Hougton suit dismissed
|By Neal McNamara|
Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette dismissed a lawsuit against the city of Lansing Wednesday morning that asked to prevent Second Ward Councilwoman-elect Tina Houghton from taking office.
Robert Gray had sued to stop Houghton from taking office, alleging that she was not eligible because she owed taxes when she signed an affidavit to register as a candidate.
Collette dismissed the suit because he did not believe Gray would prevail in his suit. Collette did not rule on the issue of whether a candidate who owes taxes is eligible to run for office and win. At the time Houghton registered as a candidate in May, she owed Ingham County $1,919 in taxes, which were overdue from 2008. By the time she won election in November, she was also late on 2009 city taxes $1,397. She has since paid all back taxes.
According to the Lansing City Charter, a candidate who is in default to the city cannot hold office. The charter does not speak to whether a person in default to the city can run for office.
Gray said that he would wait and see on possible further action to prevent Houghton from holding office because two other Lansing residents are pursuing actions. John Pollard has filed a complaint with Lansing Police alleging that Houghton committed perjury in signing her affidavit, which Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings is investigating. Loretta Stanaway has filed a complaint regarding the Houghton situation with the Lansing Board of Ethics.
Houghton is set to be sworn in at a ceremony on Jan. 5.
Houghton issued a statement after Wednesday’s decision pledging to “move the Second Ward and the City of Lansing forward.”
“Financial difficulties should not define a person — what defines a person is the lessons learned from the challenges life has in store for us and the future decisions he or she will make because of them. I am glad to put this behind my family, the city and myself and am ready to get some work done for all of the citizens of Lansing,” she wrote.
City Attorney Brig Smith represented the city in the matter in court Wednesday and cited law that says Gray should not be allowed to sue in the matter, saying it was an action that should be brought by the state attorney general, and against the Board of Canvassers, not the city. Lansing attorney Andrew Abood appeared in court to represent Houghton, who was not at the hearing. Abood said that he was there to represent Houghton’s interests in case the city lost in the matter. Asked if Houghton paid for his services, Abood said, “All cases have some amount of pro bono” but declined to elaborate.