In this electronic information age, there should be no barrier to citizens who want information that affects them from their local governments about public policies and voting information.  The City of Ludington has made improvements over the years in providing information, but when it came time last year to ask the voters to allow other citizens to revise the city charter, they kept them ignorant throughout, effectively disenfranchising them from the process.  

In November 2021, the Ludington City Council unanimously approved putting a question before the voters of whether they should revise their charter.  Statute assigns that body with additional duties when they put such a question on the ballot, and they never did.  Long story short, they put the question on the ballot but kept the costs of the revision and the compensation of the revisionists to themselves without fixing those rates beforehand.  Voters saw the question, yet were never provided the costs and compensation numbers, so the presumption was that the revision would be done by unpaid volunteers who would have negligible costs along the way.  Even with that offered freebie, about 40% of the people said no.  

Arbitrary and forecasted numbers were assigned by three administrators in the 2022/2023 budget for the proposed revision costs (should it pass), and these were subsequently placed in an obscure line-item and never explained to the council before they approved the budget.  In the six months before the election was set for, the council would not fix either amount.  The City would issue a FAQ about the revision process after the budget was introduced, but rather than giving costs and compensation figures, it would show only that the city council would have to take action to fix those rates.

The city council failed in their duties to inform the citizenry, basically guaranteeing success of the proposal since voters wouldn't have to wonder whether the prohibitive cost of $83,000 might be a little steep to spend reviewing a document that seems to be working okay as is.  This was wrong on their part, a violation of the law, and a corruption of the democratic process.  

This perversion of the process needed to be challenged as to its validity, and in a court battle that came to a head at a motion hearing in Lake County in front of Honorable Judge Wickens on 12-16-2022, an early Christmas present was awarded to the plaintiff in an XLFD vs. Goliath story for the ages; the results of the revision question ballot proposal vote was voided by the judge.  Yet the story would not merit a drop of ink or moment of broadcast in the local media.  

Until January 24, when the city council went into closed session to apparently discuss whether they should appeal the court's decision.  This would be the second meeting of the year when they went into closed session under the guise of discussing the city attorney's opinion and claiming it was protected by attorney-client privilege.  Both times, the need for the privileged communication was unclear and the council's actions afterwards support that. 

In true Ludington City Hall fashion, they came out and quickly voted to appeal saying their chances to win were strong without discussing their own neglect that caused the legal issue in the first place or any reason why their case was strong.  I'm sorry, but if you lose your case in the 51st Circuit Court, a venue that has been overtly hostile to XLFD in his legal pursuits of justice for the last 14 years with a judge that XLFD has roundly criticized over the years (and who had the judge's decision reversed back in 2012), your case isn't strong, it's the opposite.

The reason why it has been portrayed as being strong in closed sessions of the council is quite simple:  the ego of City Attorney Ross Hammersley.  Who wrote the original resolution in November 2021 that left out the costs and compensation?  Who failed to look into the compensation question for six months when he said he would at the meeting that resolution passed?  Who became the City's defense attorney when I filed the lawsuit to void the election?  Who did the trial court rule against in December, effectively saying budgets don't fix salaries or costs?  Who advised the City to consider appealing the ruling?  Who took up the appeal and basically tried to pass the same legal theory in that court with their Appellant Brief COL.pdf?  Same answer.

I don't know how the appeals court will rule and I otherwise think that Mr. Hammersley is a personable and professional attorney, a man of good character, but in these proceedings, he is effectively taking the tack of representing/defending himself and his actions in these proceedings, and everyone knows the axiom:  a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.  

I kind of know the feeling, as I have a fool for a lawyer when I proceed pro se.  My fool is not used to defending me in appeals court, as I have traditionally been the appellant when I believe the local courts have made poor decisions.  Rather than panning the trial court for a ludicrous decision, the task becomes showing that the judge made the only reasonable and principled opinion when given the fact set presented.  

Over the last week, I've been working in earnest trying to seal the deal and finished it up on Independence Day, when our founding fathers had their own vote, which fortunately was taken properly amongst themselves.  I would print it out and send it the next day. 

Summarized, it declares that the City disenfranchised the voters by not keeping them informed about the costs and compensation of the revision decision as required by statute.  Would you think people would be more likely to drop by Burger King if they had "free whoppers" on their placard or "whoppers $20"?  It ain't rocket science:  when you offer something for free you'll get more takers than when you overprice/overvalue the costs of that thing.  

The problem is getting that truism to set in a judicial panel's heads when somebody else is pushing an absurd legal theory that numbers hidden within line-items of a budget to even the city council somehow fulfills their responsibilities under law.  Here's my brief in response:  RottavCOLAppelleeBrief364849.pdf

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Rotta, Pro Se, excelling judicially.  If you do not single-handedly teach the COL a big lesson about fair elections, and set many legal precedents, then the Judicial system is a Whopper of a failure (loved the analogy).  Enjoying the simple, well-written, legally superior Brief.  You have my support.

Thanks for that support, FS, I just hope the three judges on the appeals court understand what precedent they would set if they reverse the ruling and allow any city in the future to do what Ludington did and mislead their citizens into thinking that charter revision is a free process, and then extend that to other important topics that get voted on.  

I'm presuming that the City will supply a reply brief in the next two weeks where they will do their best to contest my contentions.  I doubt whether they will address the Whopper analogy with a legal refutation, other than perhaps claiming that they never offered free Whoppers, while ignoring that each ballot was a 'free Whopper' coupon!

The City of Ludington, guided by Hammersley, just seems so wrong in this case that even the Three Stooges should see the City of Ludington's failure to follow the Law. It's not just Hammersley, but high-charging attorneys seem to have to dig COL out of a lot of errors, historically. CoL does what it wants in its secret rooms, secret meetings, secret closed sessions. You have slowed the wheel of corruption, and brought light to the secret cliques--and what a victory over this Charter revision corruption.

A large set of circumstances indicate that the City's strategy was to optimize the chances that the proposal would pass and chances that the eventual charter revision would pass.  They never set the costs and compensation, their FAQ page and other information sources never had these numbers, nor did the media air any, they put the question on a low-turnout May election juxtaposed by the sinking fund renewal which clearly put out the numbers on it, their timeline had the CRC finish up in mid-2023 with a vote on charter revisions coming up in an odd year election, where they could better control turnout. 

The CRC was over-populated with people with public sector pedigrees, so the eventual product was guaranteed to look at government interests more than the common people's.  Their actions in the first six months of their active life illustrated that by what they focused on.  The problem was, with their allies in the local media, they could have floated a terrible revision for the City's future and it may have been hard to defeat a 'new and improved' charter that went against the public interest with those factors.

Excellent work X. Your brief is as good as any attorney, even better than the hatchet legal eagles the COL hire. We have to wonder when is the public going to wake up. This was a brazen attempt to manipulate an election in order for the corrupt to gain further control over the fools that voted these people into office. I would like to make a request to the foolish voters who continue to vote to keep these types of sleazy manipulators in power. Stop voting for corrupted people who are intent on doing you harm. Use the brain God gave you. If not for X, Ludville would be another Saginaw or Benton Harbor. What is taking place is so ridiculous. These corrupt politicians are attempting a power grab and got caught thanks to X. Then they are spending untold thousands of taxpayers dollars to hire lawyers to fight the citizens that elected them. This is insane or maybe normal if your a City official.

Thanks for the support, I worry sometimes (not enough to affect my sleep or much else) that people will look at what I'm doing here and see me as hypocritical.  After all, I have regularly chided the council for not putting changes of park uses on the ballot when they should have, so why am I fighting the results of this election.  

Well, if you have read the brief and my initial complaint, my concern is that the ballot question was misleading, and misleading because not only the city council failed to do its duties, but also the city staff pushing this on the people failed to do something that would alert the public on the costs of the effort.  This made a significant costing service look like a freebie, and it seems obvious to me that it was more a fraud than an error.  But errors are easier to prove legally.

I doubt that anyone thinks of you as being hypocritical. Believe it or not, I did read the brief and that is why I say that you have written a very convincing argument stating your position. Something I definitely could not do. And I dare say that most of the legal help hired by the City do not seem to be very competent in doing.


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