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Ferrysburg meeting heats up

Marie Havenga • Jan 5, 2017 at 11:00 AM

FERRYSBURG — An audience member who is the husband of a member of the Ferrysburg City Council verbally laid into several other council members at Tuesday night's work session.

Peter Sjoberg, who is married to Councilwoman Regina Sjoberg, first took exception to Councilman Mike DeWitt using the term “radicals” in a recent newspaper article about the Ferrysburg Nature Preserve, and then accused Councilwoman Kathleen Kennedy for speaking with a developer about the property potentially coming up for sale.

“I think there are quite a few radicals in here, definitely outnumbering the number of people on council,” Peter Sjoberg said during the session’s public comment period.

Sjoberg asked DeWitt if he thought Kennedy acted ethically when talking to developers.

Mayor Pro Tem Rebecca Hopp, acting for absent Mayor Dan Ruiter, told Sjoberg he may ask what he'd like, but council doesn't have to respond.

“We don't need any comment from you on it,” Sjoberg yelled to Hopp. “You've been mayor pro tem two times. You've shown you're not up to the task. Both times you've committed Open Meetings Act violations. You're talking behind closed doors about this process. I'd like to see this government be open and discuss government business where it's supposed to be — in the public.”

DeWitt told Hopp he would like to answer the question.

“Do I think Kathy violated any ethical things? Obviously not,” DeWitt said. “I don't believe it. I talk to people who want to do business with the city all the time.

“I wasn't referring to the people in the audience when I was referring to radical — I was referring to your wife,” he continued, addressing Peter Sjoberg directly. “She knew there was absolutely nothing we could do as far as the situation with Kathleen Kennedy. She got the same legal opinion I got.”

Basically, council members learned that the City Charter doesn't allow for them to remove a fellow council member; only the governor can take such action.

“All she does is stir up all these people when there's nothing that can be done,” DeWitt said. “If you want to talk about selling this property, that's a different issue. As far as Kathy, there's nothing this council can do. The only thing you can do is refer it to the governor of the State of Michigan. He is the only one who can remove her from office.”

Councilwoman Sjoberg shot back at DeWitt.

“If I'm a radical for bringing up things that need to be brought up, I'm proud to be a radical,” she said. “Do you think these people are so stupid that I can control them? You're supposed to be the voice of these people, not their overlord.”

Regina Sjoberg said she is not “whipping them into a frenzy” over any issues. “The impetus came from them,” she said.

After the meeting, Peter Sjoberg said he doesn't appreciate the way Hopp runs meetings.

“She told me that you can't ask that question,” he said. “Last meeting, she told people three times they can't ask questions. They're the questions she doesn't want to be asked. Her intentions in politics far exceed her ability.”

City Manager Craig Bessinger said he didn't see anything out of line at Tuesday's work session and has heard nothing about violations of the Open Meetings Act.

“I'm not sure what the incident Mr. Sjoberg is referring to,” Bessinger said Wednesday. “No one has brought anything. I haven't heard anything, just what I heard last night.”

Bessinger said Hopp was within her rights to not accept questions and for council not to answer.

“She can run the meeting as she sees fit,” he explained. “I think when you go to different meetings, you see that everyone has their own style.”

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