(at episode 1's end, XLFD is called into an LFD officer's meeting a few days after he requests a hearing to argue his innocence of crossing a clear stop intersection on his bicycle.)

I entered the LFD chief's office nervously, since I had been singled out and ushered into an area where the faces I knew and respected looked concerned about something. Seems that LPD Chief Barnett had related some untrue second-hand information to my chief about my traffic stop. Apparently, the citing officer had also talked to an LFD Lieutenant about it too. Anyhow, I learned that among other factual things and minor exaggerations: 1) the officer was only going to give me a warning, until I 'argued' that cyclists are not required to stop at stop signs. 2) that the officer came close to hitting my bike. 3) that I had said there was not a stop sign present at the intersection.

Being that all these assertions were false and contradicted by the officer's testimony at the eventual hearing, I was a bit upset. But before I had the opportunity to be upset over that, I was stunned by the disclosure of this personal information by LPD Chief Barnett and his officer. As a firefighter is a public servant, one of the first things we learn is the concept of confidentiality, even before we learn anything about quenching fires. This is of even more importance to a LEO, who deals with confidential stuff all day.

Before I had even got a notice for my hearing (which arrived ten days later, 21 days after my request), these two LEOs had gotten wind that I was boldly denying the ticket from the 79th District Court. Wanting to not have to go to court, they told my superiors that I needed to drop the case, and exaggerated their story accordingly. The meeting notes I received recently through FOIA, plainly state that Chief Barnett specifically brought it to the fire officer's attention, and all but one figured they had an obligation to address the matter accordingly. That lone dissenter had figure it was a private matter between me and the LPD. He was right.

I was threatened with receiving a written reprimand if I did not accept responsibility and drop the hearing I had requested, as is any citizen's right. What really stunned me was that the same officers who had drilled the concept of confidentiality into me, were now the same ones using what should have been private against me. Before they had even heard from me, they discussed the option of dismissal.

I stammered, my knees got weak, and I got sick within moments of hearing my Chief divulge the false, private, one-sided story I had experienced, and remembered so differently. I weakly affirmed I was going to go to court, and blandly denied some of the assertions that were made. I was to receive a written reprimand, and would be monitored over the next year for any further problems, because I would not give up my right to go to court. I was so sickened by the whole ordeal, that I was ready to resign that very night-- even though I had invested so much into the department and my training over eight years and loved the work and the people I worked with so much.

I resigned a dozen days later, citing an inability to adapt my safe bike riding habits into what was expected, and pledged to lead a crusade for the rights of bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs. But frankly, and this was implied in the letter, I resigned because the 79th District Court and the LPD had not respected my right to privacy. Here is the law, I've discovered along the way, as it pertains to this episode.

MCL 15.342(1): "A public officer or employee shall not divulge to an unauthorized person, confidential information acquired in the course of employment in advance of the time prescribed for its authorized release to the public" (1st attachment) Isn't that clear enough?

Section 2-120(a) under subdivision 4 of article III of the Ludington City Charter states that the general protections under the Whistleblowers' Protection Act which would have covered this instance, as I had already reported to the court suspected violations of the law by the LPD, and had been threatened with disciplinary action afterwards by another city official, upon the release of bogus information. (2nd Attach)

Continuing on that vein, section 2-120(b) states "This section shall not be construed as prohibiting disciplinary action if an officer or employee of the city or any city agency discloses information which he or she knows: 1) To be false or which he or she discloses with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity. 2) To be exempt from disclosure under the freedom of information act [in the FOIA, MCL 15.243(1)(b-ii and b-iii) states records compiled for law enforcement purposes whose diclosure would: (ii) deprive a person of the right to a fair trial and (iii) constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy are both exempt from disclosure] and 3) is confidential under any other provision of the law.

At the time, 3) would be satisfied by the violation of MCL 15.342(1); 2) would be violated due to its interference with my hearing, and its invasion of my privacy, and 1) was broken eventually after court testimony established the three facts which were misrepresented. Chief Barnett's reckless disregard of establishing its truthfulness notwithstanding. The 79th DC official(s) who leaked my private info would be in violation of 15.324(1) and the state's Whistleblower Act as well.

Still, at the time, I and those closest to me, knew only that something at least unethical had happened to me. The next weekend I composed a letter that I sent to Chief Barnett and sent copies to the Daily News, the City Manager John Shay, and my former chief. Would any of these entities see any problems? (end of episode 2)

Questions for discussion:

1) In the same situation, how would you feel and what would you do, if you sought to fight a minor traffic violation you thought unfair or misused and had a non-witness police chief bad-mouth you to your bosses using confidential info that happens to be false also?

2) The city had just settled the Jack Byers lawsuit for $250,000 because they had violated the Whistleblowers Act and the Open meetings Act (OMA) to his detriment (according to Mr. Byers). The LFD officer's meeting, which is itself governed by the OMA, violated this act in a couple of ways, and the Whistleblower violations that were already noted. You would think the city officials would have learned from their mistakes, but none of the people who violated the law prior (in Byers suit) had to pay for their mistakes-- it was from the taxpayers and the insurance we pay for. Most of the violators got raises shortly after that, in the midst of a recession. Is this fair to you, the people who elect the people who appoint our unelected leader (CM John Shay)?

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Bottom line is, they are above the law, and proved it in the Byers case, and MIller case, and some others long forgotten too, unequivocally, except, for the out-of-court settlement payment, hushed and covered up, by the insurance excuses, and more lies. Even Woody at LT, long since banned for spilling beans like this, explained about a year ago how Attorneys down-state are very reluctant to pursue Mason County cases for locals. They have stated off-record that the powers to be can and do twist and bend the law to fill their agendas, been doing it for many decades, and nothing but a total collapse of this present system will change it. And who has the guts, time, $$$, fortitude, and important case, to make that happen? Nada, so far anyhew.
Just like the MCSO recently rewarding a $7000 settlement because of their alleged gross violations of the rights of a perp's father, the local govts would rather pay off the victims with the people's money-- making it a doubled sin against the people-- than face an impartial court outside of Mason County. We have a great area, great people, but our local government continues to imperil our rights and our pocketbooks.
Roger THAT!
Damnation, XLFD, that really is quite unexcusable conduct by the Ludington Police. Sharing your experiences here may just be the best bet for the local people who would have their pockets picked by the local pols for a settlement with you. However, I think you should sue the bastards who did this to you or have the Attorney General of MI intervene. Your second QFD is a definite "unfair".
That AG office, has to have at least a dozen complainees escorting any current complaint, against an individual holding office, to justify an investigation now, and you will wait at least a 9-18 month period to get this response, so they told many over the last several decades. So, it remains a mute/moot subject, to be buried into infinity, and so go your tax $$$$$. MIght as well disban this agency altogether, except for the most serious of crimes, and not those of the politicos, but ONLY those of the small peeps out here. JOKE! at best! JMO
The more I hear about the "good old boys" of Ludington, the more wary I get. I've heard this kind of stuff from unhappy small business owners, too. It appears the boys have a strong hold on the city.

It's certainly therapeutic to talk about your experience to sympathizers, X, but I can see that it's a long uphill battle for you. A lawsuit is expensive and time consuming, and the city knows it. The fact that you are a man of principle certainly makes you a force to contend with, though.
Ideally, there should be some cooperation between agencies of the government for efficiency, but when those connections become seamless, the people's rights are violated. As it is now in Ludington, there are too many people "knowing your business" when you deal with any local government agency; you will soon find out that your (and others) supposedly private info with the one agency now is known by most, if not all, other agencies that have no need-to-know privilege.

Yes, I know others who have been victimized like I have by the local government grapevine, but I will not endanger them or their livelihood by divulging their own private, confidential stories. I do invite them to share their true stories here at the Torch, because only then might we eventually get a full investigation and understanding of the extent of the problem.
"A need to know" basis? Is that all there is,?? Is that all there is????? If that's all there is my friend, then that's let's keep dancing! Said Peggy Lee. , then that's a shame! Is that all there IS?
Disarm, I'm sorry you don't get it. I did not quit after I got the civil infraction, I thought it amusing enough when I got it, and when I thought I had a winning case because of the misplaced aspect of the sign--until I was called into the meeting a full month after the stop (described above) where confidential and false information was released for whatever reason Chief Barnett decided to do so. You may not have a similar experience to draw from in your life, but I felt more personally violated than I have ever felt in my life.

If you wish to continue your discussion, why don't you elaborate on your perspective? You seem to have a lot of 'look the other way' tendencies except when it comes to a private citizen voicing his concerns about local politics.
Disarm, I presume you have an occupation; obviously you don't wish to disclose it, but I will assume you have superiors. Let's also say they are in charge of sending you into dangerous situations, where you count on them to lead you effectively.

Let's say those superiors get personal information about you through what they feel is a trusted source, who happens to convey it falsely and before it should legally be disclosed.

Even though your superiors know that they should not use that information or pass judgment at that time, because in their line of work they have strict confidentiality policies also, they decide to discipline you anyway with a written reprimand to try to prevent you from doing something you not only have a legal right to do, but an internal conviction to see through. Do you trust their judgment, their respect for your rights/life or their own dedication to confidentiality after that? If so, explain.
I just got through reading the discussion between DA and XLFD that started on the truck picture and went over here-- and sorry I hate to interrupt-- but I see a lot of dodging and diverting from the DA, not the X. It sounds to me like the LPD made this a lot bigger issue than it needed to be, and DA should start badgering them for an explanation of why they can't stay within the law, or why they singled out X. The questions among others he's been asking for how long?

I met X in court when he got threatened with civil contempt if he didn't pay the fine. His tone was level, he was respectful., When not interrupted he pointed out laws (I looked over later)that clearly state probate judges had no jurisdiction in traffic courtand all he asked was for some proof that Judge Raven had that power. I have never seen a judges face that red before nor have I seen one so flummoxed over a simple question.
XLFD, it's should be quite obvious after 2 years of explaining this subject to Disarm, that he has no sense of principals nor rights of the individual, even if backed up by countless Michigan code examples, proofs of privacy infractions, unethical threats/statements by authorities, all backed up by wronful prosecution by unauthorized judges, and the list goes on. The apathy and synicizms of this and countless other individuals that "look the other way", made your unfair situation possible, and for that of others after you. Until and unless it is served on the plate of this individual himself, then he knows not what he means nor says, for he has not experienced it yet.


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