Hilferink objects to attorney’s “flip flopping” on the issue
By Barb Pert Templeton
A discussion about ballot initiatives and ordinances related to allowing Recreational Marijuana Facilities in Marine City proved to be exasperating for one city commissioner and appeared frustrating for the remainder of the board at a Sept. 21, 2023 meeting.
Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Hendrick moved to have the first reading of the language for an amended marijuana ordinance introduced at the commission’s next meeting on Oct. 5, 2023.
Commissioner Michael Hilferink said he wanted to know how the fact that the commission previously approved a motion in June to put the question on the ballot isn’t being considered.
“This seems like we’re revisiting and changing a motion that was already legally passed without even addressing the previous motion,” Hilferink said.
Part of the problem with that motion was that you were going building to building which isn’t allowed under our ordinance, Hendrick said.
City Attorney Robert Davis did a presentation on the matter at a Sept. 7 meeting of the commission – one where Commissioner Hilferink was declared out of order by the commission and then arrested for disturbing the peace.
During that presentation Davis conceded that yes, the commission had voted to have the ballot initiative language developed but he has since learned that only the residents can undertake such an initiative.
The commission can enact ordinances, repeal ordinances, amend ordinances and modify ordinances under the charter, that’s their role. At the same time, under the charter, only a citizen can do a referendum, asking for a repeal of an existing ordnance or they can launch a ballot initiative.
He said the commission now has a new ordinance he drafted and they need to look at it and comment on things and decide what they want to do going forward.
Was there “flip flopping”?
At the Sept. 21 meeting, Davis interjected and revisited the issue going back to February in an attempt to explain his opinion to Hilferink who missed his presentation.
Davis said when he informed the commission of the direction they could go in back in February, he said there were three alternatives, one was do nothing, second was develop an ordinance and third was create ballot language which he noted would be “difficult.”
Davis said the commission didn’t move on the issue at that time and then they picked option three in June – at a meeting he was absent from – so he had questions. Then in September, after he did research on what was passed by the commission, he wrote the memo that said it wasn’t possible.
“I’m very confused at the flip flopping of opinions here, February it’s difficult but we can do it,” Hilferink said.
“No, I never said we could do it,” Davis replied.
“In June you’re asking for clarification and now in September all of a sudden it’s impossible,” Hilferink said. “So, which is it Mr. Davis, I’m real confused at your line of thinking and research.”
“Mike, I agree you are confused,” Davis said.
“I think anyone in the public would be after flip flopping three times,” Hilferink said. “Do you agree that you flip flopped and changed your opinion three times?”
“No, I did not,” Davis replied, while adding “Mike I’m not going to have the city engage in a ballot process that is not lawful.”
Hilferink said why wasn’t the commission told of his objections in July instead of waiting until September. Davis said he needed to conduct more research on the issue in order to clarify what the city’s position could be legally.
Mayor Jennifer Vandenbossche then asked Hilferink if he had any new questions because he was repeating himself and there was a motion on the floor.
The commission then moved to vote on Hendrick’s motion to have a first reading of the ordinance at the next meeting. When Hilferink’s vote was asked for he voted no and then said he wanted to qualify his vote.
“I think this should go to the voters and this is a violation of the voters and their right to vote on this like they want to,” Hilferink said. “And if you continue, I will do the initiative myself.”
The motion was then passed by a 6-1 vote of the commission with Hilferink casting the dissenting vote.