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5 Michigan township officials recalled for Chinese-owned Gotion project

people protesting gotion
Activists behind the recall effort faulted the township board for not being transparent about the battery plant deal or seeking enough local input. (Bridge photo by Paula Gardner)
  • Green Charter Township residents voted to recall five remaining board members for approving the deal with Chinese-owned Gotion  
  • Voters in Eagle Township recalled the township supervisor for lack of transparency over plans for a megasite

Residents of a west Michigan township voted Tuesday to recall five remaining members of the township board for their approval of tax abatements for a Chinese-owned company tied to a new electric vehicle battery plant. 

Residents in Green Charter Township, near Big Rapids, tossed the board members after months of mounting controversy relating to the battery plant deal and the Chinese connections of Gotion, Inc.


The battery plant deal was announced with fanfare last year by the Whitmer administration as part of an aggressive effort to attract EV investment to the state. The Gotion plant promises to bring billions of dollars in investment and 2,350 jobs to the region. 


But there has been growing criticism of the deal, much of it from conservative politicians and media, tied to Gotion, Inc., which is a U.S. subsidiary of Gotion High-Tech Inc., which has ties to the Chinese Communist Party, which is accelerating its influence over Chinese businesses. 

“With these successful recalls and ordinance repeal, Michigan is at the leading edge of this fight, and should be a warning sign to other states recklessly pursuing such ‘deals’ which jeopardize our national security,” said former United States Ambassadors Joseph Cella and Peter Hoekstra in a statement Wednesday morning. 

Tuesday’s recalls remove township supervisor James Chapman, clerk Janet Clark, treasurer Denise MacFarlane and trustees Roger Carroll and Dale Jernstadt. Some were seen cleaning out their offices Tuesday night. (Two other trustees, James Peek and Gary Todd, resigned before the election.) 

The recalled board members have been replaced by Jason Kruse (supervisor),Corri Riebow (clerk), Robert Henderson (treasurer), Kelly Cushway (trustee) and Dale Jernstadt (trustee). 

Township residents filed a petition earlier this year to recall the board members, accusing them of failing to gauge community sentiment about the project. The factory is planned to border Big Rapids, just north of the township. In addition to stated concerns about national security, given the fraught relations between the U.S. and China, there were also questions about the environmental impact of the plant on the rural community.   

The 3-million-square-foot, $2.3 billion EV battery factory also has supporters in the community, with backers citing the promised jobs in a region that has struggled with population loss. 

But its detractors have made most of the noise. In April, a hundreds of people protested in Big Rapids after the line of demarcation for the plant was drawn, holding “No to Gotion” signs. It’s unclear, though, what Tuesday’s recall will do, if anything, to stop the project.  


The Gotion votes weren’t the only recall efforts Tuesday relating to large development projects in Michigan.  

Voters in Eagle Township, near Lansing, recalled township supervisor Patti Schafer, citing a lack of transparency over a planned megasite last year that ultimately went to another state. 

Schafer had signed a non-disclosure agreement, with the township board’s approval, to work with parties interested in developing the property. She questioned why she was the only board member being recalled even though all board members had knowledge of the non-disclosure agreement. 

Troy Stroud will replace her as township supervisor.

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