Ludington City Council Meeting April 28, 2014: Love and Bullets

At the April 28, 2014 Ludington City Council meeting, the following issues were deliberated and decided upon without issue:

1) Fireworks permit for Jaycee's Freedom Festival

2) Water Safety Day (May 31) approval

3) Ordinances to approve of contracts between the City and Larsen's Landscaping (for three years of fertilization of city grounds), and a two year contract with the county for assessment roll supervision

4) Resolution passed to authorize fire protection for about a dozen people living in PM and Hamlin Twp. who are better served by LFD protection.

5) Ordinance to adopt flood management provisions of the state

None of these were controversial.  The one controversial issue on the agenda at the meeting that night was whether to approve a resolution for the Love Wines, LLC liquor license, to be used at 219 South James Street by that LLC's proprietor, Jana Brockwell. 


Ms. Brockwell did herself no favors in this endeavor by publicly questioning the rationale of Police Chief Barnett, a public officer, publicly attacking a member of the public at one of these public meetings.  She did this with a letter appearing in the City of Ludington Daily News (COLDNews) editorials page, and the Mason County Press.  This writer, however, appreciated her refreshingly bold objectivity. 


At the meeting (18:00 into the video below), Councilor Castonia brought forth the issue which mentioned she was to open a small winery at 219 S. James.  She made a case for herself in the public comment (2:40 in).  The committee when it met had split on the issue (Councilor Castonia for, Councilor Winczewski against, one absent). 


Councilor Rathsack wanted to table it due to the lack of a recommendation.  Councilor Marrison raised a question as to what the concern was.  Councilor Winczewski mentioned there was 'previous police contact' that made her vote against endorsing it.  She and Councilor Rathsack voted against it this night, but the other four present councilors passed it.


Knowing personally the vindictiveness Chief Barnett has shown in the past towards me and others, I would not be surprised if the chief decided to overstate any sort of 'police contact' Ms. Brockwell or her company has had in the past, and whether that made a big impression on Councilor Winczewski, who has publicly stated an impression of Chief Barnett that is opposite of mine.  One thing I do know is that Councilor Castonia, a former police officer himself, thought her past police contacts weren't significant enough to disqualify the permit. 


Love Wines has their permit, and I encourage all that enjoy wine and are old enough, to go taste some of her wares when she gets situated in her building-- which is next door to the old Pisczek's Paint and Glass, whose roof collapsed this winter.  She may have some roof repairs herself in the near future.


Love was not lost on the speaker that came after her (4:25 into the meeting), myself.  I fell 15 seconds short of five minutes, due primarily to Sergeant Mayor Cox announcing that the City had flubbed up on my FOIA Request and failed to get me some meeting rules made in February 2002, during Mayor John Henderson's second month at the job.  I find it very unsurprising that he would do so, John Henderson was never big on listening to others. 


In my speech's transcript, I include the last paragraph I decided to omit, since the Mayor had fairly noted that the City was at fault for the 'misunderstanding' I voiced last meeting.  Followed by the ending comments of Councilor Castonia and Chief Barnett responding to my comments (followed by a brief analysis).  Not answering any of the questions, or correcting the problems, but responding, nonetheless.


April 28, 2014 Ludington City Council from Mason County District Library on Vimeo.




This Wednesday will mark the 225th anniversary of Constitution Day, where George Washington took an oath before his countrymen with his hand on a Bible to faithfully execute the duties of the office of the Presidency and to preserve, protect, and defend the newly drafted Constitution of the United States, followed by similar oaths made by members of the other branches of our government at the time.  When Michigan adopted its own original Constitution, our state's founders simililarly  set forth powerfully and plainly the nature of freedom and liberty, the purpose of civil government, the limits of civil government, the need for character in public office, and the accountability before God that every elected official has for their actions in office. 

It is not surprising that our City government has chosen to ignore the 225th anniversary of one of the most important dates in this constitutional republic, because they have often chosen to ignore not only those constitutions, but their own charter at times.  We can lead these meetings with a solemn invocation for divine wisdom and a heartfelt pledge of allegiance to the flag, but if what follows has no hint of those ideals, we have failed. 

Our City Manager has been on the job for over ten years and has yet to swear to an oath of office, and file it with the City Clerk.  Our City Attorneys, who are granted powers and duties by our city and state, refuse to swear an oath of office and file it.  The public officers appointed to our Planning Commissions and Downtown Development Authority likewise have not taken and filed oaths of office, even though state law directly says that they must.  When a public official believes that one law does not apply to them, then they can surely justify that other laws do not apply to them also.  This leads to corruption and tyranny.

Which brings me back to the Ludington Police reserves issue.  After numerous attempts to get any information about the reservists, I finally was allowed to see the recent rosters of people on the Ludington police force.  Note that I have been disallowed to see any job descriptions, rules, regulations, mandatory training, filed oaths of office, or any other public record of these officers who carry a gun, wear the uniform and badge of our city's police, and help enforce the laws of this territory. 


At the top of this most recent roster, which is less than a year old, there is listed 'Ryan Cox' as a sergeant of the Ludington reserves.  According to this roster, Ryan joined the force in 2012, and rose quickly to the sergeant position in Chief Barnett's reserve officer force, which consisted of 12 reserve officers.  This force is under no legislative or executive authority other than Chief Barnett, nor has he released those records making specious claims that may be challenged at the next level.  This was not a promotion done by seniority; four non-officers of the reserves have less experience than Mayor Cox on the reserve team. 


One can ask:  How did Mayor Cox rise so quickly in Chief Barnett's police force?  But you will get no answers, they have made that clear with their FOIA denials.  As I have stated four months ago, and will continue reiterating until it is corrected:  Mayor Ryan Cox and Reserve Officer Sergeant Ryan Cox serve on incompatible offices by law.  Furthermore, the Reserve Officer program of Ludington must be accountable and transparent to the people that they allegedly serve, and have rules and standards set by this city council. 

If we are to allow these reserve officers to dress, arm themselves, and wield the authority of actual trained and licensed police officers, is not our City of Ludington condoning the impersonation of police officers by these twelve officers, including the mayor?  Is this city council ready to allow the public's confidence in their police force to erode by allowing untrained, unscreened, unaccountable citizens to utilize authority they do not legally have?  Or will they just sit by and clap while the police chief degrades those who ask the tough questions?


As a citizen, I can only consider them a liability, not an asset.  If one of them abuses their authority with police brutality or unlawful arrests, is Chief Barnett going to finance their legal costs?   I don't think so.


[At the last meeting, I stated that the City did not have any rules or regulations for speaking at these meetings, basing my belief on a response to a FOIA request which showed there was none.  Since that time, I received an amended response showing that Mayor John Henderson helped pass the five minute public comment rule during his second month in office.  I would appreciate the City responding more accurately to my requests in the future, as this is at least the third time I have received incomplete and/or inaccurate record sets that I have requested, and the two other times were costly to both of us.]


Councilor Gary Castonia (27:25 in):  "Your honor, I have one thing.  To make a statement that I'm a veteran of the United States Army.  I served my country and defended the Constitution of the United States of America.  That gave you right, Mr. Rotta, to your freedom of speech.  Your welcome."


Councilor Holman, who turned around in her chair during the whole time of my public comment (to which I thank her; the back of her is more appealing), punctuated it with a "Well put!"  I always appreciate those who serve, but it seems odd that Councilor Castonia has to go back to his military service, which was conservatively about 50 years ago, to say that he defended the Constitution then.  He served as a Ludington police officer for his career, and has served on the city council for over eight years, and has about five more in front of him if the election-year-changing ordinance passes next week.  Has he not been defending, preserving, and protecting the Constitution during that time? 

Quick answer:  No.  The committee he chaired was responsible for making and passing the workplace safety policy, which can be used, even now, to violate three amendments of that Constitution, including the free speech he says he defended five decades ago.  What have you done for the Constitution lately, besides trampling it under your feet, Councilor, as you take more of your constituents rights and property from them?


LPD Chief Mark Barnett:  "Against my better judgment, I will make just a couple comments.  Because I think it's important for people to know.  Mr. Rotta has made a couple of comments relative to the rogue nature of the Ludington Reserve unit, and just a couple pieces of information.  Each of the Ludington Police Reserves... those that have been registered and qualified with a firearm, are allowed to carry a firearm while in uniform as a Ludington Police Reserve, under the auspices of the Michigan Concealed Pistol.  Not by virtue that they are Ludington Police Reserve Officers. 

They do take an oath, but they are not sworn or entrusted with any police authority.  Their authority is derived from the uniformed police officer they work with.  Therefore, they have no legal right to make an arrest independent of another officer.  They are under supervision of, and work under the authority of the officer they are partnered with.  So I think those are important pieces of information that have not been forthcoming from Mr. Rotta's comments.  People need to know that."


I do need to thank the chief for giving the public more information, something he has been resistant to do for four months.  People need to know why Chief Barnett was not willing to put out any of this information before this.  I think it's important for people to know that none of these statements he made can be verified, because the Chief and the City operating together has made sure that you cannot see records of this rogue unit, as the Chief put it.   

People need to know the citizens and this city will be best served if the reserve officers are made legitimate by the council, that they would be as transparent and accountable as the general police department must be.   But neither former cop/councilor or police chief want to do this.  Ryan Cox wants to continue to ignore his own incompatibility to serve as reserve police sergeant and as mayor.  The big question is: why?

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 People also need to know that any citizen can make an arrest-- they don't need to have a badge-- it's called a "citizen's arrest".  MCL 764.16 says "A private person may make an arrest—in the following situations:

(a) For a felony committed in the private person's presence.

(b) If the person to be arrested has committed a felony although not in the private person's presence.

(c) If the private person is summoned by a peace officer to assist the officer in making an arrest..."

So he is wrong when he says:  "they have no legal right to make an arrest independent of another officer."   Hence, the problem of liability raises its ugly head when a reserve police officer (RPO) witnesses a felony committed in his presence or he makes the assessment (possibly with the extra tools he has as a RPO) that a person has committed a felony not in his presence, and needs to act immediately and arrest an individual when no other officer is present.  If he is a sworn police officer, that is part of his duty.  There is a very real possibility that the supposed felon, particularly if the RPO brandishes his city-supplied gun and/or badge, sues for false arrest, etc.  

It seems problematic at best, that any LPD officer can also transfer their authority to reserves, and just because an armed RPO qualifies for a concealed pistol permit, does not give them automatic police powers not legitimately given to them by the governmental authority.

Excellent article X. I. Castonia continues to demonstrate what an a_s he is. 2. Holman continues to demonstrate what an as_ she is. 3. Chief Barnett continues to demonstrate how ignorant a law officer can be of the laws he is hired to enforce. Is Barnett saying that his reserves carry concealed weapons unlike regular officers who open carry their weapons? How can a group of elected officials continue to ignore the Constitution as they do, not only of the United States but also the State they live in? Barnett says that his reservists take an oath but not a police officers oath.  Chief Barnett, what oath do the reservists take that would compel them to follow orders and the Constitution? Are the reservists under contract? Stop being so secretive Barnett , Counsel and Mayor. How about some straight answers from public officials who are hired by and paid by the citizens of Ludington. Thier arrogance continues to grow.

Willy, I made a FOIA request earlier today to see the oaths the chief mentions filed by the reserve officers, because it was definitely unclear what kind of oath Chief Barnett referred to.  Glad to see we're thinking on the same lines.

My understanding of incompatible of public offices (IPO) notices that a person can swear an oath of office for two positions for the same governmental unit and not necessarily be in violation of the IPO statute.  For example, Mayor Henderson likely swore an oath of office when he became a LFD firefighter the exact same as the one he swore when he became Ludington mayor about ten years later.  The statute says volunteer firefighters (but not fire chiefs) in small enough cities (like Ludington is) can serve as firefighter and also serve as an elected or appointed official without having incompatible offices. 

The law makes that exception explicitly to show that a small town does not need to give up the services of a good firefighter if he makes the jump to serve as another public official.  A firefighters duties to quench fires, etc. typically conflict very little with his other public job; it may even serve the department to have DPW workers or water plant workers on the firefighting force as Ludington has. 

The statute does not make any similar concession to police officers and other public offices.  One could look at each special circumstance and decide if any conflict would arise in the natural course of their activities at both offices.  A police officer could probably serve on some boards with little chance of conflict as mentioned in the IPO statute.  But each of the three conflicts mentioned in the statute rear their ugly head with the Mayor serving as a reserve officer, and become even more pronounced when we look at his officer status in that law enforcing group.

The city officials have a losing hand whatever they do.  If they continue to maintain the status quo is right, proper, and lawful, they will continue to make foolish statements like they did at the end of this meeting and two meetings ago, defending the indefensible:  not doing their job by making the reserve officers (including the mayor) legitimate, and not holding Chief Barnett accountable for this standing liability to the city.

If they do the real right thing and establish the reserve officers as legitimate by ordinance, as the city charter mandates, they then have to concede that Mr. Rotta was correct and their contracted city attorney was wrong, and that RPO Sergeant Ryan Cox cannot coexist with Mayor Cox.  To use a variance of your pop culture Wonder Twin reference, I offer the Good Kirk/Bad Kirk of the classic Star Trek episode, The Enemy Within, which is applicable in this instance (please substitute "I'm Mayor Cox" in the GIF) :

Very good points X. I took a peek at the LDN website and found the video of Barnett scolding you. It was right on the front page as a thumbnail link. Sure is odd that the video of Barnett whining about a citizens concerns is still front page news. Also, how in the World can Cox be a Sargent of a unit that has no ordinance that permits it's existence? Since when is a reserve unit that takes directions from a ride along officer in need of a chain of command? Does the reserve unit have honorary lieutenants as well?  Cox is a Sargent of what and over who?  Does he have rank over the other wannabe's and can he order them around or is this just a look at me I'm a Sargent feel good title? When did he get the title of Sargent? Was it prior to or after his Mayoral victory? Who set up this mini unauthorized reservist unit and established the rules and ranking system? There are to many unanswered questions. Hiding the truth from the public isn't doing the Council and Police Department's image any good. One other thing, I am very curious to know if the reservists are Ludington residents.

I have a thread under construction regarding the current reserves that will answer many of your questions that should be out tonight or tomorrow.  Some of those other questions are known only by the involved units.

But I have a couple of recent rosters of the reserve officers the first was likely made at or near the beginning of 2013, showing Ryan Cox as a member of a non-regimented force of reserves, the next roster has a date at the bottom of 1-1-2014, it is unclear whether it was made on or just printed on that day, but it does show a reserve officer that joined in May 2013, coincidentally after Ryan Cox threw his hat in the ring for mayor.  It shows three reserve officer sergeants (including Ryan) among the twelve, one being for the marine reserves of which another former mayor candidate and Ludington Police Chief is part of. 

Thanks for the information X. Regarding the video on the LDN website of Barnett at the City Council, scolding you for being a good citizen, this only proves that there is a concerted effort and conspiracy to discredit you by the City and LDN. I say this because for this video to appear, the LDN had to get a copy of the video, pay someone to edit it to reveal a specific moment of that Council meeting then post that video on their main page so it will be visible to as many people as possible. All of that without consulting the person the video is about. All of that without doing their job and getting all sides of a story by checking the facts and verifying if what they print or reveal is the truth. This is another example of LDN  trying to influence the public's opinion regarding  politics instead of informing the public of the truth. This is despicable behavior by the LDN and it's management.

They not only include that video, but the video of Chief Funk and one of me getting up at the end of the meeting, actually thinking I would have some time.  I am fairly confident that both the COLDNews and MCP were alerted to the fact that at least Chief Barnett would speak that night. 

If you know Chief Barnett, he has some verbal mannerisms that generally come to the surface when he's speaking off the cuff.  None of those came out during his 4 1/2 minute chiding and only one vague reference to anything I spoke of at that meeting, which means it had been prepared beforehand.  COLDNews' Patti Klevorn started the video cam rolling on the chief early on, and MCP's Rob Alway moved up and took a flash picture at the start of the tirade after coming from the back to get me in the foreground.  Neither have done such things in the past. 

Conspiratorial perhaps, but they are definitely kindred spirits with common objectives.  I have never refused to talk or conduct an interview except with COLDNews reporter Kevin Brasiczewski back in 2011 during my campaign for councilor for the precise reason of his one-sided smear piece that he put out on March 5, 2011 about John Shay putting a letter of trespass out on me because of city hallers unreasonably feeling threatened and intimidated by me.  That was a staged media event designed to ruin my reputation and my job security and I will not soon forget Shay's and Brasiczewski's unethical part in it.

I see some real legal problems with Cole's actions on what you are talking about, streeter, and I personally am against abortion.  I hope to develop a thread on the issue here shortly.

Perception is that the majority of our Mason County community are generally supportive of such measures, and that's likely the case.  Cole looks like he is trying to exploit that. 

I have to admit mixed feelings:  I'm pleased that the baby's right to life was attained, however, I am displeased that the woman's right to have a medical procedure performed was (potentially unlawfully) denied effectively due to her incarceration. 

If this was Fiers XLFD, you would be standing on your feet applauding him and saying what a great man he is.  Lets be honest, if Cole would have let her go through with it, you would be upset.  I see nothing wrong with the Sheriff counseling the female and talking to her about it.


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