As the September 26, 2023 meeting of the Pere Marquette Township Board of Trustees was called to order, one could not help but believe that some of the craziness that has been around the town hall had dissipated. After all, Supervisor Jerry Bleau had submitted a 'retirement' letter saying his last day would be in early October, over a month before a recall election that wasn't looking good for him, and Kelly Smith would be the only candidate with his departure.
Combine that with the absence at this meeting of him and his wife, the township treasurer Karie Bleau, the recent conflicts kindling between the Bleaus and their fellow trustees and the general public would have a night off. There was even an air of levity as a critic of the supervisor had brought in a "Happy Retirement" helium-filled balloon, which found its way up to the podium.
And for the most part the meeting was smooth, the meeting agenda had the acceptance of Jerry's retirement as surprisingly the most controversial part of the evening. The controversy arose when Trustee Ron Soberalski made a simple motion to accept the retirement after Clerk Rachelle Enbody assured the board that there would be no extra burden to the township due to a retirement rather than a resignation, it was seconded. Trustee Jim Nordlund wanted to amend the motion to add the words "with regrets", but being that the original motion wasn't debatable, the board went to a vote on the original motion and it passed.
This slight of the supervisor was highlighted later on when they accepted Consultant James Bernier's voluntary 'retirement' of his project consultation agreement with the township on amicable terms and with expressed appreciation of the clerk. This termination was accepted "with regret". The sizable crowd of dozens assembled in the town hall basement, composed primarily of people who had issues with one or both of the Bleaus, took notice.
A couple notables in the crowd gave two presentations. Ludington City Manager Mitch Foster explained how the recreation program worked and how it was funded, answering questions from the trustees before they voted to approve supporting the program. Retired 79th District Court Judge Peter Wadel weighed in on the lampricide (TFM) contamination caused by the Federal Fish and Wildlife Department's use of his trust's warehouse on South Jebavy and how he hoped that the township could pass a resolution (he drafted one for their consideration) in support of his efforts to have them be accountable. This resolution should come under consideration at the next meeting.
And other than a minor change order effectively covered within the contingency of the project, the meeting ended, without the angst that has recently came from both Bleaus thrashing about using the last of their ebbing political power to make a stand. But the angst was around, it was just in the background for the meeting, but here's what they are doing with their last days being numbered.
Trustees Nordlund, Kmetz (acting chairman), Clerk Enbody
Karie Bleau: Captain Chaos strikes again
After citizen petitioners got enough signatures for her and her husband to face recall elections, Karie Bleau has done some bizarre things. The couple through their local attorney sent out cease and desist letters to certain citizens and fellow trustees, expressing that they needed to quit defamatory activity, some of which was explained, but appeared to be speech protected by the First Amendment and not slanderous.
Karie then went out on her own after having been cleared by a forensic audit of the township's finances. She made a broad FOIA request involving years of the township clerk's correspondence and another employee married to one of the active petitioners. This would have cost the township more than the amount that she had underbilled certain entities for water and was the express cause of her recall. Coincidentally enough, she wrote out recall petitions on the clerk and Trustee Soberalski for their part in that same offense. Problem was that the rest of the trustees had effectively took steps to mitigate the issue, and it was denied in a clarity hearing; she waived the appeal.
Her latest scheme is to suggest that the retirement by her husband, accepted by the board, meant that the trustees would have to cancel the election and start a process for them to pick the next supervisor, and for that matter, the next building official. The letter to her peers is below:
While she has not misrepresented the relevant law, her interpretation seems to be off slightly. If you want to guess what the problem is don't read the next paragraph just yet. Look closely.
The problem with Karie's argument is that Jerry did not resign, he retired. The board accepted his retirement, not any resignation, they are different terms and Michigan law recognizes the difference. The law stated only happens when a vacancy is created by a resignation. Here's the states comprehensive list of actions that create vacancies:
As most retirements are planned well in advance and often occur when the employee is well-above Jerry's age of 51 years young, the law presumes the employer has enough time to line up a replacement, if one is needed. Jerry's retirement should allow the recall process to proceed and for the electors of PM Township to make up their minds a little bit easier in electing Kelly Smith.
Jerry Bleau: the victim of a hostile work environment
The irony in this insanity is incredible. Over the last couple years, half of a dozen employees of PM Township have quit, mostly citing a toxic work environment created primarily by the supervisor's managing style. One might dismiss this for a few employees (jerry did, believing it to be conflicts with his management style) maybe even up to six; but some of these employees would come to meetings and express their views on what was going wrong. Officials from other local governments have noticed the problem on their visits.
At meetings, Jerry and Karie gave somewhat of a preview of what it must have been like to work in the same office. While it's great to have a working marriage, that marriage can be a problem at work for others. Both have seen their former employees berate them for making their work experience a living Hell, and neither seem to understand why. Until now apparently because one of the trustees wants to speak with the supervisor about township business:
Nothing in Trustee Soberalski's demeanor or actions seem to stand out in this letter, I have always found him approachable, casual, and non-threatening. I talked with the trustee for a while about this letter, and we found it both rather amusing and the irony cannot go unnoticed. Jerry is 15 years younger than the historically peaceful trustee and may be up a weight class, not to mention his husky wife is within shouting range for help, so one wonders why Jerry would not do part of his job, to listen to other trustees?
Jerry is proper in retiring because this latest letter shows that he lacks the ability to do the job anymore with anything resembling competence. Something has snapped, the paranoia seen in the C&D letters is only getting worse, and even his harshest critic should hope that he does get professional help to overcome this problem that may be the "unexpected turn in his life" mentioned in his retirement letter.
I just noticed a press release from the county clerk saying that the PM Board will have 45 days from the time of Jerry's retirement (Oct. 1) to appoint a new supervisor rather than go through with the recall election. They appear to think that any vacancy that occurs in the recalled position will negate the election; I disagree, the intent of the legislature appears to be that only resignations will end a recall election. A retirement, a move out of the voting district, etc. is not specifically stated.
I am on the belief that the state election people have got this one wrong.
Since humans have crawled out from the dirt, leaders required support from others to continue their corrupt actions. Sometimes those who are controlled take away that corrupted power. But if one takes a long look at history the corrupted leaders have been the true beneficiary of their bad behavior. That's why America is such a special place because we've had the benefit of a free society with an unbelievably well written Constitution. We are openly being torn down and if good people don't stand up, as X has done, we will end up having another era of Attila The Hun type of governance. Only this time the electronic world will help them control us. Thanks for all you have done X.
Nevertheless, I humbly appreciate the participation and assistance of those folks less courageous, less quick, and less analytical than me for support in the seeking of justice and freedom. And if you exceed me in any of those qualities, please allow me to catch up.
Earlier in the week, my niece told me via text about her greatest strength and wondered about what I considered my best strength. Like my weaknesses, I had so many to choose from, but I answered 'perseverance'. I'm still not sure whether it's because I'm just too dumb to know when to give up, but both of you see that trait in me.