This article is one of a series of editorial articles that express personal opinions and views. They are written with no pretensions to be error free. I will gladly correct substantial errors of fact. My opinions can change, depending upon my awareness of changes in factual information. It is my intent to remain focussed on specific public issues, regarding the personalities involved. For all I know, all the characters are saints, concerning their private lives and other public business...
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Introduction: What got me motivated to write this series?
After reading the excellent and detailed reporting of Schoolcraft County Public Transit issues, by Paul Olson, in the 03/13/03 edition of Manistique's Pioneer Tribune newspaper, I concluded that many of Schoolcraft County Commissioner Chairman Oliver Scholander's quoted statements were incorrect, evasions or outright deceit, as were various reported past quotes by other members of the Schoolcraft County Public Transit Advisory Committee.
I viewed many of Scholander's statements, quoted in the 03/13/03 edition of the Tribune, as contrary to human nature, contrary to the human condition I had observed during my 57 years, contrary to the facts as I knew them, and typical of his brand of deception, as Director of the Manistique Department of Public Works, that I had witnessed and read about, for years.
It was typical of him, and many other local government officials, to escape the consequences of their professional flaws and failures via deceit, evasion and by ignoring specific issues raised by residents, or other government officials, that they would rather not deal with, in an appropriate manner. With the power of his position as Director of Manistique Public Works, as a member or Chairman of the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners, years as the acting Director of the Manistique City Recreation Dept. and as an influential member of the Schoolcraft County Republican Party, Oliver Sholander amassed political credit and I.O.U.s, while wearing any one of his many political hats, on and off the job, that enabled him to act in an autocratic manner, as he chose.
He was not alone in Manistique and Schoolcraft County government, with, in my opinion, too much incompetence, deceit, and secrecy shrouding his "public service" life. Other public officials I witnessed failed, regularly, to separate their personal druthers, agendas and aspirations from public issues. Many failed to recognize their limitations and act accordingly, regarding the general public welfare they were/ are responsible to hold paramount.
I do not remember any Manistique City Council person, County Commissioner, or any major public employee admit, voluntarily, that they committed any serious error of judgement. That is not to say that it did not happen in the twelve or so years that I have been keeping a relatively close eye on certain aspects of local government; I merely state that I remember none of consequence. A more perfect group of folk I have never met, outside of Schoolcraft County.
As a Manistique resident involved in local politics since the early 90s, and as an observer of many public meetings, I had grown to despise what I perceived to be the casual manner in which Oliver Sholander practiced various forms of apparent deceit, as Director of the Manistique Department of Public Works. Over the same period of time, and under similar circumstances, I acquired a similar distaste for similar apparent deceit by various Manistique public officials and employees, including the embezzling Manistique City Treasurer, Linda Armock; Manistique City Manager, Alan Housler; City Attorney John Filaramo; and past and current Mayor of Manistique, Margaret "Peggi" Arnold, along with some notable Manistique City Council members, absent from the current public political scene.
In a series of articles, relying on less than perfect notes and memories of conversations, personal experiences, incidents, and the like, I intend to document one man's view and opinion of Schoolcraft County politics that led to the spectacle of an apparently intoxicated Director of Schoolcraft County Public Transit, present for official business at the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners meeting of 08/19/03, being supported and guided down the Schoolcraft County Courthouse steps by the Mayor of Manistique and an ex-Public Transit Advisory Committee member and current Schoolcraft County E.D.C. member, Meg Wnuk, not to jail or a hospital, where I concluded he should have gone, but to his car, so that he could drive to his next destination.
To the best of my knowledge, no effort was made by any government official present at that meeting, all of whom I suspect knew of the publicity surrounding the wholesale denial of Public Transit problems, to question Public Transit Director Swanson's characteristic behavior and odor, or to subject Director Swanson to a legal test to determine if his aberrant behavior and odor was caused by the influence of alcohol, or a controlled substance, or some other health problem, unknown to the general public. To the best of my knowledge, no one informed the County Board, or any member of the audience, that Director Swanson was manifesting a health problem unrelated to chemical abuse.
In fairness to all the participants, Schoolcraft County and Manistique substance abuse policy is generally ineffective because it allows irresponsible individuals the choice of doing the right thing, or not. Therefore, government officials or personnel managers pick and choose when and who is subject to substance abuse testing, thus rendering the process completely subjective and virtually useless, beyond the ability of supervisors and government officials to use it as a tool for accruing political I.O.U.s. from those that would otherwise be faced with disciplinary action, up to and including employment termination.
For example, it is known, on the street, that Manistique's Department of Public Works routinely sent those with no known chemical use habits for substance abuse checks while those with known unhealthy chemical related habits remain unchecked, ergo, no substance abuse problems. The word on the street was that the process was overseen, for years, by a Director of Public Works whose alcohol abuse problems and misuse of authority were legendary, and the details of which were totally hidden from city residents by Manistique city government.
How many Manistique and Schoolcraft County government owned vehicle dents, and job related accidents, are related to chemical abuse? None, if none are reported and those that are involved in accidents are not checked for chemical abuse. Bent and broken city and county employees continued to be employed, gain tenure and secure benefits, while making questionable decisions and taking questionable actions, under the possible, but unknown, influence of alcohol, or other drugs.
To the best of my knowledge, members of Manistique's gun carrying constabulary do not get regular, unannounced, comprehensive substance abuse tests. In my life, I have met far too many borderline psychotics, in uniform, carrying a gun, to be comfortable knowing that any community's police department personnel were not checked for substance abuse, regularly. The absence of regular substance abuse screening may be the norm for small communities, but it creates no degree of confidence and security, for me.
I do not remember when it was reported, by the local media, or government officials, that city or county employee, Mr. X or Ms. Y, were disciplined for substance abuse. Does the public have any way of knowing how many alcoholics and junkies are on the public payrolls? Does the public have any way to hold officials and employees accountable for incompetence, deceit, evasion, corruption and misery that ineffectual substance abuse policy spawns, beyond being abused and run in circles by self serving, ignorant or stupid officials?
Ask Schoolcraft Public Transit drivers, Ron Risdon and Bob Wright.
Wait a minute! How stupid of me! There are no substance abuse related problems in Schoolcraft County, therefore there is nothing to report! If substance abuse existed, Schoolcraft County and Manistique officials would recognize the symptoms, immediately, and would ensure that it would never happen again.
At a recent Manistique City Council meeting, Manistique Mayor, Margaret "Peggi" Arnold, told me, and the community, that all I spoke of was innuendo and she didn't want to know about Schoolcraft County County's problems. I told her, at that televised City Council meeting, she could read it when I was ready, and I was not going to argue with her.
Tonight, at the 08/25/03 Manistique City Council meeting, I will ask Mayor Arnold if she has any comments or insight that she would like to share, regarding her knowledge of Schoolcraft County Public Transit Director Kevin Swanson's general mental and physical state at the 08/19/03 Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners meeting she, and he, attended.
At the Manistique City Council meeting of 08/25/03, I asked Mayor Arnold whether the Schoolcraft County Public Transit Director was drunk, at the 08/19/03 County Board meeting. She said no. Councilman Jack Hoag interrupted, in a loud and belligerent manner, that the issue I pursued had no bearing on Manistique City business and the Manistique City Council didn't need to listen to me. I then made Manistique City Council aware that my concerns were written, for all to read, at this web site. No other member of the Manistique City Council voiced any concerns about my inquiry, Mayor Arnold's answer, or Councilman Hoag's pronouncement that it was not a concern of Manistique City government.
Regarding the Schoolcraft County Public Transit Director's apparent woes, I have no reason to believe Mayor Arnold, or Councilman Hoag, even if all the other witnesses and documents, attesting to all of the Public Transit Director's questionable behavior are false, as I will explain, in due time.
A letter to the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners concerning Schoolcraft County Public Transit apparent incompetence and chemical abuse .
An open letter to the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners concerning apparent intoxication of a Schoolcraft County Public Transit Director