TUESDAY, May 4 — A Windsor Township resident and attorney who sued former township clerk and current Lansing City Council candidate Linda Keefe has a warning for local voters: Don’t trust Keefe.
The reason, Jaye Bergamini said, is that Keefe is “lazy.”
As evidence, she points to reams of court documents used in a lawsuit she brought in 2013 on behalf of several Windsor Township residents that was aimed at forcing Keefe to do the job that she was elected to do. The residents ultimately had to ask a judge to order Keefe to do the job.
That lawsuit set off a series of court actions resulting in Keefe’s position as clerk being declared legally vacant and costing township taxpayers thousands of dollars in fees, contracts and legal assistance — as well as increased insurance rates.
“She is not qualified to do anything except flap her lips,” Bergamini said last week during an interview at her home in rural Windsor Township.
Keefe was sworn in as township clerk after the November 2012 election. Almost immediately, court records show, township employees and others began to see odd changes in their payroll, if they received it at all. The new clerk also seemed to rarely be in her office during office hours.
By January, the small community’s whisper network was in overdrive about allegations of Keefe’s abusive nature, failure to show up and other concerns.
Bergamini couldn’t believe it, so she attended the next two board meetings. And it became obvious Keefe was not doing her job, she said. Meeting minutes were not showing up for review and approval and the meeting notices were not being properly posted, resulting in violations of the Open Meetings Act.
Bergamini called a meeting of community members to discuss the flailing clerk in March 2013, resulting in a decision made by seven residents to file suit against Keefe and demand, in court, that she do the job electors approved her to do.
The May 2013 lawsuit had numerous exhibits to demonstrate the need for the court’s involvement — including affidavits attesting to her lack of time in the office, reports she had filed a blank, pre-dated notarized attestation for the alleged hiring of a deputy clerk and multiple agendas related to various meetings without minutes.
The lawsuit also alleged, and the court agreed, that Keefe had failed to become a certified election official under Michigan law. As a result of that failure, the township had to contract a Delta Township election official to oversee a February school election. The Township ultimately sought to recoup the costs of the outside contract with Delta from the bond covering Keefe.
Judge Jeffrey Sauter did just that in July 2013. He issued a legal ruling, called a writ of mandamus, ordering Keefe to become a qualified election official, to follow the Open Meetings and Freedom of Information acts, to pay employees of the township their past due employment wages and to assist in the performance of the township’s required audit — her duties as clerk.
“Based upon the evidence presented, this court finds Keefe is unlikely to perform her mandatory, non-discretionary statutory duties without direction and supervision of the court,” Sauter wrote in his order.
Keefe did not respond to multiple phone calls seeking comment.
However, she told the Livingston County Press that her removal from the clerk’s post in Windsor Township was “political,” noting that she was a Democrat and the majority of the board was Republican. She made that comment while under fire for signatures she collected to get on the ballot to run for the 8th Congressional District in Michigan in 2016.
Enough of her petition signatures were rejected that she ultimately did not qualify for the ballot.
Keefe also appears not to have fully complied with the order. Her position was ultimately declared vacant when she failed to provide an acceptable bond to assure she would not cost the township any additional cash. Earlier in 2013, the township board had laid the groundwork for her removal by adopting an ordinance requiring officials to be covered by a $10,000 bond.
That was also not the first time Keefe landed in court over an elected position. In 1996, she ran for a position on the Ingham County Board of Commissioners. She ultimately unseated a Republican incumbent in November of that year and took office. But incumbent Commissioner Pat Gallagher discovered that when Keefe filed for election in May 1996, she was neither a resident nor a registered voter in the county’s 9th commission district, making her ineligible.
An Ingham County judge agreed with Gallagher. Keefe appealed the decision, which was later upheld in 1998, effectively booting Keefe off the county commission.
Keefe is joined in this year's race for City Council by seven other hopefuls: Incumbent City Council President Peter Spadafore, 36; Rachel Willis, 32; Grant Blood II, 34; Jeffrey Brown, 37; Linda Appling; DeMarco Taft, 47; and Claretta Duckett-Freeman, 39.
Click here to watch a video of the township Board of Trustees discussing its concerns with Keefe.