WARREN — A local business alliance is backing one effort to recall Warren City Councilman Eddie Kabacinski, one of five members of the council who voted against a proposed settlement that could have ended a costly lawsuit over medical marijuana dispensary licensing.
“Even before his vote on this matter, I was inclined to run a recall on him anyhow,” said John Johnson, CEO of the Southeast Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the chairman of the recall committee.
Johnson said Kabacinski, elected in November 2019 to represent Warren’s City Council District 5, “had a lot of baggage” even before the vote on the settlement. He said Kabacinski was in the “weakest” position of the five council members who voted in late November to deny a proposed settlement and consent judgment in the Pinebrook Warren LLC et al vs. City of Warren et al case, brought by a host of hopeful marijuana dispensary operators.
Attorneys and a court appointed facilitator said settlement would have ended litigation between the city and 16 plaintiff entities that were denied medical marijuana dispensary licenses in 2019. The settlement also would have ended litigation with another group of 15 entities that were allowed to enter into the Pinebrook lawsuit as intervening parties after they were originally issued licenses by the city that were later voided by a Macomb County Circuit Court judge, who ruled that the city’s committee tasked with reviewing the applications violated the Open Meetings Act.
With no deal in place, attorneys speculated that litigation would commence and that legal costs could “skyrocket.”
Johnson said the council’s denial of the settlement means lost cannabis industry cash for the city from applications, annual permits and licensing, and eventually, a share of state excise taxes.
In a release announcing the recall effort, Johnson repeatedly called Kabacinski a “job killer” and said the chamber stands in support of the cannabis industry’s efforts to do business locally as soon as it is legally permissible.
“I think we can make a change at the council table, and maybe there’ll be another vote that will be more in favor of where we’re going with this,” Johnson said. “It’s about jobs.”
Kabacinski did not respond to text and voicemail messages seeking comment for this report.
The recall language was filed with the office of now-former Macomb County Clerk Fred Miller in late December, and a hearing date before the Macomb County Election Commission was set for after press time.
A letter setting the hearing date was addressed to Robert Boccomino, a former member of the Warren City Council who left the District 5 seat currently held by Kabacinski under term limits after the November 2019 election. Both Boccomino and Johnson confirmed that the former councilman was enlisted to submit the recall language as a resident of the district, which is a requirement for the recall effort.
Boccomino said he has served on the board for the Macomb County Rotating Emergency Shelter Team with Johnson and that he agreed to file the language when asked out of concern for lost jobs.
“My constitutional right, and the committee’s constitutional right, is to try to submit a recall and let the people decide,” Boccomino said. “I think we can get more jobs in Warren. That’s the whole reason, what this is about. Especially with the virus going on, giving jobs away is ridiculous.”
According to the letter, the commission will meet to determine if the recall petition’s language is factual and sufficiently clear.
The language, as submitted, reads:
“We, the undersigned, being qualified electors residing in the city of Warren Michigan, City Council District 5, request that Edward Kabacinski, member of the City of Warren Michigan, City Council, representing City Council District 5, be recalled for his no vote in opposition to the Proposed Settlement and Consent Judgement in the matter of Pinebrook Warren, LLC, etalv. City of Warren, Macomb County Circuit Court Case No. 2019-004059-CZ. at the Warren City Council meeting of November 24, 2020.”
Macomb County’s clerk, treasurer and sheriff sit on the Election Commission.
Approval of the language would mean recall organizers would be required to gather signatures. Johnson said he believes the signatures of roughly 3,000 registered voters from the district would be needed and that it would represent the required percentage of those who cast ballots in the state’s last gubernatorial election.
Should the language be approved and the retired number of signatures collected, the question could be placed on the ballot of the city’s next election.
“There are a lot of unknowns in that regard,” Johnson said. “We could even pay for a special election.”
He said doing that would be “absolutely something we would consider,” at an anticipated cost of $20,000 to $25,000 to hold a special election in District 5, which represents south Warren between Ryan and Hoover roads and a portion of central Warren that extends north to Martin Road between Hoover Road and Van Dyke Avenue.
That potential recall election isn’t the only issue Kabacinski is facing.
In October, he was arraigned on misdemeanor charges after he allegedly handcuffed a woman who put “Black Lives Matter” stickers on a Donald Trump political sign at a rally in Eastpointe. The case is pending, and a hearing is scheduled for Jan. 19.
Prior to that, Kabacinski drew criticism from his constituents after he stood with a group of counterdemonstrators he later said turned out to support law enforcement during a “March Against Racism” in Warren. The march was organized by the South Warren Alliance for Radical Movement and Detroit Will Breathe after a series of incidents that targeted a local Black family.
On Jan. 6, SWARM announced on Facebook that the group had submitted a recall petition of its own seeking to remove Kabacinski, who according to the SWARM recall petition, at the September march “openly portrayed himself as a police officer.” The petition also cites Kabacinski’s alleged actions at the Eastpointe rally, and his statements at a September City Council meeting where he claimed the organizers of the march were “affiliated with terrorist organizations.”
For updates on this story following the meeting of the Macomb County Election Commission, visit www.candgnews.com or follow the Warren Weekly on Facebook @Warren Weekly.