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'There's no evidence of misconduct'

Becky Vargo • Sep 21, 2017 at 10:00 AM

FERRYSBURG — Round 2 didn’t produce any better results for the complainants when Ferrysburg City Council voted for the second time not to take any action against two of their own accused of violating the city’s sign ordinance.

The council voted 4-1 Monday night to take no further action in the complaint filed against councilwomen Kathleen Kennedy and Rebecca Hopp related to a political banner hanging at Kennedy’s home promoting Hopp for mayor.

A disgruntled Lisa Royce, one of two Ferrysburg residents filing the complaint, said that Kennedy should be punished for violating the city ordinance, especially since Kennedy was on the city’s Planning Commission when it worked for months to revise the sign rules.

The sign, or large banner, hung on the railing of a deck on the back of Kennedy’s house, facing Smith’s Bayou. Royce said the city ordinance limits signs to no more than 6 square feet. Kennedy’s banner was 22 square feet.

Kennedy said the sign was funded and placed by her husband, Barry.

When Royce suggested Kennedy should have removed the banner, or at least reported her husband to city officials, Kennedy said political banners fell under different rules and was not subject to the local ordinance.

Royce then asked City Manager Craig Bessinger if the banner was a violation. Bessinger replied that he did check on the issue. It was a zoning violation, so he sent a letter to Barry Kennedy, and the banner was removed within the five days allotted.

Councilman Tim O’Donnell emphasized that the matter was handled appropriately, and that should be the end of the discussion. 

“There’s no evidence of misconduct in office,” he said.

Royce said that Hopp should also be punished.

“She had a duty to have Kathleen take the sign down that bears her name,” Royce said. “She didn’t do it. I find the behavior of this council totally disturbing.”

Both Kennedy and Hopp abstained from voting on the complaint.

Councilwoman Regina Sjoberg was the lone “no” vote. She emphasized that the city should have an ethics board of review to look into cases such as this issue.

The council also voted down a separate complaint, filed by Royce, against councilmen O’Donnell and Mike DeWitt. Their issue with the two councilmen was that O’Donnell made the motion to dismiss the complaints against Kennedy and Hopp at an Aug. 21 council meeting and DeWitt seconded the motion.

In Monday night’s vote, DeWitt and O’Donnell abstained. 

Royce and Matteson re-filed the complaints because they were unable to attend the Aug. 21 meeting. They did show up for the Sept. 5 meeting, but no action could be taken because a quorum was not present. 

Snickers from the audience, snide comments and interruptions continued throughout the long meeting, with residents and council members accusing each other of lack of respect.

Residents also brought up concerns about the status of the Ferrysburg Nature Preserve and were upset when Grand Haven resident Mischelle Julien made a presentation showing garbage, structures and discarded brush in the park. Julien said she made the presentation at the request of some Ferrysburg residents.

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