing her job. “In this case, Jeffrey Hank and Phil Bellfy failed to do theirs,” he added.
Phil Bellfy is a Democratic candidate for District 37 of the Michigan State Senate.
While having a lawsuit filed against her created difficulties, Wicks said it made her even more dedicated in doing what is right, lawful and ethical.
“I am also looking forward to focusing on elections administration, which has had to take a back seat to petition canvassing and the ensuing legal actions,” said Wicks.
On Sunday Oct. 5, Ingham County’s Judge Jamo ruled for Hank and his partners and granted them their claim.
“Judge Jamo found that I complied with all timelines and did order that the marijuana question be placed on the ballot. He did not order it to be placed on the November ballot, however. I fully intend to comply with his order,” said Wicks.