Ferrysburg council appointment spurs threats of recall

Marie Havenga • Jan 3, 2018 at 10:00 AM

A familiar face is returning to Ferrysburg City Council.

On Tuesday night, the council appointed Scott Blease, 53, to serve the remainder of Dan Matteson's term through Nov. 15, 2021. Matteson attended one meeting after being elected to council in November 2017, then announced his resignation.

Blease previously served on the council from 2011-15.

Blease unsuccessfully ran for a council seat in the November 2017 election. Out of five candidates, he received the fewest votes — 432. Newcomers Richard Carlson (466) and Matteson (438) won two of the three council seats on the ballot, along with incumbent Mike DeWitt (470). Blease trailed Ivy Barnes by four votes in that election and Matteson by six votes.

On Tuesday night, Barnes' supporters pleaded with council members to appoint her to the open seat, because she was the next highest vote-getter after Matteson.

“The community spoke,” said Barnes supporter Lisa Royce. “I just think that Ivy was picked to be next. I think City Council should give her a chance.”

Besides Barnes and Blease, John Stafford applied for the vacant council seat.

After nominating all three candidates, council voted. Stafford received support from Councilman J. Patrick Twa, while Barnes received support from councilmen DeWitt and Carlson.

Because those candidates failed to garner the necessary four-vote majority, council then unanimously approved Blease's appointment.

Blease will be sworn into office at the next regularly scheduled council meeting on Jan. 15.

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, Councilwoman Kathleen Kennedy said she was impressed by the thoroughness of Blease's application.

Councilman Tim O'Donnell asked Barnes why she only answered half of the questions in the candidate application.

Reportedly, city staff had contacted Barnes prior to Tuesday's meeting, asking her to complete all of the questions. She did not.

“I answered in paragraphs, not a couple quibbles,” Barnes responded. “I attended a candidate forum (prior to the November election). I'm fighting cancer. I'm a handicap person. I've been in a bad vehicle accident. I'm still standing here trying to get a spot. However, you guys want to do this.”

During the public comment period after Tuesday’s vote, Barnes and Royce chastised council members and threatened a recall.

“This is why this city is divided,” Royce said.

Royce brought up the issue of an oversized banner displayed on Kennedy's deck railing that supported now-Mayor Rebecca Hopp. The size violated the sign ordinance, but Kennedy implied she didn't realize banners were considered signs.

Kennedy removed the banner, and City Council and the city attorney cleared her of any wrongdoing.

Royce asked City Manager Craig Bessinger how to go about getting a code of ethics in place.

“How do we make them held accountable for their actions?” she asked. “Is recall all we have left?”

Barnes echoed the recall sentiment.

“I think Ferrysburg just needs total recall,” she said to the council. “This just shows you guys are totally cliquish. You just want to keep it small and cliquish. By the people's choice, I should have been the next person. You proved to everyone where you stand. We need change. We need awesome change. We need everyone to care about the community, not just a handful of people. Everyone. That's all I have to say.”

Kennedy said that, for as much as Royce and Barnes — who were supporters of 2017 mayoral candidate Regina Sjoberg — complain about division in the community, they are the ones causing it.

“Until the last election, I never heard of division within the city,” Kennedy said. “It's always been kind of one.”

Kennedy said Blease is the candidate who remained active on other city boards after he decided not to seek re-election to the council in 2015.

Kennedy said she didn't appreciate Barnes not filling out all of the application questions and her and her supporters’ claims of division and wrongdoing.

“They're the ones bringing the division,” Kennedy said. “The city attorney cleared me (about the banner issue) — Craig did and council did. Three times over I was cleared. They feel that they're always on the losing side and that's unfortunate.”

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