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Tag Archive | "Sand Lake Village council"

Sand Lake faces OMA lawsuit brought by ex-president and trustee

Michigan State Police says OMA allegations unfounded
By Judy Reed

A civil suit has been filed in Kent County’s 17th Circuit Court accusing the Village of Sand Lake and its council members of violating the Open Meetings Act and Whistleblower Protection Act.
The Michigan State Police, however, said the allegations about violating the OMA are unfounded.
The suit was filed in February by Rachel Gokey and Tracy Quinlan. Gokey is a current council member and was recently terminated from her dual position as the Village clerk/treasurer. Quinlan was the former Village president, zoning administrator, and code enforcer. She lost the presidential position in the November election to Nile Hayden, and then was recently terminated by the council from her other employment with the Village.
The Sand Lake Village Council approved contracts with the two in September of 2020. However, other than Gokey and Councilor Marcia Helton, the Village Council is a totally different council than those that approved the contracts. When the election was over, there were five new people elected to the Village council.
The crux of the lawsuit is that members of the new council—President Nile Hayden (now resigned due to health reasons), now President Mollie Doerr, President pro tem Kevin Wright, and trustees Stacy Rudicil, Marcia Helton and Kim McNees—met in private several times to discuss Village business—such as the firing of Gokey and Quinlan—which is a violation of the Open Meetings Act.
Gokey and Quinlan state in the suit that they “became aware of multiple apparent gatherings” and then asked the Michigan State Police to investigate the matter. The suit alleges that when a MSP trooper went to Hayden’s house to interview him about the matter, Hayden forgot to deactivate the automatic speakerphone he has installed for health reasons that is triggered by the doorbell, and the entire conversation was overheard by Gokey on an automatic phone call she received from him. During that conversation, Hayden allegedly “implicitly or explicitly admitted the truth of the assertions that he had met with Council Members in violation of the OMA.” He also wanted to know the identity of the person that told him.
The Post checked with the Michigan State Police to see if this was true, and if so, if any state or county charges will be sought. “I contacted Tpr. Fisher and he did investigate a complaint of a possible violation of the open meetings act,” said Spl/Lt. Michelle Robinson. “The investigation was closed as unfounded.”
The plaintiffs are also saying their contracts were breached, and that they reported violations of the OMA in good faith and then were terminated, at least in part, because of it. They are asking to be reinstated, and be awarded economic and compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney fees, etc.
Under their attorney’s advice, the Village of Sand Lake is not commenting on the allegations at this time.

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Village Council asks President to resign

by Judy Reed

With less than a month left on his term, the Sand Lake Village council voted at their regular meeting on Monday evening to ask Village President Tom Norton to resign. The motion, introduced by trustee Danielle Hardenburg, passed 5-0.

Norton has been under fire most recently for taking a Sand Lake Fire Department brush truck on Saturday, October 6 without speaking directly to the Fire Chief about it first, and allowing it to be used in the Pulaski Days parade by the Curt Benson for Judge campaign. 

Norton told the Post last week that as President, he had a right to take it. “The Chief doesn’t run the fire department, the President of the Village does,” he said.

Hardenburg had told the Post she felt it was an abuse of his power, and she was going to ask for his resignation at the meeting.

Norton, however, was not in attendance at Monday’s meeting, due to a family medical issue.

Hardenburg introduced the motion at the meeting, and the council discussed it.

“There was some discussion on the part of the council that we can’t force him to resign,” explained President pro-tem Dave Dewey. “But as a council we sensed that there was no way people would be content unless we sent him a letter requesting his resignation. So we decided we would send a letter out to Tom, and he would say yes or no.”

Dewey said an email went out to Norton Tuesday morning requesting his resignation. If he does resign, the Village council would then need to appoint an interim to run the village until after the November election, when a new president will be elected. Hardenburg is running for that position as a qualified write-in candidate. Former trustee Nyha French appears on the ballot, but she moved out of the area and is no longer a candidate.

Norton decided earlier this year not to run for reelection in Sand Lake, but instead ran for Supervisor of Nelson Township against their current Supervisor Robyn Britton and lost in the primary election. He told the Post last week that he and his family would soon be moving out of the area.

The Sand Lake Village council has seen several of its trustees leave recently, and will have several openings on the November ballot. Dave Dewey is retiring after 13 years; his wife Jan resigned earlier in the summer; trustee Greg Wheeler resigned; and French moved out of the district. 

All write-in candidates need to file declaration of intent forms by October 26.

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