Scottville City Commission, June 26, 2023: Alway Say Never Again

The agenda packet for the June 26, 2023 meeting showed only three items of business and nothing too controversial, unlike the previous meeting which featured among other things, a tax hike, a $600,000 gift to Dollar General to move across the street, and an illegally introduced fine/fee for those thinking of parking on the boat launch side of Riverside Park.  What was more interesting was what was added to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting by titular Mayor Marcy Spencer, the resignation of yet another commissioner, and the compelling absence from the meeting of one titular commissioner, Rob Alway.

It didn't take Nostradamus to figure out that when a last minute resignation occurs and only one official is absent that the likelihood of the resignee being the absent party is almost certain, but it was still a relief to hear Rob Alway's name come up and hear his seat being recognized as a vacancy.  I had recognized Alway as a major liability in three of my comments from the prior meeting for his conflicts of interest and intrusion into office, a new Facebook site about Scottville News reprinted a ten-year-old MCP article where Alway resigned from the Scottville Planning Commission due to ethical considerations he has since ignored.  Conscience kicks in at some point.  

The Ludington Torch is hopeful he can once again engage in enough navel-gazing to figure out that the MCP, the City of Scottville, and the city commission is better today than it was a week ago, thanks to his simple action of stepping back.  And if his real reason for resigning was to spend more time with his family, as he has told others, then we are especially happy for each member of his family, even him, for that simple revelation.  He may find himself with even more power to influence the future of Scottville as a simple citizen without having to worry about the restrictions imposed on his former office by the charter and how it made him look when he violated those strictures.

That was the big news coming from this meeting and besides a recognition by Commissioner Al Deering of Rob's service to the city, the five commissioners quietly accepted the resignation and recognized there was a vacancy to be filled.  This is the fifth vacancy this year, but the first that appears to signify that there may be a change for the better in Scottville, and an opportunity for a reformation.

Consider, this vacancy will need to be filled by the commission by July 26 (two more regular meetings occur before that) or it will go to a special election in November.  Another order of business was to give notice that another vacancy to be filled by election in November is opening up between July 3 and July 17 for petitions.  Scottville residents/electors can grab a petition during that period, get 20 or more valid signatures of other city electors, and earn a spot on the ballot for a one-year period, which may seem like a long time when you're on this commission. 

Additionally, the Ludington Torch acknowledges that Scottville citizen Eric Thue has resubmitted recall petition language to the County Election Commission this afternoon, keying in on titular Mayor Spencer's removal of the charter-required public comment period before the city's business is conducted.  Since March she has reinstated the period, restricting comments to agenda items only, but the damage has been done, and this goes all the way back to early 2021.  If the petition's language is ultimately approved, and if Thue's team gets the required amount of signatures in time, Spencer's spot will also be on the odd-year November ballot.  Three seats possible, corrupted Spencer and Alway sitting on the sideline-- this year could end on a good note.

In other business, Harold Cronk of Rebel Forge LLC based in rural Mason County, was introduced by Joe Knowles, chairman of the DDA, then awarded a $110,000 contract to supply the DDA with an ambitious, kinetic sculpture (concept drawing to the left) to put at the entrance to the Optimist Park currently in production to the west of the Optimist Hall.  The design will incorporate mainly clown band elements as originally envisioned but it will have other nods to Scottville history and be whimsical enough to inspire the area's children if the artist is successful.  The project will be done in three stages and should be done by the end of 2025.  Hopefully, it's more durable than it looks.

Budget amendments were approved by the commission, these amounted to additional revenues that were 10% above what was expected, and expenses only 7% more than expected, for a net gain in revenue over the original budget projections.  In related business, the commission called a closed session near the end of the meeting in order to talk about collective bargaining strategy with their unionized employees, and took about a half hour before coming back in open session to listen to a resident (Rick Green) excoriate them for assigning fees for parking at the boat launch and using false pretenses (CM Newkirk would emphasize in the city's newsletter that the Riverside launch was the only one in Mason and Lake Counties that do not charge fees, when there are actually a few that don't).  

For the first public comment, I pushed the arbitrary rules the titular mayor imposed by not sticking strictly to agenda items (another of her assaults on the charter) and reminding the scoundrels that if they impose increased taxes onto the property owners of Scottville, that they would also be thieves, but I start off by questioning the high cost of a poorly skilled mercenary:

XLFD:  "I couldn't help but notice that nearly half of the cost of the bills that the city is paying off over this last period is a $9500 payment to the city attorney, that seems excessive given the product the city has received.  For example, I mentioned some of the deficiencies of the city's truth in taxation process at the last meeting as far as posting notice.  Further research has shown that the City did post a notice in the newspaper but that it was not in the form minimally required by law and it was in the classified ad section of the newspaper, when it shouldn't have been.  

It may not have been bad legal advice that botched this part of the process, but it was the lack of advice from Barrister Nettleton when the city clowncil failed to follow the procedure found in MCL 211.24E(7), which says "The proposed additional millage rate... shall be established by a resolution adopted by the governing body of the taxing unit before conducting the public hearing."  The minutes and the recording of the meeting reflects that such a resolution was not adopted before the public hearing, disqualifying the process.  Maybe you should have asked the City of Ludington how to hold a truth in taxation hearing, they have done this for years over two meetings each summer and are currently doing it.

I will be contacting the state and the county treasurer to let them know that this city has improperly raised taxes on their property owners and will likely try to steal over $30,000 more from them. [END comment]" 

The three errors in the City's initial attempt to hold a truth-in-taxation hearing should be fatal to their efforts of taking more from the people of Scottville, I contacted County Treasurer Andrew Kmetz earlier today.  I have also received Alway's resignation letter today and the city attorney's $9500 invoice through the FOIA and hope to share the latter information later.  There is hope for a better future forming in the center of Mason County.

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Thanks for the information on the Commission meeting. Rumor has it that John Shay, Rob Alway and others you have tangled with have started the XLFD anonymous recovery group where they can whine about their woes to other bad actors who have poisoned the local political waters.

Rob is a legitimate member of that group.  I used to go to their meetings, but every time I showed up, their chairman moved the public comment period on the agenda to occur after the adjournment, then had XSPD Chief Murphy remove me from the meeting for wearing an improper t-shirt.  They still keep inviting me though, saying its's very therapeutic for the group whether I show up or not.

 

This is what I think will happen. Alway will take the month off, put his name in for the open commission seat and be brought back in legally to the seat. Yes /No ?? any bets?

That's not too far from the realm of possibilities, being that Alway suffered 'resignation regret' about a week after he resigned the first time, just after the last November election.  If that happens this time, will he try to be appointed by the commission to his resigned seat (an odd move guaranteed to bring him ridicule, but some legitimacy) or get signatures and run in November for effectively a one-year term?  

If Scottville leaders were honest, they would realize that Alway's "seat" had been legally vacant since November 14, and it requires a special election to fill.  But they won't do that, because then they would have to admit that Spencer's recall is invalid since she was never legitimately appointed.  When you base your government on a foundation of lies, it's never all that stable.

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