Holocaust comments, disincorporation effort land Spring Lake leader in potential recall

Posted at 7:11 PM, Jul 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-19 19:11:37-04

SPRING LAKE, Mich. -- Since she took office in January, Spring Lake Village President Joyce Hatton hasn’t made it a secret that her main goal is to discorporate and have the village dissolve into the surrounding Spring Lake township. The less services residents have to pay for, Hatton argued, the less taxes they’ll face.

But not everyone bought in.

Then, during an April village council work session, Hatton made some eyebrow raising comments, likening a parking ordinance that required some residents to pay for parking outside their homes to the Holocaust. FOX17 obtained audio from the meeting. In it, Hatton can be heard saying the following:

“Sunday I watched for four hours a [inaudible] TV on the Holocaust and how they treated the Jews in Hungary because it was written by Eli Wiesel who wrote it and he was there at the age of 15 when they first were taken away. Anyways…he said they started in the 30s by identifying them. And then after that they made them wear a yellow…like a rose or a button or something. And then after that they started making them do other things. Well, I could only think of this when I saw all this that people can apply for a license.”

It sparked immediate backlash, and a more calculated response from citizens like Michelle Hanks.

“I was so angry,” said Hanks, who filed for a recall of Hatton in July. I heard the comments about comparing Spring Lake’s parking ordinance to Nazi Germany…and I just couldn’t.”

So Hanks filed for a recall vote, one that could remove Hatton from her position as president of the village.

On Wednesday, a board of Ottawa County officials voted 2-1 to allow the language Hanks proposed to appear on a future ballot. She still has to garner 282 signatures and has 180 days to do it, and Hatton has ten days to file an appeal.

“I’m happy about this,” said Hanks. “We’ll wait ten days, we’ll see what happens, and we’ll start circulating the petition.”

Following the meeting, Hatton spoke to FOX17, clarifying her comments from April.

“Why in the world do you pass a law when you know that you can’t enforce it or you won’t, which is what the situation is,” she said, referring to the parking ordinance. “And it has nothing to do with the Holocaust. It has to do with their property rights, and that was what I was talking about.”

As for the recall petition, Hatton said she’ll respect the decision of the voters.

“It’s up to the people and I believe in the people and I certainly look forward to their vote,” she said. “If they want me to lose my position, I think I should.”

Hatton’s platform since the campaign has been to eliminate duplicate taxes village residents pay to the village and the township. Disincorporation is still going to be a ballot item on August 8th and Hatton could still very well get what she’s been pushing for – the progress of the recall won’t affect that. If disincorporation becomes reality, many of the village’s services would come from outside township and county contracts.