Scottville City Commission, May 28, 2024: On the Other Hand

For a Tuesday, May 28th meeting of the Scottville City Commission, it was learned or decided that two people would have new jobs.  The agenda packet showed that one of those jobs to be determined was for the interim city manager position, and surprisingly, they had two very good candidates for the recently embattled position:  James Van Ess and Clarence Goodlein (pictured) 

Unfortunately, their resumes are not included in the packets, but they both have adequate experience in municipal management and would be interested in becoming permanent should the commission decide to retain them.  Their interviews were held on May 23 and can be viewed here.

When it came time to choose between the two, Commissioners Al Deering and Randy Wyman were most impressed with Van Ess, Darcy Copenhaver was mostly on the fence, and other commissioners were leaning towards Goodlein when a round robin of opinions was sought.  The actual vote on a motion to hire Goodlein (pending background checks and his acceptance of the terms) had only Deering vote against it.  It is likely that the commission will agree to what amounts to an annual wage of $100K plus benefits for Goodlein, for whatever period he stays for.

Other items of business were a request from Jeff Barnett of the Stallion Mill project to purchase, lease, or even trade parts of the property being developed so as best to optimize the usefulness of their lot's borders.  This will come back to the commission once it is looked at in committee and by the new city administrator and zoning official, Steve Spangler.  They also passed a resolution to collect outstanding water bills by adding it to the property tax assessments of those nineteen who are delinquent.    

They added a topic late to the agenda regarding absences by commissioners.  The city charter says that those commissioners who miss 25% or more meeting or miss four consecutive meetings, where the absences are not recorded in the minutes as excused and the reasons for the excuse should be removed from office.  The aforementioned Al Deering has missed a few meetings since he has come on, and the commission has never entered into the minutes any excuse for them.  As the fiscal year is almost over (the end of June), this may become a topic of dispute this summer if he is past the threshold.

The agenda also noted that Assistant Prosecutor Beth Hand would be making a presentation, and as expected, it had to do with her running for prosecutor.  She also would announce that she had been hand chosen by Judge Sniegowski to become the interim prosecutor for Mason County for the rest of the year.  We have agreed with the MCP's assessment that this is would be an unfair appointment, effectively giving Hand the title of the incumbent going into the August primary election that will effectively decide who will be the next prosecutor.  Jordan Miller and Becky Lederer, the two other candidates should be rightly upset at the move, as it does nothing to help the backlog of cases for a prosecution team of three that will be down to only one.  

The Ludington Torch hasn't been impressed with the prosecution team over the last four years.  Too many frivolous prosecutions against low-level or questionable crimes have been the hallmarks of the agency during this time.  They are non-responsive to requests for information; we have sent and re-sent a question this spring to the prosecutor about their policy and have yet to get an answer.  Neither have her three presentations I have witnessed before this had much of any substance.  Rather than key my comment against what the City of Scottville was doing (I would actually compliment them after the meeting for their response to the broken water main over the holiday weekend), I addressed the Hand:

XLFD:  "At a Pere Marquette Township Board meeting, two prosecutor candidates spoke.  The first, Beth Hand, here today for a presentation of herself spoke first as to her capacity for that office.  Candidate Jordan Miller, Manistee's current assistant prosecutor followed and wondered why our prosecutor had an unacceptable backlog of cases.  He would make an additional case at a Ludington City Council meeting of wondering why the acquittal rate of cases in Mason County was so high over this last term, where Ms. Hand was employed.  

I am hopeful that Ms. Hand can address these two issues in her presentation to the commission today.  I have seen Ms. Hand in action, and I am not impressed with her observance of justice.  Back in 2021, she prosecuted Lindsey Klastow, a medical professional in Ludington who was present when two LPD officers caught on bodycams inarguably made a brutal, unlawful arrest on her boyfriend and in the process, Ms. Klastow was charged with two counts of assaulting a police officer.  The basis of these two charges, she picked up a phone on behest of her boyfriend.  She was never closer than 5 feet to an officer, but it didn't matter.  A police sergeant perjured himself by saying at two different hearings that they told her boyfriend that he was under arrest, but the audio of two bodycams didn't lie.  That didn't matter to Ms. Hand, picking up an item of personal property did.

This Valentine's Day I saw her in action against Lance Eichler, a self-styled musician and artist, whose "criminal act" was in sending too many text messages to his probation officer in regard to the terms of his probation.  She offered nothing tangible at this bench trial to suggest the contents of the texts were objectionable or would create uneasiness to a reasonable probation officer.  Nevertheless, she was successful at her job of prostituting justice and got her Honor to find for the probation officer. [END Comment]

And beyond the usual boilerplate campaign comments she made, she did address the backlog as a product of recent personnel deficiencies in her department and seemed to deflect the acquittal rate issue as not due to her.  She mentioned nothing about the Klastow case, but she did state that she was not the active prosecutor in the Eichler case.  I sat corrected; in my earlier review of the records, I had saw her name in electronic files I compiled in January with her name attached to the filings, but I had been looking at two case at the time, and she was not part of the Eichler prosecution.  Not that I think that she would do anything differently than what Prosecutor Kreinbrink did.

The meeting ended with a citizen complimenting the quick actions of the City of Scottville on their response to the water main break (and without a city manager in place, how about that?), DPW Supervisor Justin Coolman doing the same and naming city officials who went above and beyond in that crisis, and Susan Evans hoping to organize an open public forum for the citizens in order to address ongoing topics, especially that of a multigenerational community center.

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$100 grand salary .. Attorney Bills in the tens of thousands.. Things are tight was the remark so not long ago guess things are not all that tight....

Thanks for posting this information, X. I don't like the idea that the Commissioners can fire an elected official. It opens the door for bad politics. That's a decision that should be made by the voters. I share woodsman's thoughts. $100,000 plus benefits for a manager of a village with a population of 1300 people. Please!

The city charter does say in Section 6.2: "Any elective city office shall be declared vacant by the Commission before the expiration of the term of such office...  (d)   In the case of any member of the Commission, if such officer shall miss four consecutive regular meetings of the Commission or twenty-five per cent of such meetings in any fiscal year of the city, unless such absence be excused by the Commission and the reason therefor entered in its proceedings at the time of each absence."

This is more of a duty of the commission to dismiss a commissioner that fails to come to meetings and offers no excuse, creating a vacancy.  The minutes have not been reflecting whether absences have been excused or not over the last few years, so the rest of the commission would be duty bound to dismiss such a truant.  In my review of the meeting minutes between 7-1-2023 and 6-30-2024 Al Deering has seven officially unexcused absences for 24 non-adjourned meetings.  Even if he makes both June meetings, he would be over 25% for the 2023/24 fiscal year.  The commission would need to meet 3 additional times and Mr. Deering would have to be present at each to get under 25%.

This not only means that he could be removed at the end of June, but it also means that he should be removed from office, because the Scottville City Charter is the Scottville citizens' law and says so.  

I must agree with both you and Woodsman that $100K plus benefits is a lot for a city manager, but this is the roughly the same clique that selected the current city attorney over a much cheaper competitor and effectively alienated the prior two CAs, Carlos Alvarado and Tracy Thompson.

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