Mailer sent to Ward 1 res­i­dents in support of Jen­nings vote. Col­legian|

Post­cards encour­aging people to “Vote for Peter Jen­nings” were sent to Ward 1 res­i­dents last week.

These mailers were delivered despite Hillsdale City Council’s decision in a special meeting on Aug. 1 that Peter Jen­nings, Ward 1 res­ident and assistant pro­fessor of man­agement at Hillsdale College, is inel­i­gible for office due to dura­tional res­i­dency restric­tions. Jen­nings made a public statement at that same meeting saying he would respect the council’s decision, step aside and no longer cam­paign.

Jen­nings did not sponsor the mailers, nor did he have any knowledge of them until he received mes­sages about Ward 1 res­i­dents finding them in their mail­boxes.

“As far as I’m con­cerned, I am out of the election,” Jen­nings said.

The post­cards were paid for by the Com­mittee to Elect Quality Can­di­dates in Ward 1, according to the postcard itself. However, County Clerk Marney Kast con­firmed that this com­mittee is not on file as required by cam­paign finance laws.

“A lot of people are not aware that if you receive money or spend money for a cam­paign, you have 10 days to file as a com­mittee,” Kast said.

She said if anyone were to approach her with a person of contact for the named com­mittee, she could reach out to them and contact the cam­paign finance division under the bureau of elec­tions.

Jen­nings’ name will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot because of proper voting pro­ce­dures which require the top two can­di­dates on the primary ballot to advance to the general election. At the time the council decided that Jen­nings was inel­i­gible for the primary vote, primary ballots had already been printed and Jennings’s name could not be removed.

In a Facebook post com­menting on the “Vote for Peter Jen­nings” mailers, Mayor Adam Stockford said, “The state bureau of elec­tions and the county election com­mittee do not make deter­mi­na­tions on qual­i­fi­ca­tions for local office. The state Con­sti­tution gives those powers to each city individually…The only thing those bodies have ruled is that Dr. Jen­nings cannot be removed from the ballot because a vote has already been held.”

The Council’s decision to name Jen­nings inel­i­gible for office upholds the City of Hillsdale’s charter, which states that those running for office “shall have been a res­ident of the city for at least three years imme­di­ately prior to the date of the election at which he is a can­didate for office.” Jen­nings has lived in Hillsdale since August of 2016, not meeting the dura­tional res­i­dency requirement stated in the Hillsdale City charter.

“The mistake started with me,” Jen­nings said. “I was not aware of the three-year res­i­dency requirement. The paperwork I filed for can­didacy did not specify any dura­tional res­i­dency requirement. I assumed Hillsdale com­plied with the standard one-year res­i­dency for municipal offices that the courts long upheld as rea­sonable. ”

If Jen­nings does get the most votes in the Nov. 6 election, he will not be able to take the seat, and a special election will be held in August 2019. A special election is already being held to fill the seat of former Ward 2 Coun­cilman Tim Dixon, who resigned earlier this month.

“We are already holding a special election to fill Dixon’s seat so it wouldn’t even cost the city extra money,” Stockford said in an email.

Jen­nings said that even if he does win the seat, he will not take it.

“Even if I am the popular vote winner, I don’t have the option of taking the seat because city council deter­mined that I am not eli­gible,” Jen­nings said. “But even if Council was to reverse their decision, I still wouldn’t accept the seat because of the con­tro­versy.”

Since finding himself inel­i­gible for office, Jen­nings has joined the Hillsdale Rotary Club and is com­mitted to serving the com­munity in that capacity.

“Another council-member has since resigned, so another election has to be held anyway,” Jen­nings said. “I think that’s the best course of action at this point.”