County commissioners’ feud with parks board heats up
Commissioner chairman resigns from post
ARENAC COUNTY — A battle over the rights and responsibilities between the Arenac County Board of Commissioners and the county’s parks and recreation board has led to a police investigation and the resignation of Commissioner Chairman Mike Snyder from the chairman post.
The parks board filed a criminal complaint against the Arenac County Board of Commissioners with the sheriff's department, citing a conflict of interest regarding the fencing formerly at Gulvas Park.
On April 2, Commissioners Bob Luce, Dave Munson and Jeff Trombley voted to close down the park’s baseball field and remove the fencing there. The parks board maintains that it controls the management and maintenance of the parks under state law, and as a result it says the vote was an overreach and violation of the law.
Parks board member Larry Davis, who sits on the board by virtue of being the county drain commissioner, spoke at the commissioner meeting May 7 against the Gulvas Park decision and the commissioners’ behavior after that point. He alleged that Luce, the commissioners’ representative who sits on the parks board, lied about the current location of the fencing at the parks meeting when he said he did not know where it went.
“It is our duty to expose any conflict of interest by the people in the county,” Davis said. “At the last parks board meeting I was told a nontruth as far as the fencing goes, and now I hear two commissioners want you to pass a resolution to get an attorney to defend themselves. If you want to be fair, why not get special prosecutor and investigation by state police too?”
Undersheriff Don McIntyre confirmed a criminal complaint from the parks board was filed referencing the fencing being stolen, but could not reveal any additional details at this time.
Commissioners Munson, Luce and Trombley approved hiring attorney Kim Higgs of Bay City to represent the commissioners during the investigation. Commissioners Snyder and Virginia Zygiel voted against it, noting that no charges have been brought up and it was too soon to begin paying a lawyer.
“I think you’re jumping the gun on this lawyer deal,” Zygiel said. “I think you’re spending a lot of money for nothing. No charges have been made. Have you seen one? I haven’t seen one.”
Commissioners Munson, Luce and Trombley also voted to not pay Kevin Dewald $27.57 for picking up the county’s new Kubota lawnmower and moving it to Au Gres Park, citing that he is not a county employee. They then approved a measure that all parks bills must go through the commissioner, though County Clerk Rick Rockwell noted they already do.
An additional measure that would require parks payroll to go through the commission was dropped after Rockwell said it would be illegal to withhold wages until the commission meets. Snyder and Zygiel opposed both the bill measure and withholding Dewald’s payment for service.
In the midst of the meeting, Parks board members Jim Herzog and John Clyne tendered their resignations, issuing written resignations blaming the commission’s actions this year.
The commission voted to appoint Pamela Tremboth to replace one of their seats, and Munson to fill another open seat. Munson also nominated Arenac Township resident Glen Rice to fill another open seat citing a letter of interest he sent to the parks board, but Rice was wary of being appointed before the parks board gets the chance to discuss it with him.
“I have an interest in going on the parks board, but I want to go on the parks commission when the commission people have convened,” Rice said. “At least then they know who I am and can make a judgment on their own. I would like to be there, and I’m not worried about being the most popular guy there, but I would like to have the acceptance of the parks commission.”
He added if he has to wait six weeks for the parks board to meet again, he had no issue with that. Munson’s nomination of Rice failed shortly after.
Snyder, who warned the votes by the commissioners would have ramifications during the April 16 meeting, tendered his resignation from the chairmanship. He said he believed it would help him become more effective in his role as a commissioner as he would not be required to serve as an impartial arbiter during meetings.
“In taking this action, I will be more effective and forthcoming by being unbridled and unencumbered with the procedural obligations of the chair position,” he said. “This will allow me to more effectively represent the constituents of my district.”
Snyder said it was clear that the majority of the commission wanted someone else to hold the chairman position. Following his resignation Vice-Chairman Luce took over running the meeting.
Snyder also requested the formation of a committee that could gather information from the parks board and get the commissioners information to make decisions, though it was ultimately voted down. Commissioner Trombley said with two commissioners on the parks board, he believed they would be sufficient to bring recommendations.