Former SL president concerned

Three key employees departing the Village of Spring Lake staff in a little more than a year has former Village President Bill Filber concerned.
Marie Havenga
Mar 7, 2014


Gone are Public Works Director Doug Whitley, Clerk/Treasurer Maribeth Lawrence and Police Chief Roger DeYoung.

Whitley was replaced by Roger Belknap in January. Lawrence’s retirement was official last month and DeYoung resigned effective Feb. 24.

“Each departure has been for a different reason,” Village Manager Chris Burns said. “There hasn’t been one common denominator amongst them.”

Burns would not say why Whitley and DeYoung are no longer on the job. She said a confidentiality agreement is in place with DeYoung to protect both parties.

Burns said Lawrence’s departure after 13 years on the job was a “mutual decision” because of changes in accounting and financial practices. The village is now collaborating with Ottawa County for financial services.

CLICK HERE to read the related story, "SL shakeup examined."

Another employee, part-time administrative assistant Amy Schmidt, was relieved of her duties in September 2013 after six years with the village.

“It just seems like a lot of real good people, from my perspective, have left the village in a short period of time,” said Filber, who served on Village Council for 10 years and was village president from 2006-11. “It’s kind of sad and concerning. These are some people who have really devoted some time and commitment and loyalty to the village.”

Filber said he is especially upset about Lawrence leaving.

“I definitely do not believe this was something she wanted to do,” he said. “I think she enjoyed her job. She was great at it. She’s the last one I would think the village would want to get rid of.”

Current Village President Jim MacLachlan said personnel matters are Burns’ decision and do not require council approval, but that he and council members support the village manager 100 percent.

As a member of the village’s finance committee, MacLachlan said he understands that sometimes personnel moves are necessary in light of changing accounting and procedural requirements.

“There’s a business end of it and a personal end of it,” he said. “These things are not easy decisions. If someone leaves, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, these situations are always difficult.”

Filber served with Ryan Cotton, who left the village manager post in 2012 to become Holland’s city manager. Burns came onboard that July.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.



Not sure why it's taken this long...But I can list a huge list of village and twp fathers ( several are deceased)that fault the two combining over the years.... but it does make a lot of sense for the Spring Village and Township to become one governmental unit.


Village manager is out of control and needs to be reined in.


why is it, so important for you to know, it really bugs you people, some things just can not be made public !!!!


Wow. Ditto!


Mr. Filber is right to be concerned. SL Village has a cash flow problem, and good people are being sacrificed to solve it. Police and financial services may both be handled by the county before long. Perhaps management services can be outsourced. It seems that Ms. Burns is doing a pretty good job of destroying SL's autonomy, so why keep her?


Maybe she will replace Pat McGinnis....


IMO, like it or not, for political and economic reasons, Manager Burns is doing precisely what she was hired to do.




Good Job Ms. Burns. Do what needs to be done. Now lets hear the truth.

Mr. Filber was village president under whos regime? Would he have first hand knowledge of the inner workings, inner strifes and inner accountability issues the village was facing? And who caused these to happen? Who has mismanaged funds? Who was "in charge" when Filber was president? Good luck City of Holland, Your going to need it.


Is Burns doing what she is told to do by the Village President ? I think Burns should join the rest of the department heads and save the Village more money, pack her bag and leave. I encourage Recalling the Village Council also. Dissolve the Village, Burns and the Council are out of Control.


I'll second that motion.

village1 carry the motion council! MARCH 17 IS THE NEXT COUNCIL MEETING AT BARBER SCHOOL.

village1 carry the motion council! MARCH 17 IS THE NEXT COUNCIL MEETING AT BARBER SCHOOL.


Someone is in trouble !!!!


there going to be fight at the school, who is selling tickets


MacLachlan says there is a "personal" not "personnel " end to it. THAT'S part of the point my friends. Ms. Burns doesn't "like you, you are out. If she can't micromanage you to death, you are out! Why do you think she fires Police Chiefs and others? I doubt very much she was hired by the INTERIM VILLAGE MANAGER/ROGER DEYOUNG to show him the door just before his retirement!!!! Duh, that makes sense! Council thought he was good enough to move up through the ranks to Chief over the years, and over 10 as Chief, then six months doing the job Burns was hired to do and suddenly during her one year MacLachlan has a hands off approach to her "personal" matter? I know this man to be a good man who carried his job with him in his heart until she came on board and wanted to destroy him and the Village of Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Department . They could have moved him into the Grand Haven Dept if that was the route chosen or even the OCSD as they say they are doing with everyone else, but instead chose not to do so. That sounds PERSONAL to me!! Without the police department, I agree why have all the other services? Why pay for a Village Manager? Why pay all the extra tax? Council hasn't just let the employees and the police department down, they have let the citizens of the Village down with these high handed and shortsighted acts. Lanivan, with all due respect, I would like to see you and your friends spend a little bit of time getting to know what's going on right here in ain't pretty. It's time the Village be dissolved into the Township for both political and economic reasons, yes I agree!! I hope March 17 brings more respect to the citizens than has been shown by Council andChristine Burns so far. Too bad if they don't want to let the Citizens who live here in on what's going on...when is a good time? Oh, they don't have to tell us that either?


Gwen66 - You bring up several valid points, and I hope your and other comments lead to some answers from the board. What I was trying to convey is that, in my opinion, having seen this kind of thing happen elsewhere, there is a great probability that Chris Burns is not working autonomously. It has been quoted that the board gives her something like a 100% approval score.

As a newer employee, it would be the kiss of death to just begin firing employees based on personality conflicts - especially when still relatively new in the job. There has got to be something at play here - and I think it was a long range plan that Chris Burns was hired to implement.

It doesn't make sense that Chief DeYoung would be on the interview board that hired Burns and then was fired by her, but I've seen things like this happen before - it is not unheard of.

If ever there was a reason to attend the March 17 board meeting, this is it. I believe the board will answer some of your questions.


Take it easy


The SL Council packet for tomorrow's work session notes that the Finance Committee has been discussing police services "and the agreement for a number of months." The Chief was collateral damage for a plan that has been secretly in the works for quite some time. The work session is covered by the open meetings act, so I suggest people attend and see what is going on here. This work session will be held at 102 W Savidge, in the upstairs conference room, at 7:00 p.m.


Those darn politicians snuck this right by you, huh, Quin? Maybe you did not notice when the Big Three went through a complete overhaul to stay solvent? Ditto for most other large and small private business in America over the past 5 years. Government is a bit slow to respond but I applaud the communities for ignoring the jurisdictional boundaries and talking about this. If it was an easy discussion to have it would have already been done. Wouldn't it easier to ignore the it and let it be the next guys problem? Oh, wait. That's what Bill did.


Isn't it a bit strange that the Police Commission noted in July that they were against any agreement with Grand Haven - the only game on the table at that time - but that the FINANCE committee in SL has been studying "the agreement" for several months? Sounds fishy to me.


If your so concerned about this..... why don't you just ask for copies of emails and correspondences between the village manager, Grand Haven City, and Ottawa County over police services contracts. This happens all the time in the federal government. I'm sure they will provide you with copies. Maybe you can get WOOD TV investigative reporters to do this.


Again...sometimes it's not what is being done but how it's being done. Since when did the Village become corporate America in how we deal with our people of 10 to 26 years of loyalty? We pack their bags and show them the door on a Monday morning or we make them part of the solution? Or, we at the very least treat them with the dignity they deserve? Burns has shown her tactics since her Clare days how badly she treats employees, from Amy to the Chief. It has become obvious that a lot has been going on behind closed doors that Citizens don't know about and Burns and Council have no intention of telling until they are good and ready. I wonder if there are any violations of the open meetings act? I understand it was a done deal with the OCSD until Grand Haven heard about it and is now scrambling to get a bid in there. However it shakes out, what happened to these four employees maybe was going to happen, but when did the Village start treating people like pieces of (you get the picture). Is that what the Citizens voted in? The officers and employees that are left are just next in line. Without our police department, I see no need for the rest of the Village services that can't be consumed by the Township that we aren't already paying for., dissolve the Village!


I think after you review the March work session agenda you find a lot of answers to many peoples questions. I see nothing that appears to be fishy about this merger. In fact I think they have taken care of the present employee's. I'm thinking that one of the present officers maybe worried about making it through the probation period of one year. Maybe he should be due to the fact he failed the new hire training process years ago at Ottawa County. I certainly don't see the Sheriff of Ottawa County putting his reputation on the line for this merger.


Sometimes a incoming manager has to deal with people and issues who should have been dealt with for years. It's lonely at the top. Hang in there girl, some people in small town have nothing better to do than be contrary.


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