Involved citizens keep government honest

We attend dozens of meetings each month, and one troubling trend we’ve noticed is a lack of public participation.
Apr 25, 2014

Whether it’s school board, township board or city council, there aren’t many citizens actively involved in contributing at these meetings.

That’s what makes the story coming out of Robinson Township so refreshing.

Township Supervisor Tracy Mulligan took an expenses-paid trip to the Michigan Township Association’s conference in January. The trip was budgeted at $550. But during last month’s Township Board meeting, township resident Matthew Pelt brought up concerns over the fact that the actual amount Mulligan was reimbursed exceeded the budgeted amount by more than $150.

At this point, we don’t know the reason that Mulligan went over budget by more than 25 percent.

What we like to see is the fact that there are still concerned citizens out there who take it upon themselves to keep their elected officials accountable for their actions.

At the meeting, Pelt questioned why Mulligan’s mileage exceeded the actual mileage to Traverse City, why there were no meal receipts turned in, and why no information from the meeting was brought back to the township.

He also questioned if Mulligan used the trip for personal pleasure.

“I find it very inappropriate for any Township Board members to act unprofessional when on a trip paid for by taxpayers of Robinson Township,” Pelt wrote.

Now, let’s get one thing straight — anyone who’s been away on a business trip knows it’s not 24 hours of all work and no play. It’s not realistic to expect someone to head back to their room and turn in for the night when the conference wraps up at 5 p.m.

Still, that doesn’t mean the cost of those activities that take place after hours should be handed over to taxpayers.

We’re not pointing fingers at Mulligan. At this point, other than the discrepancy in mileage, there’s no proof that she did anything wrong.

But without concerned citizens like Pelt keeping track, we’d never know what our elected officials are getting away with.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

Comments

theQuin

My goodness! You aren't pointing fingers at Mulligan? This could have been an objective editorial about the need for citizen participation in local government, but it is actually a witch hunt. Did you, by chance, check the travel and other expenses for local officials elsewhere in the area?
This so-called editorial about citizen participation is so biased it makes me sick!
Most local governments ARE honest, and to say they are not is an insult to every local official who donates their time and energy to public service.

ithinkso1

If they actually donated their time and energy Quin, you would see a big difference in their actions. Look at the Spring Lake Twp. Board...$$$$

TooMuch

Outrageous!! Drag Tracy Mulligan threw the mud in this very public forum!! Typical Tribune writing at another low. Tribune easily could have written something with integrity about this subject but chose instead to use a historically respected person as an example and very poorly. Different sites will give you different info for mileage. Pelt doesn't know exactly where she went . He didn't know all the facts. Neither do we. I don't see what is so refreshing about Pelt making false accusations or the Tribune repeating them.

cvocvo

I agree that we need to keep a VERY close eye on expenditures by public officials ... but as I read the various Tribune articles about this I am not sure there is any fire in the midst of all of this smoke. In fact, as I compare the amount she spent to attend this conference with the amount spend by SL Township officials, it seems that there is some other agenda for the Township and Pelt beyond looking out for the public good.

By the way, what is wrong with NOT submitting receipts for food. Based on other articles I assume this is because she was not asking for reimbursements. If that is the case then she should actually be commended NOT ridiculed.

theQuin

Compare the expenses for local government officials to attend Michigan Municipal League meetings, for instance. It is a strong lobby that, in my opinion, does not support the rights of the people, but rather the power of the establishment. Why single one person out? A person, by the way who gives huge amounts of her time to working for the public good.
Also, someone should look into the agenda of this Matthew Pelt. He has a beef with Robinson Township government based on pond issues from a year ago. What accountability does he have??

theQuin

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." Teddy Roosevelt
This editorial is based on the premise that voters are so stupid, they are easily duped by dishonest politicians. I do not believe this. We may be taken advantage by a smooth talker, but we also usually figure it out and get rid of that kind of politician - even if we have to recall her.
The editor also seems to believe that all governmental representatives are just waiting for the chance to rake in the cash. I think Ferrysburg reps take home about $178 four times a year - which does not cover travel expenses, the hours and hours spent studying issues, or the time spent planning and attending events and meetings.
While some local officials may be politicians, most are public servants. Big difference. Public servants give back to their communities, and fight the good fight - as Teddy Roosevelt noted. I would rather be bloodied in the arena fighting for a good cause, than sitting behind a desk and writing untrue and inflammatory things about those who would serve their communities. I bet Tracy Mulligan feels the same. Bully for her!

spanone

to the Quinn and every other one who knows so dam much about all this. Pelt has no beef with the township board. The township board does fine job with the exception of the township supervisor who has a personal agenda in all this . And that is to do what ever Tracy wants to do. Tracy is a bad supervisor who uses back door politces to get what she wants. All Tracy had to do was answer questions but instead threw a fit and starting creaming I"II have you thrown out of the meeting when pelt asked her a question. This isn't the first time for Tracy to show how unprofessional she can be when handling township meetings.All the board members should be able to be questioned about whatever and be able to answer truthfully. Tracy refuses to follow the correct way of running meeting and dealing with the public.It's good that people keep check and balance on the township board members and where taxpayer money goes.If you look really hard at this you will see there is a bigger picture here.Is Tracy really a good girl? I know not because I grew up with her. I can tell you she's not telling everyone the whole truth because anytime in the last 45 years of knowing her. When Tracy gets caught not doing whats right she gets mad and starts screaming at people. Just like she did the night of the board meeting. So Shame on you Tracy. You know your wrong and your going to get caught.

spanone

After looking to the the accountability of Matthew pelt I found the Mr pelt is a respectable resident of the township of Robinson township. The pond issues go back to a pond approval by the board of the township on a neighbors pond that was dug out and is out of compliance with the township ordinances and has sense been fined for those reasons. Again if you look up the info on this pond issue you will find that Tracy is close personal friends with the owners of the pond. If you read the article done by the tribune you will also see that Mr.Pelt wasn't questioning why the pond was dug. He was worried about the water issue and how it was going to effect the surroungding wells and the health issues of the pond being dug just 150 south of the Robinson school septic system. Something that the Ottawa county health department had to get involved with because again the township supervisor Tracy Mulligan wanted to look the other way> Show as accountability goes Tracy is the one everyone needs to look at.

Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on GrandHavenTribune.com? Create a new account today to get started.