Burns, who has worked as city manager in Cedar Springs for the past five years, is expected to start as Spring Lake village manager on July 30.
Several village staff and community members said they recently received anonymous notes and phone calls regarding Burns' treatment of Cedar Springs' Red Flannel Festival.
After a budget recommendation by Burns, Cedar Springs City Council last year voted to drop in-kind services to the festival — such as the Department of Public Works and police services — estimated to be worth $8,000. That apparently caused a red-flannel rift that tore up the town.
The Red Flannel Festival Committee has since requested that the city pay up to $8,000 for the use of the red flannel logo, which the city has used prominently for years.
During her June 2 interview with Spring Lake Village Council, Burns said her recommendation to Cedar Springs City Council to stop subsidizing the 73-year-old festival caused much division in the town of 3,500.
“It was the last sacred cow to be cut,” Burns said recently. “Council voted 7-0 in favor of the cuts. There wasn't a choice. Ever since then, it's gotten ugly. I've taken the brunt of it and that's OK. I'm (council's) shield.”
Burns said if she had it to do over, she would make the recommendation again.
“I think there are some folks in the festival who think once I'm gone, their problems are going to go away,” she said. “They're going to have budget concerns long after I'm gone.”
Spring Lake interim manager Roger DeYoung said he received an anonymous letter earlier this month with a Grand Rapids postmark.
“It had something to do with a festival committee member being upset,” DeYoung said. “It seemed like it was somebody who was disgruntled because they cut the Red Flannel Festival funding. People were upset about that. But it's one of those things where if they don't sign it, what credibility does it have?”
DeYoung said he ran a background check on Burns and manager search consultant Bill Baldridge checked her references.
To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.