Posted on 20 November 2015.
By Judy Reed
Verbal and written attacks against Sand Lake Police Chief Jim Reamsma by their zoning administrator, Dan Hula, led the Village Council to publicly fire Hula at their council meeting Monday evening, November 16.
Last week, the Post ran a Post Script from Hula, where he talked about a divide between the residents and the administration that had surfaced recently with the ordeal of the proposed CMC Tavern. He blamed Chief Reamsma for the divide. “Be it fact or perception, he is the catalyst for this current divisive state of the community. It is my opinion that an early retirement is in order, which will allow the Chief to depart with dignity,” he wrote.
According to Chief Reamsma and President Pro-Tem Dave Dewey, Hula also had a one on one conversation with Reamsma, which was recorded on Reamsma’s body cam. Hula said some of the same things but also told the Chief that his problem was his “theology.” When the Chief asked what he meant, Hula told him “Christian Reformed.” Reamsma, who is also pastor of Daystar ministries in Grand Rapids, then told him that he is Assembly of God, not Christian Reformed.
When Reamsma told Hula it was his job to uphold the law and asked him what is he supposed to do if he sees someone breaking the law, Hula responded that he should look the other way.
Hula went on to say that when he (Hula comes into Sand Lake) he puts blinders on.
“For me not to uphold the law is a crime,” said Reamsma. “He couldn’t tell me one thing I’ve done wrong. I just don’t understand it.”
The CMC Tavern was in the news recently, with people on social media saying police were harassing the owners and didn’t want them to open. According to Reamsma and the Village Council, that’s not what happened.
The former owners, Meghan Gonzalez and Christopher Saranovic, reportedly worked on the bar without permits, then held so-called “private” parties two weekends in a row in October without the necessary permits or safety features. (The parties were not private because they were posted on social media.) Reamsma said they had no occupancy permit, no fire extinguishers, no exit signs, no health permit, and no liquor license. And they sold raffle tickets, which party-goers turned in for drinks. An officer told Chief Reamsma about the first party on a Friday night. They were told they should not be open without an occupancy permit but were open again on Saturday night.
The following weekend the Kent County Sheriff Department was doing an inspection at the Eagles Club on Friday night when they noticed activity at the bar, which was not yet supposed to be open. They went in and did an undercover buy and told them they needed to close. But the bar opened again on Saturday night.
The following Monday, the Village Council voted to close the bar, after also receiving notice from the health department.
“The Chief may have put up the sign but we voted to close it,” said Dewey.
“We had to tell them that until you show you have the proper licenses, you need to close,” explained Reamsma. “We gave them plenty of opportunities.”
In the end, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission denied their license, based on selling liquor without a license, and several other discrepancies in their permits. It is unknown at this time whether they will face any charges.
The couple sold the bar to Danielle Acton and her brother, Alan Hirshberger, who plan to open it under the name Memory’s.
Reamsma said he went out of his way to not overreact to the situation. But he couldn’t just look the other way. He said that both the Council and people he meet on the street have been very supportive. But he said the conversation he had with Hula was hostile.
And Hula continued his line of reasoning Monday evening at the Village Council meeting. “We have a split in the village between the village residents and the police chief and his henchmen,” said Hula. “The chief needs to leave. If the police chief retires it goes away. I love this village. Something needs to be done.”
Hula also noted that he had started a recall against trustee Tom Norton.
And he insisted that he was responding as a citizen and not as zoning administrator.
Dewey told Hula that he crossed that line when he responded to an email from Dewey about the CMC Tavern as the zoning administrator. “Your response was, ‘why doesn’t the chief want a bar in Sand Lake?’” said Dewey.
He also told Hula that his meeting with the Chief crossed the line, and the Council attempted to play the body cam video of the conversation for the public, but couldn’t get the speakers to work. Dewey went on to explain that under Title 7, a person cannot discriminate or harass another co-worker based on religion or age. “You were pretty inflammatory in the Post, and you told the Police Chief he needed to ignore the law, to walk away. They are sworn to uphold the law; they have no choice. As zoning administrator, you do, too. If we don’t, we are no better than those who break the law,” remarked Dewey.
Dewey admitted that they didn’t ask the CMC Tavern owners the hard questions about ownership of the bar when they needed to. (Saranovic’s name was not on the liquor license permit. They later found he had legal difficulties elsewhere.) “We have to own that,” noted Dewey.
“That’s irrelevant,” said Hula.
“But your discrimination is not irrelevant,” remarked Dewey.
It was then that trustee Adam Hill made the motion for the Council to uphold the law and dismiss the zoning administrator. The vote was 5-0.
Hula made a few remarks after the vote, then left the Village chamber.
You can read more of what Village trustee Dave Dewey has to say in his Post Script on page 8.