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State Can't Veto Pot, Rent Amendments

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Neither Gov. William G. Milliken nor Atty. Gen. Frank J. Kelley has veto power over the rent control and marijuana charter amendments Ann Arbor voters will decide next Monday. , A staff attorney for the attorney general's office who did background work on the amendments which resulted in Kelley's decision to withhold approval of them, and a recommendation the governor do the same, says because the amendments were initiated by citizens they would become city law if approved by voters. In other election developments Thursday, the Human Rights Party says it has received assurances from Prosecuting Attorney William F. Delhey that an investigation will be made into possible violations of the state campaign financing law by the Citizens for Good Housing (CGH), which is working against the rent control amendment. The HRP also asked City Attorney , Edwin L. Pear to investigate possible violations of the city's financial disclosure law, but Pear says he has checked all of the party's complaints he has received and thus far has found no violations. Louis Porter, a member of Kelley' s staff, said today because the amendments were initiated by citizens the governor has no veto power over them. Kelley's objections to the amendments were stated in a letter to Gov. Milliken Wednesday. In his letter, Kelley said he disapproved of the amendments and recommended the governor do the same. However, he did not amplify on the impact of such an action. The News then stated, incorrectly, that the governor's approval was needed for the amendments, a situation that exists when a legislative body places a charter amendment on the ballot but not when citizens petition for amendments. If City Council had placed the amendments on the ballot a disapproval by Milliken would have meant the city would either have to change the amendments to satisfy the objections, or override the disapproval with a two-thirds vote of council. Procedurally, however, the amendments still have to pass through the governor's office. Porter said Kelley's decision to withhold approval serves mainly as advice to the Ann Arbor electorate about his legal questions of the amendments. But, Porter added, if the governor or attorney general wanted to they could take legal action against the amendments should they be approved. Porter said he did not anticipate such an action. Kelley's objections to the marijuana amendment concerned a section which would prohibit city police or city attorneys from prosecuting under any marijuana law other than the charter provision. He questioned the rent control amendment because of a section which would allow the members of the elected rent control board from one party to select candidates for replacing any board member of that party who might resign. Kelley also said a court decision would be needed to determine if rent control is legal in Michigan. Court decisions on rent control in other states are divided, Kelley said. The attorney general questioned both amendments because, he said, more than one related proposition; and state law requires each proposition be separated on the ballot. At no point did Kelley directly say either of the amendments were illegal. He said the limits the pot amendment would place on city police "would violate strong public policy." Relating to his complaint that both amendments have more than one related propositions which aren't separated on the ballot, Kelley said this does "not fully comply with state law." HRP spokesman Frank Shoichet said the claim the pot amendment would violate "strong public policy" does not mean it is illegal. "In fact, we were surprised that he didn't say it was illegal,: since this seems to be politically timed to affect the Ann Arbor election. Shoichet also claimed that before Kelley disapproved of the amendments a staff member who researched the legality of them had recommended both be, approved with reservations. However, Porter, who said he did the staff work, said this morning the letter Kelley sent to Milliken was essentially the same one he drafted after his research. Concerning the claim a staff report had recommended approval with: reservations, Porter said he was "fairly certain that was not the case." No changes of any substance were made in his original draft of the letter, he said; Shoichet also criticized Kelley's complaint about the ballot issues containing more than one related proposition. "Both ballot questions were checked by the attorney general's staff and they instructed the Ann Arbor city clerk after making that check to print the ballot questions exactly as specified in the petition," he said. The HRP presented its information about possible violation of state campaign financing laws to Delhey Thursday afternoon, and reported the prosecutor indicated he would investigate the complaints. The accusations involve possible illegal corporate contributions and possible illegal use of corporate employee time for political activities. HRP members gave Delhey copies of financial records of the Citizens for Good Housing, the leader of the anti-rent control effort, outlining $34,000 in contributions, some of which the HRP claims to be illegal. Also given to Delhey was an affidavit sworn by an HRP member who claims to have seen employees of McKinley Associates, a property management firm, preparing mailers opposing rent control in the company offices. The HRP is claiming the donation of employe time and labor is a violation of the corporate contributions provisions. James Brien, a coordinator for Citizens for Good Housing, had denied any wrongdoing by the committee. "I won't claim that someone hasn't lifted a box of envelopes sometime during company time," Brien said, but he added the normally paid workers who have worked for the committee during the day do so on their own time. Brien also said all contributions received by the CGH would be fully accounted for when the committee files the financial disclosure report required by the state law after the election. He said this would include $32,000 in contributions not detailed in a finance report filed with the city clerk earlier this week. The HRP request for Delhey to investigate the CGH is based partially on two checks the committee acknowledges it received from Nob Hill Apartments for $1,900 and the Ann Arbor Board of Realtors for $1,000. Brien said in both instances it was originally thought the donations were legal, but was later discovered they were not. He said the Board of Realtors obtained a legal opinion which at first said it was legal, but later that opinion was reversed.