Charlie Watson recall, Cedar Springs, Michigan (2012)
An effort to recall Charlie Watson from his elected position on the city council of Cedar Springs, Michigan, was launched in August 2012. Watson serves as mayor of Cedar Springs, but he faced recall from his position as a city councilor because the council selects a mayor from among its members. As of February 2013, the recall effort appeared to have been abandoned.
Molly Nixon launched the recall effort, informing city officials of her recall bid on August 13. The catalyst for recall was the fact that the city has had to remove all images of red pajama bottoms from city property in order to avoid paying trademark fees to the Red Flannel Festival Corporation. Cedar Springs is home to the annual Red Flannel Festival, which is run by a nonprofit entity. Festival officials trademarked the image of red flannel pajamas, and they requested that the city pay a $4,000 licensing fee for the right to use the red flannel logo. The city council voted 6-1 to no longer use the logo, citing the expense of the licensing fee.
Nixon said, "This is just some ugliness that the city has perpetuated for reasons that are not clear to me, and Charlie Watson is the head of that." The original petition language, which was not approved, said Watson faced recall due to “fiscal mismanagement regarding Red Flannel logos, resulting in a larger expense to the taxpayers.” Wilson responded, "I don't do what's best for me I do what's best for the city...I love Cedar Springs to death. I love the Red Flannel Festival." Wilson said, "If people are truly concerned about fiscal expenses, it doesn’t make any sense to hold a special election, if I’m only going to be here for a few month after the recall anyway."
Path to the ballot
Petition language was officially filed in mid-September. At the initial clarity hearing on September 21, the petition language was rejected by the Kent County Elections Commission. The Elections Commission expressed two concerns about the petition language. First, the language stated that the petition was to recall Mayor/Councilperson Charlie Watson. Citizens cannot recall the mayor, because the mayor is elected by the city council. Watson’s term as mayor ended in November 2012, and his term as a city councilor ends in November 2013. The petition was also rejected because the Election Commission felt the language was insufficient to allow the mayor to justify his conduct to his constituents.
After the language was rejected, recall organizer Molly Nixon re-filed new language. A second clarity hearing took place on October 10. The recall petition was approved at the October 10 clarity hearing. The petition language read:
“Failure to reach an agreement with the Red Flannel Festival regarding the city’s use of their logos. Rejecting an offer to keep using the logos for $4,000 per year of in-kind services. Causing the city’s legal bill alone for this matter to top $6,000, which is more than if we had just kept using the logos.”
The petition language was valid for 180 days. Recall organizers would have needed to collect 170 signatures during a 90-day window in order to force a recall election. As of February 2013, the recall campaign appeared to have been abandoned.