06-08-2017 Coloma, Hartford and Watervliet Senior Scholars; Judge reinstates Hodge to Road Commissio

A look back and a look forward for Hartford High School Class of 2017

By Nancy Albright

The Hartford High School band warmed up as graduates of the Class of 1967 visited while waiting to witness the commencement ceremony of the Class of 2017, similar to one the alumni group had experienced 50 years earlier.

The band struck up “Pomp and Circumstance” at 7:00 p.m. Friday evening June 2 as the crowd fanned themselves with ceremonial programs bearing the green and white of the Indians; looking on as 60 seniors took their last walk as students of Hartford Public Schools.

The ceremony began with Board of Education Vice President Mike Banic bestowing honorary diplomas on each member of the 1967 HHS graduating class amid a cheering crowd. Present were Lynn (Conklin) Farmer, Carol (Cornell) Schaus, Cheryl (Frantz) Demorrow, Lowell Andrew Harris, Claud Hobson, William Jordan, Dennis C. Linderman, Linda (McFarland) Bippus, Linda (Phillips) Willer, Morris Rice, Sharon (Rudel) Clupper, Bruce Schilling, Alice (Stafford) Martin, Susan (Szewczyk) Jobe, David Troutman, Rick Ward, Larry West and Billy Eugene Williams.

Honors Graduate Leonila Hurtado then took the podium and told her classmates that, “Our time here went faster than we thought it would. It flew by without us noticing.” Miss Hurtado bestowed thanks on mentors, teachers and parents for their support, and the educational opportunities they worked so hard to provide. “Thank you, and may we make you proud. Our high school years are where we made memories, and after today that’s all we have, but the best is yet to come. Many of us, including myself, will head into something new after graduation. And yes it’s scary, but the world is filled with endless possibilities and now it’s our turn to make sense of them.”

Senior band members and their younger counterparts then played “Lightning Field” by John Mackey; the seniors’ last song as members of the Hartford High School Band.

Honors Graduate Paul Chappell followed, asking his classmates to think about how they measured their time in high

Hartford School Superintendent Andy Hubbard and members of the Board of Education then bestowed the hard-earned diplomas on each graduate while the gymnasium resounded with whistles and cheers for each and every one.

The students’ final hurrah was, of course, the traditional throwing of decorated mortarboards into the air, tassels now streaming to the left; smiles all around. Congratulations and best wishes to the Hartford High School Class of 2017!

 Visit the Hartford Public Schools Facebook page to watch the 2017 commencement ceremony

Coloma High School graduates 100 seniors

 On Friday, June 2 the friends and family of 100 Coloma High School graduates gathered at the school for the 123rd commencement of the district. The Coloma Board of Education, superintendent and high school staff were all on hand to recognize this milestone in the lives of Coloma’s young adults.

During the ceremony, Principal Dave Ehlers was pleased to announce the winner of the Green and Gold Award. This prestigious honor was established in 1931 and is determined by the high school faculty. The student who receives the honor is an active participant in school activities and also displays outstanding qualities of scholarship, industry, leadership and citizenship throughout their high school career.

The 2017 Green and Gold Award was presented to Grant Kroschel. Grant was a member of student council, National Honor Society, played basketball, baseball, soccer and golf while in high school. He is also the recipient of the Western Golf Association Chick Evans Scholarship for Caddies to Michigan State University.

Karli McClendon and Aaron Nance named WHS Outstanding

By Annette Christie

Watervliet High School held their graduation ceremony in Panther stadium on Friday night, June 2.  The outstanding boy and girl of the Class of 2017 were named as a traditional part of the ceremony.

 Karli McClendon is graduating with a 4.23 grade point average. The daughter of David and Kathlene McClendon, she serves as the National Honor Society President, Class Co-President, and is a Senior Scholar.

She was involved in volleyball, track, and soccer during her high school years, earning Academic All-State recognition for track.  She is a member of the Student Council, was a SAC Academic All-Star, and was in the academic Top 5 of her graduating class.

McClendon was named the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership representative as well as Girls State Representative.    She has received the Daughters of the American Revolution Essay and Scholarship, Watervliet Education Association Scholarship, and the Founders Scholarship at Saginaw Valley State University.

In the fall, she will attend Saginaw Valley State University where she will be studying biology.

Aaron Nance

Aaron Nance is the son of Ronnie Nance and Vera Watson.  He is graduating from Watervliet High School with a 3.87 grade point average.

Nance has helped run the lighting and sound in the auditorium since 2014.  He has served as the Varsity Football Manager for the past two seasons.  He is a member of the Business Professionals of America through the Van Buren Technology Center, where he served as the President this year.

As a junior, Nance earned recognition as the National Champion in PC Servicing and Troubleshooting.  He returned to Nationals again this year where he earned a 5th place in Network Administration using Microsoft.  Nance has been an instrumental member of the school’s technology department and was recognized as Student of the Year for the Technology Center’s Cyber Security and Computer Technology Program.

In the fall, he will attend Davenport University on a scholarship.  He will be pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Network Management and Security.

Senior class speakers during the ceremony were McClendon, Tyler Brant, Kaylee Chapin, Brent Simmons, Emily Fellows, Devon Flowers, and Jarred Fish.

Board member William Spaulding provided the board comment.

Judge reinstates Hodge to Road Commission based on how he was removed; Temporary Restraining Order prohibiting voting

 Berrien County Judge John Donahue ruled Wednesday, May 31 that Bill Hodge should be reinstated to the Berrien County Road Commission, and shall receive back pay and benefits.

Donahue said in his opinion that Hodge was not removed from the Road Commission in a manner that is compliant with two state statutes and without a hearing. Donahue stated that the Board of Commissioners, in vacating Hodge’s seat on the Road Commission through the Incompatible Public Offices Act cannot do so as only the Attorney General or the Prosecuting Attorney may seek the judicial action to do that.

Hodge is taking Berrien County to court over his removal from the Berrien County Road Commission.  The Berrien County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution on December 1, 2016 which declared that the position that Hodge filled on the Road Commission was vacant due to the Incompatible Public Offices Act (MCL 15.181 et seq).

Hodge was appointed to the Road Commission in January of 2014 to fill a vacant term set to expire in December of 2018.  Hodge was then elected to the office of Bainbridge Township Supervisor as a result of the August election primary.  He had no opposition in the November general election.

The Board of Commissioners cites the Michigan Incompatible Public Offices Act as the statute which will not allow Hodge to serve on both the township board and the Road Commission.  The two public offices are incompatible because Bainbridge Township is subject to current and existing contracts with the Berrien County Road Commission during and after the date that Hodge took office with the township.

With Hodge taking office in November of 2016 and then subsequently continuing as a member of the Berrien County Road Commission, the Board of Commissioners stated that he was in violation of that act.

In August 2016, Hodge, through his attorney, provided documentation to Berrien County that there was no incompatibility of offices and that he did not intend to resign.  He states that there was no response to that communication.

In October 2016, he retained his current attorney to further contact the county and discuss and resolve the issue.  Court documents state the Hodge’s attorney, John Burhans did have a conversation with Berrien County Corporate Counsel James McGovern and in November Burhans filed a Freedom of Information request for any current and proposed contracts between Berrien County Road Commission and Bainbridge Township.  Court documents state that various documents purporting to set forth a contract and/or work order and future projects between Bainbridge Township and the Road Commission was provided.

Hodge was seeking to be restored to his position of Road Commissioner pending a hearing, to order Berrien County to hold a hearing with proper notice, to award him lost pay, benefits, interest, costs, reasonable attorney fees and any other relief that the court deems fair.

Judge Donahue set aside the resolution which vacated Hodge’s seat on the Road Commission but did state that the two public offices at issue may in fact be incompatible.  He did not rule on that issue. He stated that prior to Hodge being removed or ordered from the Road Commission, that he was entitled to a hearing.

Berrien County Corporate Counsel James McGovern made the following statement regarding Donahue’s ruling, “Judge Donahue’s ruling did not address, or rule on whether Mr. Hodge violated the Incompatible Offices Act when he attempted to serve as a Road Commissioner after he was sworn in as a Township Supervisor. That issue remains to be resolved.  However, it has always been the Board of Commissioners’ position that Mr. Hodge violated his public duty to the citizens of Berrien County who use and pay for county roads while simultaneously attempting to maximize the limited road funding for those within his own township.”

McGovern went on to say that with Donahue’s ruling that the Board’s resolution declaring that Hodge vacated his seat on the Road Commission was contrary to State statute, Mr. Hodge is now in a position to serve incompatible offices.  “Therefore, to protect the interests of all County citizens, the Board of Commissioners has provided the appropriate documents to the Berrien County Prosecutor for his investigation into Mr. Hodge’s incompatible offices and we hope that Prosecutor Sepic moves forward with an injunction to permanently remove Mr. Hodge from the Road Commission,” McGovern said.

Restraining Order on voting

Following Donahue’s ruling, Berrien County Prosecutor Mike Sepic did file court documents seeking to obtain a restraining order preventing Hodge from sitting and voting on the Berrien County Road Commission or from sitting and voting on the Bainbridge Township Board as the Bainbridge Township Supervisor and ultimately seeks to have the Court rule that the offices of Township Supervisor and Road Commissioner are incompatible.

Judge Donahue ruled late Tuesday, June 6 putting into place a temporary restraining order that prevents Hodge from voting on the Berrien County Road Commission.

The order reads, “Upon reading and filing of the Petition for Temporary Restraining Order which incorporated by reference the Complaint for Injunction; the court finds that irreparable injury may result from the defendant (Hodge) sitting on the Berrien County Road Commission and the Bainbridge Township Board as Supervisor simultaneously and the court further finds if, at a later date after hearing, the court rules those offices are incompatible, decisions rendered may be void or voidable and result in monetary loss to said boards.”

Another hearing will be held on Tuesday, June 20.


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