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Elections bureau investigating Richland Village campaign complaint

Elections bureau investigating Richland Village campaign complaint

RICHLAND, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - In a copy of a letter obtained by Newschannel 3 but addressed to the Village President, the Michigan Bureau of Elections is announcing it plans to examine a complaint filed against the Richland Village government.

This comes just days before a vote where residents in the Village and Township will decide whether or not to dissolve the village.

The complaint is filed by one of the village residents, Robert Perks, who says the Village violated election laws by sending out a mailer advocating a position on the upcoming vote.

In the mailer sent to all village residents, 3 different ballot measures appearing on the May 3rd ballots are displayed. However, for the Village ballot measure, the mailer lists all the services that some say, would likely be cut if the Village dissolves, that list, will not be appearing on the ballot.

"Mr. Perks alleges that the Village unlawfully used public resources to create and distribute a flyer regarding a question on the Village's May 3, 2016 ballot," reads the letter from the Elections Bureau.

The letter goes on to tell the Village President of his right to respond to the allegations before the State's "examination" begins.

In a phone interview with Newschannel 3, Richland Village President David Greve says that he has to first meet with Village Council to decide how to respond.

According to the letter from the election's bureau, the Village has 15 days to respond before the examination begins.

Without discussing the details of the forthcoming response, Greve tells Newschannel 3 the Village will respond by that May 6th deadline.

As for the actual vote on whether or not to dissolve the Village, it will be taking place on May 3rd.

The last time residents of Richland faced a ballot measure to potentially dissolve the government was in 2001, and the measure was defeated.

Former Village Council Member Robert Brinkerhoff disagrees with the idea of dissolving the village.

"I'm concerned that issues like this are more divisive than anything," he said.

Brinkerhoff is currently a member of Preserve Richland Village, a group organizing to counter what it says is false information being provided by Reclaim Richland, a group advocating the dissolution.

"There's no free lunch," he said, referring to Reclaim Richland's arguments about the cost of taxes and services in the Village.

"All the people who live here in the village willingly pay their taxes and they make that decision when they move here because that's a great place to live," he added.

Some in Richland have criticized the high cost.

In 2014 an I-Team investigation showed the approximately 750 people making up the Village, paying more than most per person in West Michigan for public safety and other services.

"We have 3 full time police officers right now," said Perks, who supports Reclaim Richland, insisting that job could easily be handled by Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office.

Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller said there's some truth to that notion, adding the Sheriff's Office already helps with the Village to some extent, but the details aren't quite that simple over the long haul.

"It depends on the level of service they would require," Fuller said.

Fuller added if the Township decided to have a Sheriff presence there 24/7, that it would probably come at an increased cost.

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