By Tom Tolen /

“It’s been a long time coming.” That thought was expressed to WHMI by Brighton resident and attorney Sarah Cross after her petition drive against two Brighton school board members got off the ground this past weekend.

Cross is attempting to have Brighton school board trustees John Conely and Bill Trombley recalled from office because of what she contends they have said, asserting that they have not “conduct(ed) themselves in a dignified way.”

Acting under a court order, on Friday the Livingston County Election Commission certified the language of a petition submitted by Cross against Brighton Board of Education Trustee John Conely. The petition language was approved 3-0 at the hearing, which means Cross and her supporters are free to go out and collect signatures aimed at the recall of Conely and fellow Brighton school board member Bill Trombley.

Cross and a cadre of volunteers started gathering petition signatures on Saturday. Cross says she is, in her words, “very optimistic that we'll gather enough signatures. It seems to be gaining quite a bit of momentum."

Cross, a local attorney and mother of a child enrolled at Brighton High School, charges Conely with comparing mask mandates to actions by Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime, which Conely has denied. The commission initially rejected the petition, but she appealed to Livingston County Circuit Court, and Judge Matthew McGivney overturned the decision, remanding the petition back to the commission for the language to be certified, which was done on Friday.

As Livingston County Clerk Betsy Hundley told WHMI, "The judge determined that the language was factual and clear.” Though, according to Hundley, it was not precedent-setting, she says, quoting, “It’s highly unusual to remand back to the commission and order it to be certified for circulation.”

Cross also is also attempting to have fellow Brighton Board of Education Trustee Bill Trombley recalled, the petition language against him having earlier been approved by the commission. Cross says Trombley admitted at a board meeting that he did not read his board packet.

Though not denying he said it, Trombley has responded that he is the longest-serving member of the school board and his position in the construction industry has given him valuable insight into school bond issues. Trombley says he has used this institutional knowledge to the district’s advantage as a member of the bond committee.

Conely cites his service to the district, including volunteer work with the 2019 world champion TechnoDogs FIRST Robotics team and mentorship as a volunteer technician in the auto lab program. He told WHMI he has “committed well over three decades of service, including over three terms of service to (Brighton Area) schools.” Conely says he serves, like the other board members, without pay. "The compensation," he says, "is seeing the kids and seeing their graduations and even college graduations.”

Those who sign the petitions must be registered voters and live within the Brighton Area School District. The signatures have to be gathered within 60 days of the date in which Cross began collecting them. She will be required to obtain a minimum of 5,472 validated signatures in order to force a recall election.

Hundley emphasizes that even though the petition language is good for 180 days, the recall signatures must be dated within a 60-day period. If Cross and her group collect enough signatures, she is required to submit them to the county clerk’s office for validation of the signatures.

If enough signatures can be validated and certified, an election will be scheduled.