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Tag Archive | "Mark Laws"

Investigation into open meetings violation will go on


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By Judy Reed

 

The Cedar Springs City Council voted last month to conduct an investigation into whether a violation had occurred under the Open Meetings Act last July, when the Council voted to take Mayor Bob Truesdale into closed session to hear complaints against him.

The Michigan Open Meetings Act states that a closed session may be called to hear complaints against a public officer, when the person requests a closed hearing. It can also be rescinded by the individual at any time.

According to Truesdale, he did not ask for the closed session, but was instead told by two of the council members that they were going to do this in closed session. Truesdale said he voted with the council figuring he had nothing to hide, and was not aware of his rights to end it at any time.

Two of the council members—Patricia Troost and Ashley Bremmer—are up for recall and the alleged open meetings violation is one of the reasons listed.

While Councilmember Dan Clark originally voted for the investigation, he began to have second thoughts last week, after reviewing two opinions by former State Attorney General Frank Kelley in connection with recalls and using public funds to defend the members up for recall. So he asked to have the matter revisited when the council met last Thursday for a special goals workshop session.

“I voted for it (the investigation) last month because I was not a councilmember at the time it occurred and did not want to interfere, “ he explained. “But when I realized that there was a conflict with an attorney general opinion, I tried to have them change the language to take it away from the recall.”

At the workshop, Clark proposed that they delay the investigation until they could find out whether the two opinions he read would cause the council to do something illegal. “In connecting the investigation with the recall, we are putting together two areas that should not be—the electoral and the judicial,” he explained.

The two opinions he cited were from former State Attorney General Frank Kelley.  In opinion 6704, dated March 22, 1991, Kelley answered the question on whether a municipality can use its funds for the purpose of paying expenses incurred by its city commissioners in the defense of a recall petition arising out of their performance of their duties as elected officers. He answered that no officer has any duties regarding the…outcome of  a recall election, and that his opinion was that the township may not expend public funds to challenge the sufficiency of  recall petitions.

The second opinion, no. 6715, dated March 17, 1992, also addressed public funds to pay legal fees of village council members who are subject of a recall. He again stated that a village may not use its funds for the purpose of paying legal fees to legal counsel opposing a recall petition.

Clark likens those opinions to what he sees the council is now doing—performing an internal investigation using public funds to exonerate the two members under recall. But Mayor Mark Fankhauser sees it differently. He says the investigation is not on behalf of Troost or Bremmer.

“We rely on our lawyer to act legally on our behalf. The recall was the catalyst that caused the entire to be compromised, and I felt it was important to address whether the council had done anything improper. It will be a small impact financially.”

City Manager Thad Taylor told the council that he had asked City Attorney Jeffrey Slugget whether they were using the funds improperly, and he told them that the city’s charter says they can use public funds as long as they are using it for a public purpose. He explained that the city must do the initial gathering of information, then show any evidence they gather to the prosecutor. If the prosecutor feels there is a case, it gets turned over to the Michigan State Police for further investigation.

Fankhauser said he felt the investigation should continue so that the public knows whether or not something illegal has been done.

Troost agreed, saying the investigation would tell them if five of them still on the council did something wrong.

Clark said the real issue is that they shouldn’t spend money on an electoral process.  “I want us to have a good image. I don’t want to spend public money on this. As a public body, we are influencing the electorate unintentionally.”

He said if there had to be an investigation, he felt it should come from a private source, not one funded by the city.

Clark also took issue with lawyer Sluggett’s response when asked at a previous meeting about who can call a closed session. “Mr. Sluggett said over and over that anyone can call a closed session and it is not so. I would like to have more than his opinion. As a council I don’t want to be diametrically opposed to what the attorney general says.”

Clark moved to amend their motion to investigate and asked for Taylor to stop the investigation and not restart until further info was gathered. It was defeated 6-1, with Truesdale saying he accidentally voted no when he meant to vote yes. That may have been true for one other council member as well.

Mark Laws, the Cedar Springs resident who has filed the recall petition, has also filed a complaint against the Council under the Michigan Campaign Finance Act. Under that act, a public body must maintain strict neutrality in each election and not attempt to influence the outcome of an election.

 

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Go ahead given on recall petitions


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Cedar Springs resident Mark Laws can begin collecting the signatures he needs to recall City Council members Ashley Bremmer and Patricia Troost. The two councilors had 10 days to appeal the decision of the Kent County Election Commission, who approved the language on the petitions 2-1. But they opted not to appeal this time, and are instead leaving it in the hands of the voters.

The recall petition language reads:

1) On July 11, 2013 Ashley Bremmer/Patrica Troost voted to go into a closed session, to hear complaints against council member Truesdale. The Open Meetings Act 267, 15.268, 8a allows for a closed session if it is requested by the person to be disciplined or reprimanded. Council member Truesdale made no such request.

2.  On November 14, 2013 Ashley Bremmer/Patricia Troost voted to change the city logo and tagline. For many years it has been procedure of the council to not take action on an item not previously on agenda for public input and comment. This change in the logo and tagline was not presented to the public for input or comment before the change was made.

While Bob Truesdale voted with the rest of the council to go into closed session for that July 11 meeting to hear complaints against him by the council, he says he was unaware of his rights. During a special meeting in December, he alluded to the previous meeting and noted that it was illegal for the council not to explain to him when they took him into closed session that he could call it off anytime. “Some of you really pounded on me,” he said, “and I said nothing in my defense.”

At  last Thursday’s City Council meeting, the council voted 6-1 to authorize City Manager Thad Taylor and their attorney to investigate whether anything illegal did occur regarding the July meeting. An outside agency will need to investigate the matter.

The second complaint on the petition refers to the new logo for the City of Cedar Springs, and the complaint is that the public did not get to see or comment on the logo before it was voted on.

According to Kent County Elections Director Sue deStiguer, the recall law has changed drastically, and the Cedar Springs recall will be the first test of the law since it went into effect in January.

The language on the petitions is good for 6 months from the date it was approved—March 7. However, the signatures (170 of them) must be gathered within a 60-day window. It used to be 90 days. “Any signature older than 60 days is automatically stricken,” explained deStiguer.  The amount of signatures needed is based on 25 percent of the votes cast in the last presidential election.

Another change is that there will be no justification or explanation from the defendant (the council members) on the petition. The language will be as you see above.

A local recall can now only go on a May or November ballot, where previously it could go on the February or August ballot.

The ballot will also look differently. It will say recall election partial term ending, and the two candidates will automatically be on the ballot as running to fill that term. And that may be confusing for some people. “If the voter wants them to complete the term, they vote for them,” she explained.

 

 

 

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Recall language approved


Cedar-Springs-new-logoLast Friday, March 7, was the third time the Kent County Elections Commission has held a clarity hearing on the petition language filed to recall two Cedar Springs City Council members. It was approved 2-1.

Council members Patricia Troost and Ashley Bremmer have 10 days from last Friday to appeal the decision.

According to Elections Director Susan deStiguer, the petition language was approved 2-1. Chief Probate Judge David Murkowski expressed concern about the factual portion and voted no.

Resident Mark Laws filed the petitions. The first time he filed, they were rejected by the Elections Commission. The second time he filed, the Election Commission approved them 2-1, but the Council Members appealed, and Circuit Court judge Mark Trusock reversed that decision Friday, February 21. Laws then immediately filed new language. That is the language approved last Friday.

It reads:

1) On July 11, 2013 Ashley Bremmer/Patrica Troost voted to go into a closed session, to hear complaints against council member Truesdale. The Open Meetings Act 267, 15.268, 8a allows for a closed session if it is requested by the person to be disciplined or reprimanded. Council member Truesdale made no such request.

2.  On November 14, 2013 Ashley Bremmer/Patricia Troost voted to change the city logo and tagline. For many years it has been procedure of the council to not take action on an item not previously on agenda for public input and comment. This change in the logo and tagline was not presented to the public for input or comment before the change was made.

Watch the Post for more details next week on the status of the petitions.

 

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Court reverses decision on recall


by Judy ReedCedar-Springs-new-logo

A Grand Rapids judge has overturned a January decision by the Kent County Elections Commission approving recall petitions for two Cedar Springs city council members.

The Commission voted last month that the petitions submitted by Cedar Springs resident Mark Laws against Ashley Bremmer and Patricia Troost were of sufficient clarity for voters to know what they were voting on and why. Circuit court judge Mark Trusock reversed that decision Friday, February 21.

Laws filed new petition language at the end of the hearing, and a clarity hearing will be held on March 7, at 8 a.m., in the Training Room located on the 2nd floor of the Kent County Administration Building, 300 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

According to Cedar Springs City Clerk Linda Branyan, the new language reads:

1) On July 11, 2013 Ashley Bremmer/Patrica Troost voted to go into a closed session, to hear complaints against council member Truesdale.  The Open Meetings Act 267, 15.268, 8a allows for a closed session if it is requested by the person to be disciplined or reprimanded.  Council member Truesdale made no such request.

2.  On November 14, 2013 Ashley Bremmer voted to change the city logo and tagline.  For many years it has been procedure of the council to not take action on an item not previously on agenda for public input and comment.  This change in the logo and tagline was not presented to the public for input or comment before the change was made.

This will be the third time Laws has filed the petitions. The first time, the Kent County Elections Commission ruled against the language.

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New recall petitions filed


 

New petitions were filed last Friday, January 10, with Kent County, to recall Cedar Springs City Councilors Patricia Troost and Ashley Bremmer.

Resident Mark Laws filed the new petitions after the language on two previous petitions was rejected at a clarity/factual hearing on December 31. Elections Director Susan deStiguer said that none of the three on the committee thought the petition held any facts.

A clarity/factual hearing has been set on the new petitions for January 29, at 8 a.m.

The new language (reason for recall) reads:

“1) On July 11, 2013 the city council motioned and supported to adjourn to a closed session and then adjourned. The Open Meetings Act 267, 15.267, 8A allows a closed session if the named person requests a closed hearing. No such request was made.

2) City council has a protocol in place requiring any change of import to be on agenda for public input and comment before it can be acted on by council in a following meeting. Former council member Merlington wrote this protocol. The new logo that was approved in November 2013 council meeting was not presented to the public for input or comments.”

The first reason applies to a council meeting where then Mayor Bob Truesdale was allegedly taken into closed session without asking for one and then verbally lambasted by other council members. The second reason has to do with the process of adopting the new logo.

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Voters choose two new city councilors


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When the Cedar Springs City Council convenes on Thursday, November 14, two new faces will be sitting behind the council desk.

Two seats were up for grabs in the Tuesday, November 5 election. Daniel Clark, Director of Operations and Maintenance at Creative Technologies Academy, received 139 votes, while Jerry Hall, former DPW Superintendent for the City of Cedar Springs, received 131 votes to win the seats.

They were followed by incumbent Pamela Conley with 111 votes, and Mark Laws with 65. The other open seat belonged to Mayor Pro-tem Charlie Watson, who decided not to run for another term.

According to Cedar Springs City Clerk Linda Branyan, 235 people voted—just under 11 percent of registered voters.

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Primary election for Cedar Springs City Council


Tuesday, August 6

The City of Cedar Springs will hold a primary election next Tuesday, August 6, for City Council. The city must hold a primary when the number of candidates running is twice the number of open seats. This year five candidates are running to fill two four-year terms. One seat is being vacated by Mayor Pro-Tem Charlie Watson, who decided not to run again, and trustee Pamela Medford-Conley’s seat is also up for reelection. The election will be held at the Cedar Springs City Hall, and a runoff will be held in November.

N-Candidates-Perry-HopkinsPerry Hopkins

About him: “I am 24 years old and have been for the last 14 years (I’m really 38.) I currently reside in Cedar Springs and am originally from the Palo/Fenwick area. I’ve been working in the area since 2006 and moved here in 2010. I own Kin of Hope Natural Health and Perry’s Place LLC for herbs, teas, and more. I also work part time at Meijer in Cedar Springs.”

Primary reason running for office: “I believe that if you don’t get involved, then you have no right to complain about how things are. If I can make the community I live and work in a better place, then I should do my best to do so.”

Other experience: Perry is currently a board member on the Cedar Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, the DDA, the Planning Commission, and Community Action Network (CAN). He also is an active member of subcommittees for the CSACOC on all community events, including the Founders Day event, Halloween Spooktacular, Mingle with Kris Kringle, and is currently working with the library, museum, and Kent Theatre on possible upcoming fundraisers.

Main strength he brings to the position: “I am community involved and have interest in what’s good for the community. I am dedicated in what I do. I am open-minded, and look forward to improving our town.”

The major challenge he sees facing the district and what would he do about it: “The biggest challenges I see our community has is that many members of the community have a bad taste in their mouth over our town’s image. Many have given up and have the opinion nothing can get changed or done because no one will help. I will address these challenges by listening to the citizens, business owners, and other community members and make a voice for them. I will pass my vote for what I think will encourage them that yes, we can improve our community’s image, and yes we can grow, and yes, we can do it!

N-Candidates-Pam-ConleyPamela Medford-Conley – Incumbent

About her: Pamela Medford-Conley is 43 years old, and has lived in Cedar Springs for 14 years. She holds degrees and certifications from Montcalm Community College, CMU, and GVSU in child development, speech pathology, theater, dance, history, secondary education, communication, and argumentation. She teaches policy debate, communication, and academic tools for Forest Hills Central High School. She is married to Clint Conley who is a teacher for KCTC. She has two children–a daughter, Abbi Conley, will be a senior at Cedar Springs High School this fall and her son, Caelun Conley, will be entering first grade at Cedar Trails.

Primary reason running for office: If re-elected this would be her second term on City Council. “I am looking forward to continuing to represent my fellow citizens and be what I hope they feel is a true representative of their concerns,” she said. “One of the biggest issues the city will face in up-coming years will be our aging water system and continued funding cuts brought by Michigan’s state government.”

Other experience: Past experience includes serving 6 years on the Board Of Education for Cedar Springs Public Schools, where she held the positions of Treasurer and Legislative Representative and made multiple trips to Washington DC and Lansing to advocate for kids in Cedar Springs; 5 years on the Library Board including part of that time as Vice President; one year on the PTO Board of Directors; one year on the Red Flannel Festival Board of Directors; 10 years  in the  Garden Club with 6 years as President; and 13 years as co-discussion leader of the Cedar Springs  Book Club.

Main strength she brings to the position: “I believe what I bring to the office is experience, the desire to always seek information before making any decision, and an open mind to listen to all positions and represent all citizens.”

The major challenge she sees facing the district and what would she do about it: “The major challenges I see on the horizon are dealing with our aging water system, and resolving the issue with the Red Flannel Festival regarding the use of logos and doing this with dwindling resources as Michigan’s State Government – both the legislative and executive branches continue to add mandates and restrict funding.”

Gerald Hall (No photo available)

About him: He was raised here and has lived in Cedar Springs for 64 years. He is retired from the City of Cedar Springs, where he was formerly the Superintendent of Public Works.

Primary reason running for office: Gerald believes his experience will help the future of the city.

Other experience: His experience includes serving on the City Planning Commission and six years on the Cedar Springs Board of Education.

Main strength he brings to the position: Gerald said the main strength he will bring to the position is his knowledge of the city.

The major challenge he sees facing the district and what would he do about it: He said the major challenge facing the city is a shrinking budget.

N-Candidates-Mark-LawsMark Laws

About him: “I moved to Cedar Springs from Muskegon last June 2012. I am an operations management professional who most recently worked for Huntington Bank and before that the Federal Reserve Bank. I am now an entrepreneur.”

Primary reason running for office: “I found myself complaining about some of the outcomes in the council meetings. My momma taught me to get involved and do something to improve the situation and get off the bench and into the game. Complaining about something never makes it any better and according to my momma it actually contributes to making it worse. We have so much potential here in Cedar Springs.”

Other experience and main strength he will bring to the board: “Twenty plus years of operating businesses and business units up to 7 billion dollars, making tough budget decisions, negotiating contracts, sales and marketing, continuous improvement implementations, innovative and outside the box vision, and a can do attitude are just the tip of the iceberg of previous experience that will be beneficial to the City Council position.”

The major challenge he sees facing the district and what would he do about it: “Residents and businesses need to know that City Hall is here to assist them to get ‘er done. Whatever that may be. I would have the attitude of if it is a good idea that will benefit the community I would find a way to accomplish that thing and do all in my power and ability to do just that. Can’t is not in my vocabulary.”

Other: “Contracts for services needed by the City should go to residents of Cedar Springs if at all possible. Keeping the money local is a good thing, even if the local quote is  $37 more than the out of town quote. It would also be nice to have Cedar Springs be the Red Flannel Town that the Clipper Girls gave us and we have enjoyed for 70 plus years. And just how much has been spent on attorney fees for this situation? And we don’t have any money is the line that is put out there. But the cost of the attorney fees says something different. Just sayin!”

N-Candidates-ClarkDaniel Clark

About him: “All in all I have lived in the City of Cedar Springs for 20 years. I met Donna at what later became known as Jordan College on Pine Street in 1972. I graduated from Jordan College that same year with a B.A. and then from Andrews University in Berrien Springs in 1975 with my Masters.  I received my teaching certification from Aquinas College in 2007. We lived in Oklahoma, Donna’s home state, and then in Israel from 1988 to 2000. In 2000, I was hired by Creative Technologies Academy, where I am currently employed as the Director of Operations and Maintenance.”

Primary reason running for office: “I would like the opportunity to work for the good of my community; to make a practical, positive difference; to offer workable solutions as challenges and issues arise. I want to be involved.”

Other experience: “While living in Oklahoma I served as a volunteer fireman for eight years in a department with three full-time firefighters and twenty volunteers. I served three of those years as a captain of a five-man team. I completed training as a second level EMT. Mustang’s population at that time was 10,000. Through the last 12 years since we relocated to Cedar Springs I have volunteered on many occasions at Creative Technologies Academy beyond my regular work duties and have helped Donna with many details to do with library programs and fundraising, such as helping to load and unload tables and books for Friends book sales, etc.”

Main strength he will bring to the board: “I was raised on a farm and have a strong work ethic. I keep up on the news both locally and around the world and feel that my various experiences will help me identify with the citizens of the community and hopefully make choices balanced between necessary regulation/expenditures and those offering greater personal/business opportunities to Cedar Springs citizens.

The major challenge he sees facing the district and what would he do about it:  He said the major challenge is rebuilding community good will, especially regarding the Red Flannel Celebration. Also he would work to provide activities and opportunities for our youth to discourage drug and alcohol dependency.

 

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