Scottville City Clowncil Meeting, April 19, 2021: The Good, the Blah, and the Ugly

The in-person commencement of the April 19th meeting had several points of local interest, beginning with some good news, later a vote on the new city manager sandwiched between normal business, and ending with some not-so-pretty allegations that lead to a lot of questions about city officers.

THE GOOD

After cruising through the routine order of business, Mayor Marcie Spencer read a piece of correspondence from Carla Hansen, representing Arch Staffing, which conducted the city manager search for the City of Scottville (COS).  Arch Staffing had provided at least three competent candidates for the spot, and was guaranteed $5000 conditionally if the COS chose one of their applicants.  Although Scottville would choose one, Hansen waived that $5000 fee, permitting the COS to use that money for projects in the city, recommending playground equipment.  

At the opposite end of the meeting, Joan Young presented an in-depth look at the trail system at Riverside Park, and how the trails could be improved into what they once were after a period of high water and neglect.  Young emphasized the need for volunteer work and keeping the costs low.  The councilors were impressed with the presentation, but not enough to suggest any funding mechanisms of their own for the two boardwalk installations, not even with part of the $5000 in 'found' money they received that night.

Both 'good' aspects of this meeting had something in common, and not in common with the rest of the meeting business.  It was local members of the private sector trying to improve the city by sacrificing their own time and money for the common good.  Current city officials could learn a lot from Carla and Joan.

THE BLAH

The normal business of the clowncil was injected with a major shot of excitement as they were likely to choose a new pope.  The senior archbishop, Rob Alway, introduced his motion to extend the offer of Scottville's next city manager post to O'Neil Newkirk, extolling his virtues and local legacy.  One by one, the other six commissioners agreed using similar arguments showing little originality in their own thinking to come to their unanimous consensus and vote, leading to some white smoke issuing from the Optimist Building.  Surprisingly, I agree with their choice, but for different reasons.  

Another surprise was that they agreed with my FOIA appeal, allowing the FOIA Coordinator to release the 8 characters that were redacted in the MCSO report on the February 16th accident that seriously injured a Scottville woman pedestrian.  They did this after Carlos Alvarado tried to float a legal theory that said the information redacted was permissible under the privacy FOIA exemption, as Law enforcement Information Network (LEIN) data is only accessible to the law and sharing this information would invade Mr. Asaro's privacy.  After consulting with the prosecutor, who also had a request from me which included that same report with the information not redacted, he advised the council to allow my appeal to succeed.

The 8characters:  "NIL LEIN", which effectively means that there is no information on LEIN that pertains to the subject.  One wonders why a check of LEIN that reveals nothing would be exempt from FOIA because it invades the personal privacy of that individual.  I have seen many police reports where LEIN checks give back outstanding warrants and convictions, and those issues are never covered up for privacy, why would a clean record be invasive?  This is the third FOIA response where CA Alvarado withheld records beyond when he should while operating as Scottville's FOIA Coordinator, but no clowncilor has any issue with that malfeasance which makes everybody look at Scottville's commitment to transparency as ludicrous.   

A late addition to the agenda was a chicken request that was approved for six chickens, they also permitted swim lessons to be held at Riverside Park.

THE UGLY

If one discounted the public comment period at the end of the meeting, one could say the meeting went along quite nicely, but hidden in the consent part of the agenda was a new edict that effectively allowed the mayor to set her own agenda each meeting, and that envisioned agenda would remove the initial public comment period and allow the public only to speak at the end of meetings.  This was in total contradiction to charter principles and procedures, and so you know I had something to say about that.

But before I spoke a young woman spoke up about trying to get the minutes of DDA meetings for the last two years and being rebuffed.  She was told that the prior city manager lost those minutes (an investigation into that city manager's conduct at the end of her tenure revealed no such loss of records).  One wonders, given the ongoing corruption rampant in the city, whether the incompetent new administration just couldn't find them, lost them on purpose and scapegoated the prior city manager, or just didn't want to reveal them for some reason. 

I will look into this more further, since just today, I received a FOIA response indicating that the police chief destroyed a public record.  This heroic woman was followed by me; hopefully I amplified her frustration and helped her figure out why Scottville City Hall is in such shambles.

XLFD:  "Earlier this evening, the city commission decided to change the city charter by a simple consent vote of a resolution, making false claims to justify the changes.  I am continually disappointed by the lack of parliamentary procedure in this commission and the disrespect of the law by the city attorney. 

In one sweeping consent vote, the commission amended a charter-established procedure ('procedure', by definition, is a series of actions conducted in a certain order).

Quit violating the charter just to silence the hearing of the citizens before you conduct the gneral business of the meeting.  Is that why you became a commissioner, to ROB the public of their rights to be heard before you supposedly act on their behalf?

The real reason you have silenced the citizens is so that you only get three minutes instead of six minutes of me telling this commission that your appointed officials are breaking some serious laws.  The police chief continues to embezzle money from the taxpayers by claiming and cashing in on comp time he is not qualified to receive.  

City Treasurer Shafer continues to hold office unlawfully as a full-time officer claiming unwarranted overtime and benefits.

City Clerk Lester claimed 2.5 hours of overtime for a recent meeting that lasted 50 minutes, then claimed 5 hours of overtime for drafting four pages of mostly template minutes of that meeting.  

City Attorney Alvarado's legal fees are multiples of what the city used to pay the principled and competent City Attorney Tracy Thompson.  

City Manager Newkirk has a difficult task ahead of him should he believe in the rule of law and service to the people of Scottville, and remember that he also serves at the will of the city commission who have shown they have zero respect for their electors by their deaf actions.  Thank you."

Before the council adjourned, Clowncilor Rob Alway inferred that things in the City of Scottville are moving along great, and to ignore the voices of those lone people who concentrate on the negative to get attention.  Everyone else is very secure in the way their officials are acting and moving the city forward from his perspective.  

Frankly, I just hear the opposite whenever I'm outside of earshot of these city council meetings, and from some surprising sources.  I'm sure that if Mr. Alway actually believed that citizens are liking what they see at city hall, he wouldn't have allowed the city commission to reduce the time they can kneel in praise of the citizenry by half, and keep it all to the end of the meeting.

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Love the title, not so much the content of the blah and the bad is even worse. I hope Scottville's new CM can sort out the bad.

Good example of Arch Staffing and Joan Young

Well done X. Love the title for this article. The amount of information you supply regarding local Government is amazing and the fact that you back it up with facts makes you the only true and trusted news media for the entire County.

As far as the $5000 is concerned, why in the World would Arch Staffing gift that to the City. Possibly more hanky panky. The use of that money would go along way by providing safe sidewalks where citizens are forced to walk in busy streets, especially on  E. State st.

Very odd and quite obvious why they changed the procedural rules regarding the Commission meeting. I wonder if Alway will editorialize that piece of foolery. What a cast of characters Scottville citizens are entrusting their City to.

I value your assessment of trust in my reportage here, and I will try to continue to earn even more trust in the future.  When one evaluates Arch Staffing's generous act of donation, they must consider this is a very high profile staffing situation in our local area.  They get plenty of advertising just for winning the right to assist the City, and for a mere $5000, they get an even better chance to market their name as a civically responsible group. 

For the $5000 they get a load of PR value and advertisement, while hopefully, the community gets some real help (if the COS doesn't scam it for their own greedy selves). 

I like the fact that Scottville broke away from the routine of cities who use the MML (Michigan Municipal League) and charge the piss out of the taxpayers to find a new employee, and then suggest higher than area wage.  Anyone remember the cost MLL dumped on us to find Mitchell Foster?  

According to some dude named Freedom Seeker back in 2018, the cost to Ludington was $17K, mysteriously the contract/rate was never agreed to by council in a public meeting during the Shay administration or even during the Steve Brock era, even though it should have.  No other service was looked into.  This occurred during part of that long era where decisions were made too much of the time at committee levels or in executive sessions, but I was the bad guy for saying so.

Interesting factoid.  In 2019, when the MML was contracted by the City of Scottville for that same $17,000, they were chosen over another company that offered the same services for the much lower price of $7500 (Walsh Municipal Services).  Courtney Magaluk was the result.  Had the COS actually shown concern with their money and did a real competitive bidding process in 2019, they may never have had this problem (of finding another CM in under two years) in the first place. 

Thanks for that link, X.  Your memory is much better than that of Freedom Seeker!  I guess that $17k about says it all.  I realize MML has links to statewide announcements, but it sure seems for $12k less, Arch Staffing had no trouble getting good applicants.  Wake up, city councils, you are being ripped off by MML.

   X  Looked at COS Ordinances Chapter 7 Section 7-6 dealing with the agenda it sure seems to me there used to be 2 Hearing citizens present forever.  Seems If it had not have been there pretty sure the previous councils forever would not have included the second one. Could a ordinance be changed with a vote of council?  Probable not.  You got a copy of the old ordinances...???? 

That's the 'procedure' section of the city charter I pictured above, which seems to not validate the second public comment period.  Many people don't understand the difference between the city charter and city code, it's kind of like the difference between the US Constitution and the federal code.  You can change the federal code by getting bills passed into law, but you can't change the Constitution w/o going through a very complex procedure.  Same with cities; the city code can be easily changed with passage of an ordinance, but it generally requires the electors to vote in a general election to amend the city charter-- after a long procedure of steps is followed.  A vote to change the city charter by passing a resolution inside of a consent agenda is seriously flawed, I can't see how Mr. Alvarado can think this is legit, but he isn't certified in city law (it shows).

The second comment period is not in that procedure, but it has been part of the agenda for as long as I remember.  The addition of steps to the procedure outlined in the charter, especially if they are designed to update the process to reflect new concerns or promote transparency/communication should be codified but should also be allowed.  That's why a more responsible city commission put the second public comment there in the first place, even though it's not specifically in the charter procedure.  The subtraction of steps in the charter procedure should not be tolerated. 

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