September 19, 2019

Judge affirms Arenac Twp.’s decision to vacate treasurer position


ARENAC TWP. — A circuit court judge ruled in favor of Arenac Township Dec. 31, affirming its decision to vacate the position of treasurer based on an allegation regarding her residency outside the township.

The decision was made following a lawsuit between the township and its Treasurer Debra Rice.

The Arenac Township Board previously vacated its treasurer position during a Sept. 28, 2017 special meeting after it was discovered Rice had allegedly moved to Bay County.

At the time of the decision, township Supervisor Tim Hagley cited Michigan Compiled Law 168.368 in saying the position had to be vacated.

According to 23rd Circuit Court Judge Kathryn Root’s opinion on the Dec. 31 ruling obtained by the Independent, Rice and her husband Glen Rice lived at a house on Barney Road, Omer, and made plans to demolish the house in 2016 and rebuild on the property.

When the house became uninhabitable in the summer of 2016 due to the construction, Rice and her husband temporarily lived in a camper they had moved onto the property from June to November of that year.

In a June 27, 2018 edition of the Independent, it was reported that Root initially approved a motion for preliminary injunction and issued several orders including that the township not hold an election for the seat because it had not been determined vacant.

While maintaining the Barney Road address for mailing, utility bills, driver’s licenses and voter registrations, the documents say the Rices purchased a living quarters in Fraser Township, Bay County, where they stayed after the demolition of their house in December 2016 when it became too cold to live in the camper.

The construction contract completion date for the new home at the Barney Road property was October 2018; however, the document says construction was not completed as of Oct. 5.

According to the later opinion, the Rices regularly sleep at the Fraser Township home, containing furniture, a television, pots, pans, silverware and dishes. The Rices also said they babysit their grandchildren at the Fraser property generally four nights a week and have beds and toys at the house for the children.

It was also stated that Glen Rice keeps clothes and maintains internet at both properties.

In her opinion, Root said for election law purposes, “residence” is defined as the place at which a person habitually sleeps, keeps personal effects and has a regular place of lodging.

Root said the Rices do not meet the statutory definition of Arenac Township residency for voting purposes, therefore, the office of treasurer was automatically vacated when they moved to Fraser Township in November 2016.

“Plaintiffs had stayed on and off during warm weather at the camper on Barney Road but had not lived permanently or

continuously at the Barney Road property for more than two years,” Root said. “Since November 2016 they have been physically present at the Fraser address outside Arenac Township for more time than in the camper at the Barney Road address in Arenac Township.”


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It would be interesting to find out where they claim their Principal Residence Exemption for property taxes....

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