01-05-2017 Bainbridge Supervisor Bill Hodge taking County to court over dismissal from road commissi

Bainbridge Supervisor Bill Hodge taking County to court over dismissal from road commissioner position

 Former Berrien County Road Commissioner, and now Bainbridge Township Supervisor, Bill Hodge has asked the Berrien County Trial Court for a preliminary injunction setting aside the resolution removing Supervisor Hodge from his position as Berrien County Road Commissioner.  He is asking the Court to restore him to that position, order the County Board to hold a hearing for his removal, and to award him with lost pay, benefits, and attorney fees.

This follows the unanimous vote of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners on December 1, 2016, approving Resolution A1612322, which declared the position vacant in accordance with Michigan’s Incompatible Public Offices Act (MCL 15.181 et seq.).

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners is a body that is expected to be transparent, and therefore, it expects the individuals that it appoints to public boards to adhere to the same level of professionalism, respect, and transparency.  Any actual, or perceived, violation of the public trust will not be tolerated.  The Board of Commissioners believes that Mr. Hodge violated that public trust when he insisted on sitting as an active board member of the Road Commission on November 30, 2016, after he was sworn in as Bainbridge Township Supervisor on November 21, 2016.  When Mr. Hodge made the affirmative decision to act as a decision-maker in two competing public positions he violated Michigan’s Incompatible Public Offices Act at MCL 15.181(b)(iii).

Mr. Hodge’s decision to act as both Bainbridge Township’s Supervisor and a Road Commission Board Member inherently put public tax dollars at risk since the Road Commission and Bainbridge Township have active contracts for County Road services, and both entities negotiate with each other for those services.

Chairman of the County Board of Commissioners Jon Hinkelman, who was personally served on behalf of the Board at home on the evening of December 22, stated, “In spite of the fact that Mr. Hodge admits that he was serving incompatible offices, he still insisted on filing a lawsuit against the Board of Commissioners for his removal from the Road Commission.  He is asking the Court to put him back on the Road Commission and allow him to work as both a Township Supervisor and a board member of the Road Commission.  The fact that Mr. Hodge is using the Court system, and taxpayer dollars, to allow him to continue in violation of a state statute, and in violation of the public trust, is a waste of resources and an abuse of the tax funds that he is charged with protecting.  The Board of Commissioners, as the elected body charged with answering to all constituents of Berrien County, cannot tolerate such an abuse.”

  1. McKinley Elliott, Chairman of the Administration Committee, said, “Over the past 30 years I can think of no elected or appointed official who faced the potential of violating the Incompatible Offices Act that did not take the necessary steps to remedy that situation.”

The resolution of December 1 authorized the process of selecting a new road commissioner to proceed in accordance with County policy.  That process is expected to resume when the new Board of Commissioners resumes regular business on January 12.  The motion for the preliminary injunction is expected to be held by Judge John Donahue of the Civil Division at 10:15 a.m. also on January 12.

HAIL TO THE CHIEF…members of Mid America Cowgirls Rodeo Drill Team based out of Three Oaks, Michigan will ride in the January 20, 2017 Presidential Inaugural Parade.

W.H.S. sisters are members of equestrian team riding in 2017 Presidential Inaugural Parade

 Ashley and Elaina Fogarty, daughters of Tom and Laura Fogarty of Benton Harbor, are members of Mid America Cowgirls Rodeo Drill Team based out of Three Oaks, Michigan. The Cowgirls will ride in the January 20, 2017 Presidential Inaugural Parade. Ashley is a 2015 graduate of Watervliet High School and currently attends Southwestern Michigan College in Dowagiac. Her sister, Elaina is a freshman at Watervliet.

After the conclusion of the Inaugural Ceremonies and the luncheon, the President and Vice President will lead a procession down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. The President, Vice President, their spouses, and special guests will then review the parade as it passes in front of the Presidential Reviewing Stand. The Inaugural Parade is a celebrated and much anticipated event for millions of Americans across the country and is televised live.

The Drill Team Captain, Debbie Donner Dunphy applied for the Inaugural Parade in 2008 and in November sent in an application again for the 2017 parade, knowing their acceptance would be a long shot.  What started as a dream suddenly became a reality when she found out they were accepted and were able to attend.  It will be an once-in-a-lifetime experience for these 16 cowgirls from Berrien County and Northern Indiana.

Fundraising efforts are being planned to help the Cowgirls, their horses and support team of 30 people to get to and from Washington D.C.  Look for details on the Mid America Cowgirls Facebook page. Donations can be sent to Horizon Bank c/o Mid America Cowgirls 6801 W.  U.S. 12 Three Oaks, MI 49128 or made through a gofundme account under “Cowgirls Ride Pres Inaugural Parade”, www.gofundme.com/35ok1a0.

A celebration of their journey will be hosted by the Three Oaks American Legion on January 28.  The celebration includes a spaghetti dinner, 5 – 9 p.m. and music, 9 p.m. – midnight.  Come watch their experience and listen to the story of how a small town group of cowgirls, based out of the little town of Three Oaks was given a chance of a lifetime to ride in the 2017 Presidential Inaugural Parade!  Admission is $7.50, kids under 10 are free.

For more about the Mid America Cowgirls & their journey – please contact Debbie Dunphy at cowgirl725@gmail.com or call at 269-369-3174.

Keeler Township works on ordinance violators

By Annette Christie

The Keeler Township Board continues to work on its ordinance violators.  At their Tuesday, January 3, 2017 meeting they voted to have the Planning Commission review their Zoning Ordinance, specifically the violations and penalties portion.  The township is moving toward changing the violations to a civil infraction vs. a criminal infraction.

The action will require the Planning Commission to determine the procedures and penalties and will include a public hearing for the residents to be heard.

The township zoning administrator continues to have problems with residents using semi-trailers, storage and shipping containers for storage. He announced that those types of containers are not allowed in residential, lake residential or commercial properties.  They have increased enforcement of that ordinance violation.

Van Buren County Sheriff Deputy Ray Hochsprung who serves as the township’s Code Enforcement Officer said he has opened a new blight complaint and has started enforcing the new blight ordinance.  Call volume is down with the colder weather. The Sheriff’s Department continues to investigate three breaking and enterings on the north side of Keeler Lake.   He noted that robbers are possibly targeting homes with snow in driveway and no traffic. In the month of December he worked 14 days in Keeler Township. He investigated 10 complaints, made 33 traffic stops, wrote 10 citations, and made 58 property checks.

The Van Buren County Road Commission Board member Rick Boze announced that the recent overload of snowfall threatened the Road Commission budget but they were able to keep it in budget while still keeping the roads cleaned.  They are working on minor road repairs.

With the township finalized purchase of the neighboring Keeler Keg property, the board discussed individuals parking in the parking lots.  Clerk Carl Davis noted that there is a resident that wants to park his semi there and the neighbor car repair business wants to use it for some of his business parking. After some discussion, the board approved for the use of the north side of the township parking lot for the parking of cars during the day, no overnight parking until April 1.

The board also approved for a new parking light to be added in the street light district. A resident at the end of Madison Avenue is asking for a parking light which just happens to be located by a dry hydrant that is used by the fire department. Davis also mentioned that all of the street lights are out at the cemetery. The board concurred that he calls to get them repaired.

City of Coloma extends tax deadline

By Christina Gelder

The Coloma City Commission met briefly for their last meeting of 2016 on Wednesday, December 28. During that meeting, they voted to extend the winter tax deadline to 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 28. If a resident was part of the summer deferment program, however, those taxes are still due on Tuesday, February 14 at 4:00 p.m.

Bills paid for construction project

It was voted to approve invoices due to Midwest Civil Engineers and MDOT for the E. St. Joseph Street project. It was the second round of payments. MDOT’s invoice totaled $151,833.62 and Midwest Civil Engineers were paid $5556.96.

In other news, it was also approved to buy new snow plow blades at a cost of $2111.40. This purchase was one looking forward because blades typically take two to three months to receive. Commissioner Marsha Hammond was once again appointed as Mayor Pro-tem.

The meeting was ended with wishes of a happy New Year and promises to be back in 2017.


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