At just over 100 minutes into the February 13, 2017 Ludington City Council meeting, Ludington Police Chief Mark Barnett gave a fiery five minute speech that was very light in public policy, yet quite heavy in personal attack. 

The fuel that lit the fire in the larynx of the chief was a two minute public comment during the open comment section that notified the city that their accounting with the Shop with a Cop program was wrong on several counts.  I made that comment, I have the relevant data via a FOIA request and can back my words.  I have made a request to speak up to ten minutes at the next meeting to let the public know that their city leaders are taking money from this program.  If the City leaders do not allow it, it will be put out here in all of its inglory.

The chief notes in his invocation given less than one minute into the meeting that we all need to be thankful for living in a country where we are free to express our concerns.

Chief Barnett's Invocation:  "Heavenly Father, we thank you for your love, your protection, your provisions you extend to each of us father. We thank you for the opportunity to live in a free country, where we are free to express our concerns, Father, we just thank you so much for those blessings..."

But then ninety minutes later, the Lord worked in mysterious ways and sent a heretic who expressed his well-researched concerns:

February 13th, 2017 Ludington City Council meeting from Mason County District Library on Vimeo.

XLFD (1:30:00 in):  "Last meeting, I brought up a purchase of hams made with the city's credit card out of the city's general fund.  This panel chided me for my concerns for not checking with them to find out that it was made for the Shop with a Cop program to purchase Christmas dinners for 60 needy area families.  My concerns would have remained had I done so, a FOIA request that I made shortly after the meeting raised even more concerns about the accounting process involved with the worthwhile program that raised donated funds for a private cause.

The City of Ludington is a public institution, it is not a private business, nor is it a charity.  It is ill-equipped for commingling donated funds and regular taxpayer funds, the records I reviewed suggest a breach of the public trust in this particular case.  Summarizing to keep it within two minutes, the city took into its public treasury over $14,000 of donations to shop with a cop.  It spent less than $11,000 of those donated funds, all but $50 spent from the general fund.  The general fund of a public institution by definition is to be used on administrative and operating expenses that are not assigned to a special purpose fund. 

The records show that there was a special purpose fund set up, but our record keepers decided to commingle those accounts with the general fund so that they could use public checks and public credit cards to purchase items.  The result led to nearly $1000 of donated revenues unaccounted for even in the revenue deferred for the next years program.  Some of the money spent on overpriced pies failed to make it out of the city's coffers.

And let's not fail to mention all the unaccounted for personnel resources the city used in having multiple city employees whose annual pay and benefits crest $100,000 do the busy work [Two minutes were done, I was forced to sit down midsentence, it would have continued...] for this charity during their normal working hours, when they are duty-bound to work on public projects.  It is inefficient, unethical, and a poor public agency practice, despite the cause.  Thank you."

With all pardons, I am deferring my proofs for the next meeting, Lord John Shay willing, or the weekend before the next meeting.  City leaders are encouraged and welcomed before then to confess their sins concerning these donated funds.  With the absence of concrete proof presentable in two minutes and the bully pulpit at the end of the meeting, Chief Barnett asked for a minute and took five to make his usual oblique, gaslighting attacks he is famous for. 

Chief Barnett: (1:40:28 in)   If I could take just a minute because I think it's, frankly I think it's unfortunate that we should need to do this. But I think it would be improper for us to close this meeting out by leaving Mr. Rotta's comments hanging in the air, casting... throwing rocks at the program, and people who are just trying to help those less fortunate during a giving time of year.

You know, I'm not a cynical person, you know, and when you hear somebody saying no good deed goes unpunished, I think in Mr. Rotta's world, that's a challenge. Every good deed that he can find should be punished and ground into the dirt and colored with every sort of innuendo and, and every crappy comment that he can make, so that, so that he is advanced, or his thought processes advanced, and other people can just cower, and it just frustrates me.

I've sat here at this table, this dais, and listened to Mr. Rotta cast aspersions on people who simply give of their time to act as reserve police officers, as if there was something shady or improper about them doing that; taking time away from their families to do that, and now I'm listening tonight, the most recent attack is Mr. Rotta finding ways to smear dirt at police officers that are simply going out and trying to bring a little bit of cheer.

Making, making some comment last year, or last week, last council meeting, that there was something that was done underhanded and now he smears that same dirt this week, and this is ridiculous; it's ridiculous that we should have to share oxygen with that same kind of thought process, and I'm just frustrated, not because I, I, I begrudge his ability to speak his mind, but because I, I

...bristle at the fact that people in this political environment can sit here and cast out any kind of allegation, without fear of having to prove something, without any sort of evidence that something improper is taking place, and then leave with a smile on their face, heading home to post some blog about the reaction that I've had, or somebody else has had about these smears that he's handing out.

And I'm just... we're in America, and I began this, this, this, this meeting with an invocation thanking God for helping us to, allowing us to live in a free country, where people are free to express their opinions.

And yes, Mr. Rotta is free to express his opinion, but you know, I think that incumbent on that freedom, or accompanying that freedom is the responsibility that we use it appropriately, judiciously. I think that to go out and to make comments about people stealing money and all the different, I didn't memorize his presentation, but I just think it's shameful, and I think, and I've said this before, Mr. Rotta, YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF, WITH THE THINGS YOU COME IN HERE AND SAY. YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF with allegations that you just throw out there.

Whether it's me or, reserve police officers, or whoever it is. They are just simply trying to help. Now, you know, I mean in your world if you want this program to be, to be , deep sixed then I guess you have the right to say that, but frankly I just don't understand your logic, I don't understand your logic, and frankly, I think it's helpful and I'm thankful for the people who will go and deliver these things, will give of their time to shop with young people, that will give up their resources to buy a pie for a ridiculous amount of money, so that Shop with a Cop can happen.

For the people who will donate money, and all the things that they do, knowing that some of these things are going to be said. It's not a question of if they're going to be said, it's a matter of when they are going to be said, and how they are going to be transmitted.

We don't need to live in a society where all good things, all good deeds are to be punished. We should be holding... not just this program, but all kinds of things that people do every day. We should hold them up as examples of the best of our community. And, forgive me for venting, but I just think that what was said, while he has a right to say it is ridiculous and that he should be ashamed of himself. Thank you.  [Applause of city officials]

Mayor P-T Castonia: Well said, Chief.

Analysis:  There are subtle and not-so-subtle personal attacks on me, my motives, and my character, examples:  1)  Throwing rocks at SWAC and people  2)  I look to punish good people (x2)  3) I make crappy comments that make others cower in fear  4) I cast aspersion and smear dirt on police  5) I make baseless unproven allegations, and, of course,  6) I should be ashamed of myself (x3).

Oddly enough, my earlier comment at this meeting had me claiming a local public servant was a hero for her actions.  My words then, somewhat meant as a challenge for the wanting public officials that make up our city government:   

"...Ludington Superintendent Andrea Large is a hero in my book.  Thirty years ago, the federal government came out with lists of water coolers commonly used in schools that had lead fixtures.  Proactive schools would have looked through this list and replaced bad fountains.  That didn't happen here; Ms. Large noticed our area's poisoned children in the state data and wanted to find out whether the school had any part in it.  

It turned out that we still had water fountains that should have been taken out three decades ago giving out dangerous levels of lead to our most precious resource.  Instead of keeping it secret, she corrected the problem and told the public about it.  That is heroism, and what we need in public officials..."

And in my two minutes, I had made the point of commingling donations of a private charity with city funds is a violation of the public trust.  In an ethical city council, that point would be clearly understood just given the facts of where the money was.  My unsupported claim, which would take several minutes to cover, was that donation money had been lost, nearly $1000, enough to buy 45 Christmas dinners or send six more kids shopping with their $150 gift certificates. 

Instead of asking for further explanation, so that he could review it and see whether there was error or not in process or accounting, he kept it to the strictly personal exaggerated claims that I was against the program (even though I called it worthwhile), the police, and the people doing the good deeds.  While anybody who has heard or read my comments can clearly see that I don't-- the fault of commingling funds lands in the lap of John Shay, which led to the missing money (though somebody using the missing money for their own ends cannot be ruled out). 

If I had made a comment like Chief Barnett had made as a private citizen, I would not only have been gonged at two minutes for time, but I would also have been cautioned and silenced by the chair for the smearing and the innuendos present in his comments.  Still, his inability to keep to public topics should make anybody suspicious of his motives for doing so.  I don't take it so much personally (though I probably should) but I see it as an appropriate defense mechanism of somebody who knows that the facts will likely not support his assertions, with all of their recognized exaggerations.  Maybe I'll receive a card from him appropriate for today:

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I'm tellin ya this is what gets me the most is chief blowhards prayers for everyone in uniform and to be thankful for living in a country where we are free to express our concerns. You can't even demand your Constitutional Rights in this town without being drug out of your car, thrown to the ground and tazed. Then, to be arrested for resisting and obstructing and any other lie they can come up with. Seriously, some very sick people!

X,  you must have boulders for family jewels. You have guts and deserve the gratitude of every City resident. It's amazing the amount of abuse you receive from these feeble minded politicians. Although they rant and rave, they never answer the questions. Why didn't the Chief explain how the charitable process works and what could have happened to the money. Instead the Chief spent 5 minutes skirting around theissue and never answered the concerns put before him. He is reacting exactly like most of Ludingtons politicians.  Chief just address the concerns and answer the questions. Where is the money?       

The quotes below are priceless.

Chief Barnett's Invocation:  "Heavenly Father, we thank you for your love, your protection, your provisions you extend to each of us father. We thank you for the opportunity to live in a free country, where we are free to express our concerns, Father, we just thank you so much for those blessings..."

But then ninety minutes later, the Lord worked in mysterious ways and sent a heretic who expressed his well-researched concerns:

I refer to the family jewels as the Mayor of Ludington, this picture illustrates why-- can you solve the riddle?

Thanks for your keen perception and your appreciation of my attempts at humor.  I think the humor keeps me from thinking about some guy with a loaded weapon and about 30 police serving under him (counting reservists) sitting across the room from me, raving and ranting about how bad a person I am, and how terrible it is to share the same oxygen I use.  I think the shame he's channeling comes from himself and what he has done (and what he has not done but should have done) over the last few years.

All I can think of is the fact that she's between a dick and an a__hole.

The Ludington Torch has very smart members (no double entendre intended). 

What all these whom agree with the Chief, and the Chief himself, is a lack of proper accounting methods when certain "special projects" are in place. That being, simply, a "trust fund account" at the bank of choosing. When you take funds in, via private/public donations for a special project, you simply ask the bank for a special trust fund account. That way, ALL that special funding goes into that account alone, without being mixed with the general funds. Easy to do, and no extra cost. BUT, if you are simply acting without professionalism, nor education on the matter, just do as you want? YES, and then blame anyone that knows better via education and experience. Setting up that special trust fund allows the act to be accomplished just as easily, legally, and without any mixing of other funds to make sure the outcome is a zero balance at the end. It's not rocket science, been done many decades previously, but the dummies in charge can't make that happen for some unknown reason of just practicality.

Speaking about do gooder's, remember this story about the Petunia lady.

An even better local example is the City of Ludington establishing itself retroactively as a fiduciary trust for the Brian Whitman Benefit Softball Tournament.  I remember many of the same things happened then as happened in this instance.  The records did not add up, officials stated one thing, while the records showed another and of course, the public shaming of the one who brought the deed out in the open.  Seven unanswered questions (still, as queried in this article:  Stacking the On-Deck Circle) remain from that episode 2.5 years ago, and yet our public officials are still crooking the books to try and make themselves look less sinister by being associated with charities. 

These are the people you are trusting to spend about $30 million on WTP and WWTP upgrades over the next few years, the same people who are stealing from donations made to buy needy kids Christmas gifts and promising donors that all proceeds go to cancer survivors when they admit that they most certainly didn't.   These are the true deplorables.

Great example X, as we already had a thread about that same matter, and the city officials in charge complained about that too. Just because it's a charitable project, doesn't mean you should continue to do the paperwork and fiduciary work within the general fund. Making a special "trust fund" is common practice. When the egos of people don't act objectively and legally to do things legal and correctly, it proves what the city mgr. and chief of police's mentality is. They are above the law, and will continue to fight anyone that says otherwise, even if it's simply a simple oversight of accounting methods. Sad in all respects. But, it clearly shows that some people in charge of these type projects, don't act with anything but narcissism at their core of thought.

And let's not forget the fantastic job X did of exposing how the double dipping City Attorney was served up money he did not earn by Mr. slippery himself. The over billing scandal, in my opinion, should have caused both City officials to be tossed out on their ears and prosecuted as required by law.

All I can say is WOW! Common citizens need to watch their entire actions and words but elected officials have a different rule book? I see his comments as threatening, then the council claps? BE CAREFUL MR ROTTA! Please keep your eyes open and I hope you stay safe! WOW!

Yes, Chief Barnett: you are exercising your 9th grade education to compare apples to oranges, shame on YOU! What you said is very untrue. Rotta never once criticized the actions and charity of the Shop with a Cop, nor the Ham giveaways principles at all. What he said was is that the accounting method used in mixing these programs with general funds of the city at large is not correct, get YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT! There is a $2950 discrepancy in funds taken in vs. funds spent on the ham dinner program, so where is that unspent money at? It's still in the general fund, and if it hasn't been spent for more hams or Christmas dinners or given to needy families, then it was ill gotten gains for the city, simple arithmetic sir. I suggest you go to the Library, check out a book on accounting principles, or enroll in a WSCC class of accounting, to get your mind straight on what you think you are talking about. The way it stands now, you are simply a Buffoon that presumes to know everything, when you don't at all.

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