GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — During the Grand Haven City Council meeting Monday night, the Grand Haven mayor asked the council to consider a resolution to replace a council member.
Mayor Catherine McNally said she received information from multiple Grand Haven residents that council member Karen Lowe doesn’t live in the city limits. McNally said she should be removed as a result.
McNally sent out a letter to fellow council members saying that Lowe’s primary home is in Grand Haven Township, while her city residence is only a summer cottage that she stopped living at in the fall. McNally cited public records of water consumption at Lowe’s home evidence that she does not reside in the city full time. McNally says this would make Lowe ineligible to serve and asked council to begin looking to replace her.
“This is a matter of some gravity that affects our Council at the most fundamental level. I have this date referred the matter to the City Attorney for some advice on external issues like referring the matter to the State Attorney General,” McNally said in the letter.
After a motion to remove the resolution at Monday’s meeting, McNally and Lowe went back and forth about why the item should or should not be discussed at a council meeting. The city attorney issued an opinion at one point saying the council has no authority to remove a council member but have the option to discuss the matter in an open meeting.
“Ms. Lowe knew her legal residency and inhabitancy was an issue before she decided to run for office,” McNally later said in the letter. “We may assume she unwisely made a personal judgment about a technical area of the law and got it badly wrong. But we should only assume that if she acknowledges and takes responsibility for her egregious error now and resigns immediately.”
Lowe said the allegations were all false and that she’d be able to prove that in a court of law using her utility bills and witnesses with personal knowledge of her inhabitance. She went on to suggest the reason the mayor is bringing the matter up in a city council meeting is because the two disagree on city issues: namely recreational marijuana, which was officially approved to be sold at dispensaries in Grand Haven at the same meeting on Monday.
“Contrary to what the mayor suggests, there is no water consumption test to establish residency in Michigan and I am, indeed, a resident of the City of Grand Haven. Residency is defined by statute. My primary residence is located on Poplar Ridge in the City of Grand Haven, which is where my husband and I habitually sleep, where we keep our primary belongings and, when we are not there, it is the place we intend to return,” said Lowe in a statement to our newsroom.
During the meeting Lowe said the accusations have resulting in her property being trespassed and people following her home to determine if she lives in the city limits.
“As the mayor well knows, if she has concerns regarding me or any fellow council member’s legal residence status, she should immediately file for a declaratory judgment action. Instead, the mayor has exhibited a careless disregard for due process and engaged in vindictive prosecution with her false criminal allegations of election fraud, voter fraud and tax fraud, all in an attempt to inflict emotional distress on me as well as damage my reputation in the eyes of the community,” said Lowe.
Several people attending the meeting were split in supporting the mayor or the council woman.
“Having the mayor, being an alleged aggrieved party, an investigator, the prosecutor, the judge and one-fifth jury in this matter is highly inappropriate. The optics are absolutely terrible,” one man said.
“My license says this, my voter registration says this, these are the things that the state looks at to determines residency,” one woman said. “Your residency determines where you can vote, so if you’re voting in a municipality that you don’t live in, what gives you the right?”
Ultimately, in a 3-2 vote, the resolution was taken off the agenda. Lowe encouraged citizens and council members to take the matter to a judge. News 8 requested interviews with McNally and Lowe after the meeting but both declined.