Disagreements over distribution of an election-related “door hanger” in Farmington have led to complaints filed with the Michigan Secretary of State and Farmington Public Safety.
The card shares information about Farmington city government and an opinion about a slate of candidates that includes incumbents Maria Taylor and David Delind, and newcomer Johnna Balk. It does not include information about the organization or individual responsible for the material.
Last week, Taylor sent Farmington Voice a video that showed a confrontation with Jessica Perrot, wife of council candidate Geof Perrot, who was distributing the cards. (We aren’t sharing the video because Perrot’s children were also present.)
Taylor then posted photos of the flyer on social media and said Perrot’s campaign had been distributing them. In the comments, Farmington resident Susan Arlin took credit for creating it. She also denied any connection with Perrot’s campaign.
‘An attempt to educate’
Arlin told Farmington Voice the piece came out of her own research and concerns about three candidates running together.
“It became apparent that we’ve got three positions available, and we’ve got a slate of three people that are running, and what does this mean?” she said. “The concept that they were running as a set party, and that party could then monopolize any decision-making, that is very concerning to me… I want individual people who can debate and come to the best solution.”
“It literally was an attempt to educate our neighborhoods that this is how our city council works. This is what their purpose is,” she added.
Arlin said after seeing a social media comment about rules for election-related materials, she researched the issue–but found no clear answers. She has stopped handing out the flyers.
“It’s unfortunate that took away from the message I was trying to get out, which is educate yourself,” she said. “Just do your homework. Know what you’re talking about. Don’t be so quick to jump into, ‘this sounds like a great idea’. Really, really think about it. Know what you’re voting for.”
SOS, police complaints
Michigan’s campaign finance law requires candidates, campaigns, and anyone representing a candidate or campaign to identify who paid for the flyer or advertisement. Exemptions include an individual “acting independently and not acting as an agent for a candidate or any committee”.
Taylor believes Jessica Perrot’s involvement with flyer distribution ties them to his campaign. She filed a complaint Wednesday with the Secretary of State’s office. Following a preliminary investigation, the department will determine whether to further pursue the complaint.
Farmington Voice has submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for a police report that accuses Taylor of harassing Jessica Perrot and her daughters. Public Safety Director Ted Warthman declined comment.
We also asked both candidates for comments and received these statements, published in the order they were received:
Geof Perrot: “I am disgusted and appalled that photos and videos were made of my minor children by City Councilmember Maria Taylor while she aggressively pursued my wife and children on our street after making false accusations about the legality of an election-related flyer she did not like. This is not a campaign issue. It is both a public safety issue and a disciplinary issue involving one of our elected officials. Due to the involvement of children, we have submitted an FOIA request for the full investigative report.”
Maria Taylor: “Johnna, Dave, and I have been knocking doors since July, talking one-on-one with Farmington voters about our vision for the community’s future. We’ve run a positive, pro-Farmington campaign, based on our shared values and the priorities that Farmington voters have told us they want to see addressed.
“We announced that we were working together back in the spring, and we’ve been fully transparent about it since then. I’ve mentioned Dave and Johnna to everyone I’ve met on their doorstep, and we have each other’s bios on the flier we’ve been handing out for the past four months. At the same time, we are also running our own campaigns with individual yard signs, because we respect the right of Farmington voters to choose their favorite candidates as their top three. I’m pretty sure people understand our approach.
“I’ve talked to voters who received this attack flier, and they don’t like it. They don’t like anonymous attacks masquerading as an ‘educational’ piece. They don’t like that it’s tearing people down.
“I’m not worried that this will affect the outcome of the race. I have faith that Farmington people are smart enough to see the attack as the scaremongering it is. Honestly, most folks I talked to last week said they threw the fliers straight into the recycling. I’m not surprised—the whole thing reeks of desperation. The real question is, why is the wife of a candidate handing out attack literature? Why put so much energy into a smear campaign instead of focusing on the issues? I’m disappointed, because tearing other people down is about as un-Farmington as it gets.”