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:
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:
Yes, Councilor Kathy: you are also exercising your what, 11th grade education? Also trying to compare clean water with any leaded water. Saying emphatically, there for sure isn't ANY LEAD in the city's water system. BS! And that someone said they haven't seen any lead pipes that worked there 19 years. Anyone agree? I think that same mgr. said he DID SEE LEAD PIPES a few months ago, and they were replaced as needed. To say that there never was and never will be ANY LEAD pipes found, or anytime into the future, is also a BIG B.S. statement. You DON'T HAVE ANY PROOFS! To the contrary, I'll bet plenty of DPW workers would say they've also seen them, and replaced them as necessary. What the Councilor wants everyone to believe, is that she KNOWS IT ALL! You DON'T KATHY! You proved that some weeks ago by firmly stating Lowes is still selling lead faucets, and you ALSO LIED ABOUT THAT TOO! Maybe someone should take you underground into the sewer system and show you what is there. Or don't you have any coordination and GUTS to back up your MOUTH?
Yes sir MR. Aquaman so true and on point! Just like when we put in our seawall on Water St., exactly when the city learned the WHOLE 4th ward was dumping into the PM Bayou "LAGOON" instead of the sewage system! Sad they paid sewer in their water bill!
The utility maintenance supervisor Plamondon noted it was common to see lead goosenecks connecting the water mains to the service pipes. Councilor Katie Moonbeam, an officer of a local environmental awareness organization (AFFEW), processes that at the end to say there is no lead pipes in the city water system, as if the people had connected those goosenecks to the water main. That was hilarious, I would have busted a gut if I wasn't feeling so ashamed of myself at the time.
Seriously Mr. Rotta, please be careful walking the streets there! They are inciting people to hide behind bushes to jump out and attack you! I just can not believe his comments and the people clapping? Terrible!
One of the people here makes an innocent comment about wanting five minutes alone with a council member and the chief conducts an investigation into it and his own investigator, Aaron Sailor who has been sued at least three times for police brutality, sends a warrant request to the prosecutor for the non-threatening statement.
Here Chief Barnett makes known he doesn't think it appropriate that the council and their attendees should have to share oxygen with my thought process. That's crazy talk-- if anybody said that about the Chief there would be repercussions-- yet they allow him to talk unhindered for several minutes thereafter. The detached thought process I seen on display for five minutes put this into my mind:
I'll repeat JFC123 comment, WOW! It gets worse every meeting, public officials making unwarranted comments to a citizen of our community and then the council applaud in his favor, JUST WOW!!!! If anyone should be ashamed is you police chief. You should be a man at the next meeting and stand up and apologize to mr. Rotta for your personal attack . You have no right to say what you did as Mr. Rotta didn't attack you or your police force in any way about the program. It's all about the accounting . It was done wrong and the city has to make the wrong right by proper book keeping. Furthermore next year have a special account set up as stated in another post for this or any other non city activity. It shouldn't be a city activity at all. The moneys left over what ever the sum may be should now be put in account at a bank now for next year and noted as such. Also let the citizens know that it was done. Simple as that. For me, I'm ashamed that these people think they represent me.
Just remember, the worst of the worst in city hall aren't elected officials, they were all appointed. To wit: John Shay, Barney Barnett, & Dick Wilson, none that have any principles or love or even are from Ludington, all outsiders, that just look down at locals. Then, we have unopposed councilors mostly, usually picked from some committee that the Mayor appointed them to previously, all hand-picked for their mentality of running the city the way it is now, and has been for quite a while.