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Published: Friday, 7/27/2007

Revised recall petitions filed to oust Hillsdale mayor

BY MAGGIE REID
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The campaign to recall 19-year-old Hillsdale Mayor Michael Sessions regained momentum yesterday when former Councilman Jeff Buchhop filed a new petition to remove the mayor from office.

Mr. Buchhop's first proposal to oust the mayor was rejected Wednesday when the Hillsdale County Elections Commission ruled that language in the petition was not clear enough by Michigan's legal standards.

He revised the language and resubmitted his proposal yesterday after Mr. Sessions told reporters that he did not plan on making a public apology as Mr. Buchhop requested.

If the new proposal passes muster with the elections board, the earliest the recall could appear on the ballot would be the Feb. 26 election.

Mr. Buchhop said he decided to re-file his petition because he did not think a heartfelt apology was forthcoming.

He said Wednesday that he would drop the recall campaign if the mayor broadcast a public, sincere apology on a local radio station.

Mr. Sessions' attorney, Michelle Bianchi, told Mr. Buchhop at Wednesday's hearing that her client was willing to apologize.

"I told him that I had heard that he would rescind the petition to recall if Michael simply apologizes," Ms. Bianchi said. "And he said that was true."

While Mr. Sessions did not return calls for comment, Ms. Bianchi said the mayor had planned to accommodate Mr. Buchhop's request by publicly apologizing during a radio interview sometime within the next week.

But Mr. Sessions told reporters yesterday that his attorney never made any such pledge, and he has no plans to broadcast a public apology.

"I have already apologized," Mr. Sessions said. "I have apologized three or four times."

He added that completion of a court sentence that included community service, restitution, and court costs has settled the matter.

The attempt to recall Mr. Sessions began shortly after the mayor pleaded no contest July 2 in Hillsdale District Court to an annoyance charge for hacking into his ex-campaign manager's college e-mail account and sending malicious e-mails.

Mr. Sessions, a student at Hillsdale College, was charged by the Hillsdale County Prosecutor's Office for maliciously using a false name and sending an e-mail to the mother of Hillsdale High School classmate Brandon Thomas.

Prosecutor Neal A. Brady said the e-mail attempted to convince Mr. Thomas' mother that her son and his roommate were regularly out drinking, partying, and womanizing.

Ms. Bianchi said Mr. Sessions plans on making public apologies, but that he does not want to apologize with Mr. Buchhop "holding a gun to his head."

"He's planning on apologizing again to the people of Hillsdale in his own manner, but I don't know if [Mr. Buchhop] will accept that at this point," Ms. Bianchi said.

Mr. Buchhop said he feels that the mayor qualifies his apologies and confuses their sincerity with legalistic terms.

"It hasn't been heartfelt because he's still in a very defensive mode," Mr. Buchhop said. "At some point, maturity needs to come through and he just needs to own up to it."

Contact Maggie Reid at:

mreid@theblade.com or

419-724-6050.



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