Warren Mayor Jim Fouts could be serving his last term.
That’s based on a Michigan Supreme Court decision released Friday morning to deny Warren City Clerk Sonja Buffa and Macomb County Clerk Fred Miller’s application to appeal a State Court of Appeals ruling to allow a term-limits measure to appear on the November ballot.
Warren voters will be asked to reduce the number of four-year terms a mayor can serve, from five to three, or 20 to 12 years. Fouts last fall won his fourth term.
The justices say they granted immediate consideration of the application to appeal but denied it “because we are not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this Court.” Justices did not elaborate.
With the appeals court ruling upheld, Buffa presented the certified ballot question to Miller. Friday was the final day it could be added due to ballots going to the printer.
The county Election Commission in a 3-0 vote Friday approved the ballots for the November general election.
The decision is a victory for the Warren City Council, which initially approved the ballot proposal in June and unanimously overrode Fouts’ veto in July.
Council President Patrick Green said the body wants to align the mayor’s term limits with the council’s, which also is three terms or 12 years.
Fouts said the measure is a political attack on him and speculated Green, the mayor pro-tem, will run for mayor in 2023.
After Buffa did not turn over the ballot question to Miller, the Warren City Council sued, and Macomb Circuit Judge Edward Servitto on Aug. 24 ruled in favor of the defendants.
However, the City Council appealed, and a three-judge appeals panel on Wednesday unanimously reversed Servitto and ruled the question should go on the ballot.
Buffa filed an application to appeal to the state Supreme Court on Thursday morning.
The appeals court ruled that election law trumps a law regarding charter amendments that requires gubernatorial approval of a ballot question before it can go on the ballot. A governor’s approval is not certification, the appeals court said.
“The first deadline of (election law) was satisfied, and both Buffa and the trial court were wrong to conclude otherwise,” the appeals judges wrote.
Election law says a ballot proposal must be forwarded by the local clerk to the county clerk by 82 days before the election, which was Aug. 13.
The appeals court concluded the proposal was certified to Buffa on July 13 and by Buffa on July 20, weeks before the deadline so Buffa should have forwarded it to Miller by Aug. 13.
In upending the charter amendment law in this case, the appeals court wrote that law “concerns only a narrow category.”
Miller was a defendant in the case but said he was neutral on the matter and filed a brief seeking clarification on the issue.