LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — A Lansing School Board Trustee who owes the county clerk $1,800 in unpaid campaign finance act fees and fines got a bit of a reprieve Monday.
Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum informed Rosalyn Williams that while she would not waive her fines and fees accumulated since her campaign began in 2022, she would be able to pay it off on a payment plan.
Starting Nov. 1, 2023, and extending through Dec. 1, 2025, Williams will have to pay the county clerk at least $69.23 a month to pay off her debt.
Williams had sought a ‘Good Cause Waiver’ from Byrum on Friday after a 6 News inquiry into her campaign finance records revealed she owed $1,800. The trustee, who was elected in November 2022 and took office Jan. 1, 2023, claimed in a letter that she had experienced homelessness and a complicated situation surrounding the Dec. 31, 2022, shooting of her son.
Byrum declined to offer her a waiver of her fees and fines.
“The majority of the committee’s noncompliance with campaign finance filing requirements occurred before the events in your letter,” Byrum wrote in a letter on Oct. 2, “and the events did not coincide with campaign finance filing deadlines, therefore, your request for a Good Cause Waiver of the fines is denied.”
“I did not know, I was not aware or sure of,” Williams tells 6 News. “And once I was made aware by your station, I corrected and rectified that.”
Byrum says that’s not true. She says her election staff had exchanged phone calls and emails about the campaign reports, something Williams says she “doesn’t recall.”
A review by 6 News found Williams had failed to file any of the campaign finance documents required by Michigan law.
That includes a failure to file a Statement of Organization within 30 days of becoming a candidate. Failing to do so is a misdemeanor in Michigan, punishable by up to $1,000 in fines.
Records also indicate she has not filed a Campaign Finance Act Compliance Affidavit. The document is signed under penalty of perjury – a 5-year felony – attesting that a candidate has completed all campaign paperwork and paid any fines or fees before taking the oath of office. Failing to file the document is a misdemeanor. Filing an affidavit that all campaign fines and fees as well as reporting records are appropriately resolved could be charged as a felony.
Candidates who raise or spend less than $1,000 can seek a waiver of campaign finance reporting requirements from the county clerk. Williams did not seek that waiver.
Williams tells 6 News she signed both a Campaign Finance Act Compliance Affidavit and her oath of office when she was sworn in earlier this year. School officials have not produced the documents, despite repeated requests by 6 News. School Board President Rachel Willis declined to comment for this story.
Michigan Secretary of State Senior Press Secretary Cheri Hardmon says Michigan law has no provisions requiring a person to “vacate a position that they have been elected to for failing to file documents.”
Mark Brewer, an election attorney out of southeast Michigan and the former executive director of the Michigan Democratic Party, says whether or not Williams is legally entitled to hold the position is one that will have to be resolved by a judge.
“Someone would have to file a quo warranto action in court,” he tells 6 News. “It questions whether or not she legally holds the office. Whether or not she should be in office at all.”
Brewer says Byrum is not the person who should take action in court.
“She doesn’t have the power to take someone out of office,” he says. “But a court could do that if a citizen decided to file a lawsuit.”
Williams says if a voter chooses to sue, she will listen to the courts.
“It’s the people who matter,” she says. “They voted. So, if they say they are going to file this lawsuit, I will have to accept it.”