A Vote of No Confidence: Following the Ypsilanti Township Clerk RaceBrian Little
As a recent arrival to Ypsilanti Township from Ypsilanti I was new to local township politics. While often overshadowed by nearby municipalities, Ypsilanti Township’s population of 53,362 is more than double the City of Ypsilanti and shouldn’t be overlooked. I’ve noticed the attention on social media regarding Ypsilanti Township Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe and the upcoming election for Township Clerk. As a newcomer I have found it challenging to get a full picture of events.
Social media posts on the subject vary and there is a lot of noise going on, but what I have found is there is more to this than a political foodfight and there are legit some very concerning behavior from the Township Clerk. There is a reason people are talking and we should all take a look and decide if we’re okay with Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe “choosing her successor.”
While some posts on social media do contain statements or documents, each is only a part of the whole puzzle. I am interested in my community and thought it would be helpful to have a timeline without the noise. I compiled the information based on court records, the minutes of Township Board of Trustees meetings, and public statements from officials. This timeline is meant to provide information regarding our Ypsilanti Township Clerk race.
Timeline of events
December 16th 2019: Ypsilanti Township Trustee Monica Ross-Williams files to run for Ypsilanti Township Treasurer.
March 2nd 2020: Ypsilanti Township Trustee Heather Jarrell Roe files to run for reelection as Township Trustee.
March 6th 2020: Ypsilanti Township Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe files to run for reelection as Township Clerk.
March 17th 2020: Ypsilanti Township Offices are closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Township Supervisor Brenda Stumbo states that she continued to work daily at the Township offices in person ensuring essential functions were still being performed. From this date forward all candidates seeking to file for a position on the August 4th 2020 primary ballot were instructed that they had to go through Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe, by appointment, to accomplish their filings.
March 17th 2020: From March 17th on, Supervisor Brenda Stumbo rarely saw Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe at the Township offices, nor did she see any members of the Clerk’s staff, according to her Affidavit (see May 11th entry for details). Supervisor Brenda Stumbo also states that there were no visible signs posted on the exterior doors to the building providing instructions to the public about how to file to run for office while the Township offices were closed.
Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe denies this. In the Supplemental Declaration of Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe, Clerk Roe states that a notice was posted on the township website about the procedure for candidate filings and that candidates should call or email the Clerk. According to Clerk Roe, candidates could also mail their filings or put them in the drop box, and appointments were made to meet candidates at the Clerk’s office.
April 17th 2020: Supervisor Brenda Stumbo, based on questions from constituents, asks Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe to put the Affidavit of Identity* form on the website so that citizens could access it, according to her Affidavit (see May 11th entry for details). Stumbo states that the Township’s website did not contain easy-to-find information about the Township election process and procedures nor did it provide a link to the Affidavit of Identity form that all candidates for Township offices must file. The information was put onto the website and was available for at most two full business days before the deadline to file.
*An Affidavit of Identity or AoI is a document in which an individual person affirms their identity. This specific AoI is used when candidates are filing for elections.
Apr 21st 2020: On the last day to file for candidacy Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe and Trustee Heather Jarrell Roe drop out of their respective reelection races. Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe files for the District 5 Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners Democratic primary. Trustee Heather Jarrell Roe files for the Township clerk position, held currently by her mother-in-law, Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe. Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe was the only candidate for the position of Clerk before April 21st. None of the other members of the Board of Trustees were aware of this until after the filing deadline.
April 23rd 2020: Trustee Jimmie Wilson Jr. has a telephone conversation with Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe between 9:30pm and 10pm at night, according to his Affidavit (see May 11th entry for details). Wilson Jr. states he asked Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe how the change in the candidacies of her and Trustee Heather Jarrell Roe came about, and that Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe said that she had been thinking about retirement for some time but was concerned about finding someone to take her place.
Trustee Jimmie Wilson Jr. asks Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe if she had discussed the change in candidacies with Township Supervisor Brenda Stumbo, according to his Affidavit, and Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe replied “No, I thought about telling her, but I knew that Brenda would throw someone into the Clerk’s race within 10 minutes of finding out about it, and so I waited until after the deadline to tell Brenda.” Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe then stated that she believed that “after 30 years of being elected in this Township, I deserve the right to choose my successor,” according to Wilson Jr.’s Affidavit.
April 24th 2020: Trustee Monica Ross-Williams attempts to withdraw from Township Treasurer race.
Ross-Williams, in her public statement regarding her former candidacy (this is a brief summary of statements related to April 24th, see June 17th entry for more details) states that:
At 8:03am Trustee Monica Ross-Williams requests the Affidavit of Identity and withdrawal paperwork of Karen Lovejoy Roe and Heather Jarrell Roe.
At 2:49pm Trustee Monica Ross-Williams received the paperwork requested and saw that Heather Jarrell Roe’s Affidavit of Identity had a signatory date of April 20, 2020 and a Notary date of April 21, 2020.
At 3:15pm Trustee Monica Ross-Williams contacts the Washtenaw County Clerk Office to inquire if HJR’s paperwork contains a disqualification error.
At 4:02pm Trustee Monica Ross-Williams, unbeknownst that her own Affidavit of Identity contained a “fatal flaw” (see following entries), requests to withdraw from the race for Ypsilanti Township Treasurer.
The withdrawal request is not accepted as it is filed two minutes late and had to be filed with the Township Clerk and not the County Clerk. Trustee Monica Ross-Williams states that the withdrawal was two minutes late because she never intended to withdraw but did so in order to have legal standing if necessary.
At 4:30pm the Washtenaw County Clerk Office informs Trustee Monica Ross-Williams that the decision regarding Heather Jarrell Roe’s Affidavit of Identity would be made by the Ypsilanti Township Clerk, Karen Lovejoy Roe, Heather’s mother-in-law.
At 8:00pm Ypsilanti Township Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe approves her daughter-in-law, Trustee Heather Jarrell Roe, to be on the list of candidates in the Clerk position, making Heather Jarrell Roe the only candidate on the ballot.
April 25th 2020: Trustee Monica Ross-Williams, in her public statement regarding her former candidacy (this is a brief summary of statements related to April 25th, see June 17th entry for details) has stated the following:
At 9:25am Trustee Monica Ross-Williams learns that the Washtenaw County Clerk stated that there were three filings in Ypsilanti Township with date discrepancies, and that one of them was Ross-Williams’.
As of April 21st 2020 another candidate had not signed his Affidavit of Identity, but his Affidavit of Identity was deemed valid by Ypsilanti Township Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe’s office until the Washtenaw County Clerk office caught the error. That candidate was removed from the list of candidates only after the County Clerk Office found that he was not registered to vote in Ypsilanti Township (A legal requirement).
Trustee Monica Ross-Williams is not notified at any time by Ypsilanti Township Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe from her filing on December 16th 2019 until April 25th 2020 that her Affidavit of Identity contains a “fatal flaw.”
May 5th 2020: At an Ypsilanti Township Board meeting the board votes 5-2 in a vote of ‘no confidence’ in Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe. The two votes against the motion were by Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe and Trustee Heather Jarrell Roe. The May 5th 2020 minutes for this meeting are still in draft form and have not been finalized by Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe. A vote of ‘no confidence’ declares that a person in a position of responsibility is not deemed fit to hold that position.
May 11th 2020: Supervisor Brenda Stumbo and Treasurer Larry Doe file a complaint in the 22nd Circuit Court against Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe and Trustee Heather Jarrell Roe which alleges the following:
Count I – A violation of Michigan Election Law (Concerning the Affidavits of Identity)
Count II – Collusion, Nepotism, and Abuse of Office (Concerning the last minute switch of their candidacies)
Their complaint requests the following relief—that:
- The candidates for Ypsilanti Township Clerk (Heather Jarrell Roe), Treasurer (Monica Ross-Williams), and Parks Commissioner (William Sinkule) be taken off the ballot due to defective affidavits of identity—a filing required by the Secretary of State—in their candidacy filing. The defect was because the signature dates of the candidates did not match the date of the notarization.
- Supervisor Brenda Stumbo and Treasurer Larry Doe request the Clerk ballot reopen for filings for one week under the supervision of the Deputy Clerk.
Their complaint alleges that:
- Karen Lovejoy Roe neglected her duties as Ypsilanti Township Clerk by accepting candidacies with defective affidavits.
- Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe and Trustee Heather Jarrell Roe “colluded and connived” to impede the election process when on the last day of filing (April 21st, 2020) Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe withdrew her incumbent seat and instead submitted to run for Washtenaw County Commissioner and Trustee Heather Jarrell Roe withdrew her incumbent trustee seat and submitted to run for Karen Lovejoy Roe’s now open Clerk seat.
Here are the court documents from the May 5th hearing: The original complaint, the response, the declaration of Karen Lovejoy Roe, the declaration of Heather Jarrell Roe, Brenda Stumbo’s Affidavit, Jimmie Wilson Jr.’s Affidavit, and the supplemental declaration of Karen Lovejoy Roe.
May 19th 2020: At a regular meeting of the Township Board of Trustees, Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe presents proposed minutes from the May 5th 2020 meeting of the Township Board of Trustees. These proposed minutes contained numerous errors and omissions pertaining to the discussion of the ‘no confidence’ vote, according to Brenda Stumbo’s Affidavit (see May 11th entry for details). Township Supervisor Brenda Stumbo had requested that clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe present verbatim minutes of the meeting; Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe did not do so and Township Supervisor Brenda Stumbo made alternative arrangements to acquire a verbatim transcript of that portion of the meeting.
May 19th 2020: The Washtenaw County Democratic Party Executive Board passes a resolution condemning the actions of Ypsilanti Township Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe and Trustee Heather Jarrell Roe in the 2020 Democratic Primary.
May 26th 2020: The 22nd Circuit Court Judge Carol Kunhke rules the following:
- The affidavits of identity are defective on their face because the signature dates of the candidates did not match the date of the notarization.
- All three candidates are removed from the ballot.
- Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe and Trustee Heather Jarrell Roe did not collude, because withdrawing and resubmitting candidacies for a different position is not “uncommon strategy” in the election process and does not rise to collusion, and because anyone could have also run for the Clerk position.
- The ballot cannot be reopened since anyone could have also run for the Clerk position and as a result of this decision the ballot for the Clerk will be left blank.
Afterward, Trustee Heather Jarrell Roe files an appeal that her affidavit of identity was not defective and she should not be removed from the Ypsilanti Township Clerk ballot. The two other candidates who were removed from the ballot following Judge Kuhnke’s decision did not file an appeal.
June 5th 2020: The Court of Appeals ruling determines the 22nd Court did not correctly apply the law when it decided that the affidavit of identity was defective. The Secretary of State filing form requirements of matching signature and notarization dates were stricter than the statute governing election procedures under Michigan state law MCL 168; the Court of Appeals opined the legislative intent of MCL 168 supersedes the Secretary of State filing form requirements.
Therefore the Court of Appeals reverses the 22nd Circuit Court decision, deciding that the filing was proper and Trustee Heather Jarrell Roe is reinstated onto the Clerk ballot. Supervisor Brenda Stumbo and Treasurer Larry Doe then petition the Michigan Supreme Court to challenge the Appeals Court decision.
June 9th 2020: Trustee Monica Ross-Williams announces her plan to run as a write-in candidate for Ypsilanti Township Clerk.
June 12th 2020: The Michigan Supreme Court denies to hear the case (see June 5th entry) as it does not present a question that rose to their level of review.
The question at issue was the importance of the discrepancy of the signature dates and notarization dates of the affidavit of identity; the Supreme Court’s denial to hear the case affirms the Court of Appeals decision that the affidavit was valid.
June 16th 2020: At an Ypsilanti Township Board meeting, Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe refuses to include a legal transcript of the May 5th 2020 Ypsilanti Township Board meeting into the public record. The May 5th 2020 Board Meeting is the meeting where the board voted 5-2 to declare ‘no confidence’ in Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe.
June 17th 2020: Trustee Monica Ross-Williams files a complaint with the ACLU of Michigan regarding Free Speech denial. This is taken from her July 17th statement concerning the ACLU complaint. The matters named in the complaint are:
1. That Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe denied the request of Elections Commissioner Stan Eldridge to host a public meeting on June 12th 2020 at 3pm.
2. The meeting being denied, denies concerned parties and residents who contacted Elections Commissioners Eldridge and Ross-Williams individually to request a public meeting be held regarding their concerns for the upcoming election.*
3. Because the meeting was denied, Elections Commissioner Monica Ross-Williams held a meeting with residents and concerned parties on June 13th 2020 at 3pm.
4. At the June 16th Ypsilanti Township Board Meeting, Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe states that Elections Commissioner Monica Ross-Williams had “no right” to hold the meeting on June 13th. Trustee Monica Ross-Williams states that she was within her rights, as a single member of the Township Election Commission is allowed to hear and allow grievances of the public.
*All Townships in Michigan have an Elections Commission which consists of the Township Clerk as Chair and two members of the Board of Trustees. In Ypsilanti Township, the election commissioners are Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe and Trustees Monica Ross-Williams and Stan Eldridge.
June 17th 2020: Trustee Monica Ross-Williams makes a public statement concerning her former candidacy and formally requests County or Secretary of State oversight of the August 4th 2020 Primary Election in Ypsilanti Township Michigan.
This brings us to the conclusion of this timeline.
Separately, it is worth mentioning—that:
- On July 5th 2020 someone fired a gunshot into Trustee Monica Ross-William’s car.
- To this date Karen Lovejoy Roe is among five candidates running for Washtenaw County’s District 5 Commissioner in the state primary.
- To this date Heather Jarrell Roe, who will appear on the ballot, and Monica Ross-Williams, who is a write-in and will not appear on the ballot, are the two candidates running for Ypsilanti Township Clerk state primary.
As much information as is presented here, it is by no means exhaustive. It is important to note that a large part of the function of our local government either goes through or is intricately involved with the Ypsilanti Township Clerk office:
- The Clerk is responsible for maintaining custody of all township records, including the township ordinance book and voter registration files.
- The Clerk is one of Ypsilanti Township’s seven members of the Board of Trustees and also votes on issues.
- The Clerk coordinates Freedom of Information requests, Peddler Permit requests, and Liquor License Applications.
- The Clerk maintains Ypsilanti Township’s general ledger and prepares financial statements, Township Board meeting agendas and packets.
The Ypsilanti Township Clerk is an important position that impacts the entire township. Residents of the township will need to decide for themselves whether or not their representatives fulfill the duties of office to expectation.