GRAND HAVEN, MI – The mayor of Grand Haven failed in an attempt to use water records to oust a rival council member, suggesting she filed a false residency claim and defrauded voters, the same night he was to finalize a controversial recreational cannabis sale. .

Mayor Catherine McNally said water records show council member Karen Lowe did not use her Grand Haven cottage as her main residence.

On Monday, June 20, McNally introduced a resolution calling for Lowe to be out of council. But the council voted 3-2 to remove the agenda item when their lawyer told them they could not legally remove the member.

Attorney Ronald Bultje told them he could get the attorney general’s opinion and that the case could eventually be settled in circuit court.

McNally’s actions prompted residents to hold the mayor accountable for creating an “extremely unfair” and “unfavorable working environment.”

One reported that several high-ranking staff members – including the city manager – had left the city, while another said that the mayor’s attempt to boot Lowe on the same night of the nearby marijuana vote was “in bad faith.”

McNally has often sided with council member Mike Fritz, and they both voted against removing the agenda item. Lowe was generally on the side of council members Ryan Cummins and Kevin McLaughlin – and three of them voted for the recreational cannabis sale for the city later in the evening.

In January, McNally tried to deny council power by exploring the marijuana issue but on the ballot for Grand Haven voters. But that attempt failed when city attorneys said only citizens could petition for ballot proposals.

Related: The mayor of Grand Haven tried to block the council’s decision on cannabis sales

McNally said that since Lowe’s election in November 2021 – since McNally was elected – she had heard from residents who did not think Lowe’s primary residence was in the city.

Instead, she claimed that Lowe spent most of her time at home in Grand Haven Township, McNally said.

“These rumors undermined our confidence in our government,” McNally said.

So she looked online for water records for Lowe’s Cottage in the Highland Park area of ​​the city, then got more detailed records from the public works department, McNally said.

She included a table of water use in the cottage in a four-page document on the agenda. The document included a resolution declaring Lowe’s seat on the council to be “automatically vacated” because her primary residence was not in the city.

During the years 2016 to 2022, from December to March, water was not used in the water table. According to McNally, Lowe used less water in April, October and November, especially since 2019, when Lowe bought her Grand Haven Township home.

Related: Council members accuse ‘reckless’, ‘stupid’ in heated marijuana debate

“There are a number of serious legal issues involved, including” election fraud, voter fraud, lying / false official statements and possible allegations of property tax fraud, “McNally wrote.

“The confusion caused by dishonesty in government is detrimental to our democracy and the communities it governs,” McNally said at the meeting.

McNally apparently emailed supposed supporters to get her to speak at Monday’s meeting. This was reversed in the case of resident Jeffrey Miller, who said he had received an email encouraging McNally and others to speak at the meeting “on the principle of government integrity”.

He praised the council for removing Lowe’s decision, but said that his “reputation and integrity” had already been damaged.

Related: The divided, deranged council approved retail cannabis sales in Grand Haven

McNally “anointed himself” in an effort by victims, investigators, prosecutors, judges and a fifth of the jury whose “optics are absolutely horrible,” Miller said. Attempts to oust Lowe from the council before a second vote confirming earlier approval of recreational marijuana sales were “done in bad faith,” he said.

If Lowe had been out of the council, the second, required marijuana vote would have failed by 2-2 votes.

“I am confident that appropriate apologies and remedies for this situation will be presented soon,” said Miller, who was delighted by the audience in the council chambers.

McNally and Fritz were the target of a verbal beating of medical marijuana provider Rebecca Neal, who made the exception to comments made about her at a meeting earlier this month, saying “it is inappropriate to call my intentions fraudulent.”

“It simply came to our notice then. This is very inappropriate, “said Neil. “You won’t talk about my morals … I won’t be intimidated.”

Earlier in the day, Fritz accused McLaughlin of campaigning for marijuana in exchange for votes – a charge that was clearly offensive to McLaughlin.

On Monday, resident Elizabeth Pell asked McNally to “tell her to keep her weapons.” McNally is a retired captain of the US Coast Guard.

“Should we all wear armor to get rid of the ugly hatred she carries?” Pell asked. “No one is safe. Not a council member, commissioner, city employee or resident.

She called the council chamber an “unfavorable working environment” and said the city was losing staff “through collateral losses”.

“Stop the war game,” Pell said. “Do your work as you have chosen. Grand Haven doesn’t need a wartime general. We need an allied leader. “

The meeting was the last for City Manager Pat McGinnis, who accepted a job as Portage City Manager at Grand Haven after 19 years. He was also recently fired by the city’s finance director, clerk and human services manager.

Lowe, sometimes in tears, said she was upset that McNally had never contacted her out of concern for her residence, especially since McNally had encouraged her to run for office.

She said people were encroaching on her property, peeking through her windows and following her home from a council meeting, apparently checking her whereabouts.

“I’m having a hard time personally attacking this council member and our city leader in a deceptive way … I’m not going to be intimidated or threatened,” Lowe said.

Lowe asked the city to pursue the decision announced by the circuit court at her residence. She speculated that she and her husband were using less water when they were out of state.

“Madame Mayor, you don’t know me,” Lowe said. “You know nothing about my husband and our lives and what qualities we have anywhere in the world. We have no idea how we spend our time. Just because we have water bills doesn’t mean we’re there. “

Nichols Vandenberg, a resident of Ferrisburg, said she double-checked McNally’s findings on Lowe’s water use and found them to be accurate.

Vandenberg, a realtor and second homeowner in Grand Haven, said she was familiar with the reason people claim one house over another as their main residence – and often avoids paying nonhosted school operating property taxes.

Since Grand Haven’s nonhomestead tax is higher than Grand Haven Township, Vandenberg said she believes Lowe has claimed her home in Grand Haven as her main residence to stand for City Council.

Nonetheless, Vandenberg instructed city officials to refer McNally’s findings to the state office investigating the property tax fraud.

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