10-03-2019 Letters and Commentary

Berrien County investigation concerning conflict of interest by commissioner

The following statement is being issued on behalf of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners:

“The Berrien County Prosecutor, upon a referral from the County Board of Commissioners and after an exhaustive investigation, has decided not to press charges on whether Commissioner Teri Freehling violated the Michigan criminal code governing conflicts of interest by elected officials.

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners has its own by-laws concerning disclosure of Commissioner conflicts of interest. At this point in time the Board has made no decisions on this matter. To protect the rights of both Commissioner Freehling and the integrity of the Board’s by-law standards, the Board has retained Special Counsel to review the facts of this conflict of interest issue and to advise the Board concerning its appropriate course of action. The Special Counsel will make a report to the entire Board in the next three weeks.”

*Update September 27, 2019*

Following the Berrien County Board of Commissioners’ meeting on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, leadership of the Board met with Special Counsel John Dewane.

Board Chairman R. McKinley Elliott stated the following: “We discussed the scope of his services. Although we appreciate that the criminal investigation has been concluded by the Prosecutor’s Office, the Board’s work is just beginning. We anticipate that Special Counsel Dewane will undertake a complete review of everything that has transpired involving the allegations of Commissioner Freehling’s conflict of interest and the alleged failure to fully disclose the same. The investigative file has already been provided by Prosecutor Sepic, and Judge Dewane is presently going through it. This process will also likely involve contact with various County officials. Special Counsel John Dewane will be granted a broad delegation of the necessary power and authority to conduct a thorough investigation, which will include the full cooperation of our all of our Board members and our employees.”

During the course of the meeting with Dewane, Elliott asked him to “follow the arrow wherever it points”, and to advise the Board of Commissioners on any findings which may warrant the imposition of administrative sanctions. In addition to this comprehensive review, the Board of Commissioners anticipates advice and comments on the prospective application of their By-laws to the conflict of interest and disclosure duties of individual Commissioners, including suggested amendments.

Final 2019 Berrien County recycling event, Oct. 12

Berrien County residents can recycle household chemicals, home medical waste, electronics, and get their personal documents shredded on Saturday, Oct. 12 at the Southeast Berrien County Landfill Recycling Center, 3200 Chamberlain Road, Buchanan. The event will run between 8 a.m. and 12 noon. The event is open to Berrien County residents only. Business waste is prohibited.

The household chemicals and liquids will be recycled and disposed of properly to prevent poisoning and protect environmental health. Accepted items include home, garden, garage, and workshop liquids and chemicals, as well as batteries of all sizes, fluorescent light bulbs, mercury items and home medical waste such as pills, liquids, aerosols, and sharps. Donations are accepted to help off-set the collection and processing costs.

Items that are NOT accepted are latex paint (can be dried out and placed in regular curbside trash with the lid off the paint can), gas grill propane tanks, and ammunition. Visit www.berriencounty.org click Recycling Services to learn how to recycle and properly dispose of these materials, or call the Berrien County Parks Department 269-983-7111 x8234.

Green Earth Electronics Recycling will be on-site to collect household electronic waste including computers, televisions, printers, large and small appliances, dehumidifiers, and anything else with a cord or that is battery operated. Fees apply on computer monitors ($10 each) and televisions ($20 each). Cash or check is accepted. All other electronics are accepted at no cost. Call Green Earth Electronics Recycling for more information, 269-326-1232.

County residents can also bring personal documents for on-site shredding. Participants must remove any 3-ring binders, large binder clips, and heavy plastics and metals before bringing documents. The Southeast Berrien County Landfill Authority is sponsoring the on-site shredding truck, providing this service free to residents.

This event is the final Berrien County Community Recycling Event of 2019. A complete list of accepted items is posted at www.berriencounty.org click Recycling Services, or call Jill Adams in the County Parks Department, 269-983-7111 x8234 with questions.

Government Day presented by Berrien County Republican Women’s Club

The annual Government Day Program sponsored by the Berrien County Republican Women’s Club is Wednesday, October 16. The buffet luncheon and speaker’s program will begin promptly at noon at Pebblewood Restaurant in Bridgman. Two student representatives from Berrien County high schools and a sponsor are invited as guests of the Women’s Club. Michael McHenry, owner and lead trainer, along with Nick Kruger, instructor, from the FM K-9 training facility on Pokagon Road in Berrien Center will speak on: “Law Enforcement and Their Canine Companions”.

Their training program includes basic courses in a variety of areas along with obedience, health and care of dogs, socia