After losing the Ward 1 City Council seat in the Nov. 6 election by 29 votes, candidate Dennis Wainscott has filed for a recount.
“It’s my right to have it done,” Wainscott said. “There were too many shenanigans that went on with this election.”
It was for his peace of mind that Wainscott said he called for a recount.
“For the people’s sake, a recount needed to be done,” he said.
Stating that because there were mistakes made previously with this particular election, Wainscott said he felt most comfortable asking for a recount.
County Clerk Marney Kast said that she could not start the recount until the state completed their canvas, in the event that a state-wide canvas might be necessary. After receiving word that the state canvas is completed, Kast said she has Dec. 12 as a tentative completion date for the Ward 1 recount.
Kast will gather a recount team made of six people, two for each candidate in the Ward 1 election, and that Wainscott can select up to two people per table to view the recount, if he so chooses.
Wainscott lost to Peter Jennings, Ward 1 candidate and assistant professor of management at Hillsdale College, despite the fact that Jennings was declared ineligible for a seat on the council due to durational residency restrictions. Jennings did not meet the requirement of living in Hillsdale for three years before running for council as stated in the city charter. Because ballots were already printed for the August primary election by the time the council made the decision that Jennings was ineligible, Jennings remained on the ballot and beat Wainscott 68 to 45 in the August primary election.
Winning the primary election automatically placed Jennings on the ballot for the November election. The Hillsdale County Election Commission conferred with the Hillsdale County Board of Commissioners chairman as well as legal counsel, ultimately deciding that Jennings could appear on the ballot, even though city council had decided him ineligible, and despite the fact that Jennings submitted a letter requesting his name not appear on the ballot.
At the Nov. 19 Hillsdale City Council meeting, discussion of a resolution created by City Attorney Tom Thompson that would prohibit Jennings from taking the council seat was ultimately tabled after heated discussion.
Ward 1 Councilman Greg Stuchell said at the meeting that the three year residency requirements had been overturned by the courts in other instances and that the council has the authority to override that restriction.
“We have the responsibility and the authority to accept this election of Dr. Jennings,” Stuchell said.
Stuchell noted that the people of Ward 1 voted for Jennings twice, and that it was the council’s job to uphold the rights of those voters by giving them the candidate they chose.
“We have the authority to override these outdated laws,” Stuchell said. “This is an outdated requirement.”
Stuchell was the only council member to vote to not table the discussion of the resolution.
Mayor Adam Stockford and other council members stood by their August decision to uphold the city charter.
“I would love nothing more than for Mr. Jennings to be sitting in one of these chairs right now, but the problem is that we can’t say, everybody at this table, you have to do the three year requirement,” Ward 4 Councilman Matt Bell said at the meeting. “We can’t say, ‘Oh there happens to be a candidate who already decided to run, and we’re not going to enforce this rule, we’re just going to find a judicial decision that tells us we can.’ That’s not good governing. You have to stick with what was written unless you’re specifically told to change it by higher authority.”
The council will revisit this item after the recount is taken.
Wainscott has run for City Council three times, and said he is not ready to quit.
“I am not a person that quits. I’ll quit when I’m ready to quit,” he said. “To me, the people of Hillsdale are important and we need the right representation.”