Recall Papers Target Ishpeming City Council

Ishpeming’s former police chief had been at odds with the City Council about his possible retirement for most of this year.

Even though Jim Bjorne has been fired, supporters are trying to force City Council members he’s disagreed with from office.

Bjorne was fired from Ishpeming’s police chief job two and a half weeks ago.

Now, supporters of his are trying to recall 3 members of the City Council.

Ishpeming resident Rebecca Olds filed a recall petition Monday, targeting Elaine Racine, Claudia Demarest and Mike Tall.

Robert Clark is Bjorne’s brother-in-law and is serving as spokesman for Olds and other recall supporters, who are calling themselves Ishpeming Citizens for Bjorne Justice.

Clark says quite a few people in the community were upset with the council when it voted 3-2 in March to transfer Bjorne’s service time with the Marquette County Sheriff’s Department to his city job and add the two job tenures together.

The service transfer would have allowed Bjorne to retire with a full pension in April, when he turned 50.

Racine, Demarest and Tall were the three City Council members who voted it down.

One of them says they offered Chief Bjorne a less expensive retirement proposal.

Elaine Racine says they offered Chief Bjorne the option of retiring with all of his city service time, which would have allotted him a pension of more than $30,000 per year.

He would also have received severance pay and would have been eligible for COBRA health insurance coverage.

Clark says opposition to the council members intensified when Bjorne was fired.

Clark says he’s heard from many people who support the idea of a recall as an attempt to get justice for Bjorne.

The city has granted similar transfers of service for employees in the past.

Racine says she looked for a way to grant it for Bjorne, but there wasn’t one.

She says when she, Demarest and Tall were elected last fall, they took their election as a message from voters to stop doing certain things just because that’s how they’d always been done and to start keeping a closer watch over people’s tax dollars.

The recall petition has to pass muster at a clarity hearing on October 26th at Marquette County Probate Court.

If it passes that, it’ll go out for signatures.

Ishpeming Citizens for Bjorne Justice would have to collect 467 verified signatures from Ishpeming voters to get the recall on the ballot next May.