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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At a recent Manistique City Council meeting, Manistique Mayor, Margaret "Peggi" Arnold, told me, and the community, that all I had 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.
The following quoted letter was submitted to all the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioner members, at their regular meeting of April 15, 2003, along with a request that it become part of the public record. The written letter was necessary, because, among other reasons, I knew Chairman Sholander would do his best to silence me during the public comment period. It was the style of a man addicted to the arrogance of unchecked power.
The letter provided a written record of the issues, and circumvented the three minute time limit he imposed on me, because he said he could do it, even though his policy contradicted published county policy.
No other commissioner spoke up at all three meetings. I expected none from the Board minority, Erickson and Dufour, as I had reasons to believe they did not follow the Sholander line, but would rather deal with the issues as independent representatives of their electors. The contents of my letter and Sholander's effort to limit my comment time spoke for themselves. I would be heard, regardless.
At the May and June meetings, I requested some response to my questions, and was met with stony silence. I have reasons to believe that Chairman Sholander's advice to Board members, at the May meeting, that Board members need not answer my questions was considered a command, with the implied qualifier "... or else I will make life miserable for you!".
During one of the two follow up meetings, the Board secretary, Sigrid Doyle, spoke up to remind Chairman Sholander not to forget to remind me of his arbitrary three minute limit on my public comments time. I wondered, as I faced the Board, who she worked for, and why.
For those unaware, Mr. Scholander felled a tree upon himself, 07/19/03, and made my life a little more pleasant, and those of others who opposed his corrupt and dictatorial ways. Death not withstanding, his legacy outlasts him. Some of it I will recount to help balance the record, at least temporarily, for some of his victims who, like me, wondered if he had earned all the eulogies as the same public official who earned significant disdain, for very real reasons.
A little balance is forthcoming, with supporting documents, regarding part of his legacy:
" To: Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners
An History of Apparent Public Transit Mismanagement and Failed Oversight with Questionable Attempts of the County Board to Deal with the Issues.
Recently, I concluded that an old political foe of mine, County Commissioner Doug Erickson, is at the center of what might be called at best, a "witch hunt", by those with flexible ethics and integrity, or, at worst, a cover-up by those with no ethics or integrity, regarding a litany of allegations surrounding Schoolcraft County Public Transit. I am here looking for some answers, with nothing more than my past experience and knowledge of certain facts and rumors surrounding the personalities and issues of an apparent Public Transit scandal, much of which was covered by the Pioneer Tribune reporter, Paul Olson.
Why has the focus of attention been shifted, by Schoolcraft County public officials, from current concerns regarding issues of public safety, management, supervisory competence, substance abuse and accountability, to a February 1997 official, formal and completed investigation of inappropriate sexual conduct under questionable circumstances? I would like to hear, from the particular public officials involved, some believable and relevant answers to the following questions regarding documented allegations and issues, concerning Schoolcraft County Public Transit, that spawned an apparent history of deceit and personal attacks with the evident greater goal of silencing Commissioner Erickson, instead of addressing alleged Schoolcraft County Public Transit problems.
Why should any Schoolcraft County, or Manistique City employee, with an apparent understanding of an illegal, or questionable condition, circumstance or behavior, risk their job, quality of life and peace of mind to the forms of personal and professional retribution documented in the Pioneer Tribune and the arbitration document referred to below, as related to formal and informal allegations concerning Schoolcraft County Public Transit issues?
Why do I conclude, from reading the Analysis and Conclusion of a Matter of Arbitration Between AFSCME, Michigan Council 25 and Schoolcraft County Re: 54 390 001901, that the supervisor of Schoolcraft County Public Transit acted in a manner to put all transit employees on notice that retribution is an official Schoolcraft County policy to be pursued at all costs, or at least some $60,000 worth, by Commissioner Frenette's words?
Why do I conclude, from reading the entire arbitration document, that if the supervisor of Public Transit, Kevin Swanson, had an understanding of his responsibilities, he chose to act contrary to that knowledge in an attempt to terminate an employee's job, with the consequential inference that similar action could result from the expressed legitimate concerns of other employees?
What relevant justification was offered to prompt Commissioner Frenette's public statement "You...didn't do the right documentation to get rid of him. (Public Transit driver, Ron Risdon)", as if he was at fault, after it was determined, by an administrative law judge, that Mr. Risdon was almost blameless, regarding all official allegations made against him.
Why do I conclude, from reading that arbitration document, that it should be Mr. Swanson that is gotten rid of for his ineptitude recorded in that document?
Why did I read the arbitration document and find it so entertaining and enlightening that I laughed out loud? Why did I find arbitrator John A. Obee's words sufficiently sane, insightful, humorous and reassuring that I know that I am not alone in the world? Why do I think that document could be a basis for an introductory course in reason and logic that appears to be missing from many players' resumes?
Who is John A. Obee? See:
Why do I conclude, from details published in the Pioneer Tribune, from the written and signed documents of Public Transit employees, and the aforementioned arbitration document, that an applied policy of retribution was sanctioned, actively or by default, by a majority of the Public Transit Advisory Committee, currently chaired by County Commissioner Oliver Sholander?
What are the statements, by Commissioner Erickson, that justified a 02/21/03 letter from Oliver H. Scholander, Chairperson of Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners, requesting Mr. Erickson to "...retract all statements made to the Media concerning the Transit Director and the transit employees, and at the next meeting of the County Board on Thursday, February 28, 2003." when it appears, to me, that Mr. Erickson has no reason to believe that all statements he read or said, before or after the official phases of the public Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners meetings were without merit, regarding the Public Transit topics being considered at those public meetings?
What professional investigative means were used to determine that unspecified statements, made by Mr. Erickson, at a public governmental meeting, were false and defamatory and justified a coercive notice of retraction, from the law firm of Bensinger, Cotant and Menkes, P.C., representing Public Transit Director Swanson, with the stated intent on the face of that notice that it "...shall be used in later Court proceedings."?
Why must Commissioner Erickson pursue government business in fear of an intended legal action based upon unspecified "false and defamatory statements" broadcast by unidentified persons on unidentified media at unidentified times? What is wrong with this picture?
What are the specific false and defamatory statements that Commissioner Erickson is demanded to recant or retract as demanded by Kevin Swanson's attorneys and Commissioner Sholander?
Why do I want all participants in this affair to testify, under oath, in an investigative process conducted by impartial and objective professional with no ties, whatsoever, with any of the participants, incidents, or locale of this ugly Public Transit mess, so that the liars may be held accountable for perjury?
Why is it that I, as a resident of Precinct 3, District 4, of the City of Manistique, represented by Commissioner Erickson, do not know what specific statements he made that were deemed false and defamatory, and are now being used, merely by implication, to destroy his credibility and ability to represent my interests at Schoolcraft County Board public meetings? I do not remember electing Mr. Swanson, the law firm of Bensinger, Cotant, and Menkes, P.C., or Oliver Scholander to represent my interests with coercion based on unspecified allegations with the apparent purpose of silencing Commissioner Erickson's vocal attempts to deal with allegations, read at a public governmental meeting, concerning apparent Schoolcraft County Public Transit problems.
Why all the reprehensible diversionary tactics after Mr. Erickson answered the public calls for reasons why he did not recommend or vote to re-appoint certain Public Transit Advisory Committee members?
What other unwarranted, unjustified, unspecified and irrelevant accusations and demands will be leveled against Mr. Erickson, before the Public Transit mess is dealt with in an appropriate manner?
What rational and responsible connection exists between the Public Transit issues being considered by the Board of County Commissioners, and the public "exposure" of Mr. Erickson's past sins, by ex-Transit Advisory Committee member, Meg Wnuk?
Why do I conclude that every major player in this drama, and most minor players, had sufficient knowledge of Mr. Erickson's past to take public exception at more appropriate times, such as the two past election processes?
What believable connection is there between allegations that Mr. Erickson was pursuing old job termination related grudges, when a turnip could forecast the current consequences?
How does the sure knowledge that sticking his head in a noose makes Mr. Erickson a "vindictive bastard"?
Why do the circumstances of Ms. Wnuk's revelation appear, to me, to be a betrayal of a required implicit trust in elected or appointed officials to address issues, and not dabble in revenge politics, especially in such an obvious manner? Assuming Commissioner Erickson, and much of the public, were limited to the intelligence of a turnip, most folk knew how vulnerable he was to retribution for any attention he paid to the Public Transit turmoil that was, to a degree, his combination albatross and Sword of Damocles.
Why do the aforementioned circumstances of Ms. Wnuk's revelation, her and Mr. Scholander's positions on the Public Transit Advisory Committee, the Commissioners' vote split for new Advisory Committee members, and the apparent animosity expressed by Commissioner Sholander and Ms. Wnuk to Mr. Erickson, prompt me to speculate about motives that suggest a sincere interest in a Public Transit cover-up and the destruction of Mr. Erickson's political and domestic life, for all the wrong reasons?
Why do I feel compelled to give my old political foe an A for integrity, and Ms. Wnuk and Commissioner Sholander an F?
Why, with Commissioner Scholander as the most influential member of the Public Transit Advisory Board, and as the Chairman of the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners, do I conclude that a conflict of interest exists that is likely to influence the judgement of a man that I have many reasons to believe lied in the face of numerous allegations related to the Public Transit Turmoil, and, under the circumstance of what I consider to be irrefutable fact, namely the history of Mr. Risdon, and other "chronic bitchers" that continue to be employed by Schoolcraft County Public Transit?
Why, if the testimony of certain Public Transit drivers was baseless, insignificant, and unsubstantiated fiction, over the years, have they not been fired for being pathological liars and mental dysfunctions in positions of concern with the public safety and welfare of that part of the community least able to provide for their own safety and welfare?
Why do I speculate, for those that cannot connect the dots, that if a professional investigation had been initiated, with the relevant sworn testimony of all Public Transit employees, subject to criminal prosecution for perjury, then this ugly disagreement would not exist?
Why do Mr. Scholander's statements, as the Chairman of the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners, fail to reconcile apparent conflicts of fact and ineffectual and inappropriate Public Transit Policy that bares no stamp of approval from, or traces its roots to, any qualified authority that I am aware of?
Why have I had the distinct impression, for years, that there has been a substance abuse problem, concerning alcohol, that impaired the judgement of the Director of Public Transit, while he was on the job?
Why do I conclude, based on my knowledge of past alcohol abuse and denial at the "city sheds", that a variation of the same theme is likely to exist within Manistique's Department of Public Works?
Why do I get the impression that Kevin Swanson, Meg Wnuk and Oliver Scholander would rather bury Public Transit problems with links to evident alcohol abuse and incompetence?
Why have I reached the conclusion that the official goal is to kill the messengers, rather than addressing the messages?
Who stands to benefit by killing the messengers, and why?
Does a hidden history of job related alcohol abuse, and its effects upon the job related judgement of Commissioner Sholander, manifest itself in similar consideration for the Director of Public Transit, Kevin Swanson?
Why do I conclude that there exists a history of alcohol abuse, and its resulting effects, for certain public officials, that is considered an acceptable public cost, to be hidden by false concerns of privacy, behind a wall of silence, evasion and deceit, regardless of who is hurt in the process?
Is the Board of County Commissioners prepared to see a variety of public officials, subpoenaed as witnesses, to testify, under oath, concerning founded allegations of alcohol abuse, that likely crippled the ability of those in positions of public office and Public Transit administration to deal with the effects?
Is the County prepared to have its ass kicked, in Court, for the same reasons as its loss in Mr. Risdon's arbitration hearing, due to documented and witnessed managerial and oversight incompetence by the Director of Schoolcraft County Public Transit, and certain members of the Schoolcraft County Public Transit Advisory Committee?
I for one, am willing to testify, under oath, and in detail, regarding my knowledge of facts, circumstances, and rumors concerning all those with a direct, consequential or incidental relationship to this mess, if it is not cleared up in a manner that benefits the public interest and not the interests of select public officials, employees and their minions.
I can quote no other official comment, more germane to the issues, than Commissioner DuFour's candid public statement: "I figure with the turmoil up there, things ain't being done the way they should be done. I am not saying you two are to blame, just that its time for a change." That observation, in an atmosphere of obvious official denial, deceit, coercion and destructive behavior, is nothing more than a breath of fresh air in the fetid atmosphere surrounding the issues and participants.
Since I concluded, years ago, that too many Schoolcraft County and Manistique public officials are reluctant to do the "right thing" and deal with issues in an appropriate manner, without the motivation of having their fingernails ripped out, in public, I am here to put you on notice that I am willing and able to use the pliers in a public forum, or in a formal investigation where everyone is under oath, and all testimony is open to the public. No more hiding alcohol abuse and incompetence problems behind contrived concerns about privacy and lawsuits. No more meaningless investigations by those of questionable integrity with vested interests in the conclusions.
Why not sanction an investigation by professionals representing the Public Transit drivers' union interests and compare notes with other investigations done by those with closer ties to vested interests in the conclusions of their own investigations?
Some folk have expressed consternation and puzzlement regarding my interest in the current events, considering there was no political or personal love lost between Mr. Erickson and I. Regarding the Public Transit issues that should be the focus of the current political turmoil, I can only offer my open and active support for all those with the courage of their convictions, based upon my understanding of the issues. Based on my understanding of the facts and issues, they chose to stand, in a hail of withering fire, knowing, before they stood, it was likely they would go down in rhetorical flames, gunned down by those that would rather cover-up the current scandal than deal with it in a public and open manner that is likely to discourage similar problems, in the future.
Regarding any question that a Schoolcraft County Commissioner may wish to ask me, related to issues concerning Schoolcraft County Public Transit and the relationship of those issues to Mr. Erickson's responsibilities as an elected Commissioner, I am more than willing to answer them, in this public forum, in a manner of my choosing, to the best of my ability, in an open and candid manner. I will answer no other questions, from anyone else, unless the testimony is fully documented, under oath, in a formal investigative process, open to full public scrutiny. I have reasons to believe there are others that are willing to do the same thing.
Regarding a recent survey I filled out that inquired if I thought alcohol abuse was a problem in my community, you can bet your ass I said YES!
In my opinion, relative to Schoolcraft County Public Transit issues, the credibility and integrity of the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners is in the toilet, and Mr. Erickson has been made the Judas Goat, due to no fault of his own.
Watcha gonna do? It's your move.
P.S. Ms. Wnuk took me to task in an editorial letter in the Manistique Pioneer Tribune for, among other things, my statement "...Mr. Erickson has been made the Judas Goat, due to no fault of his own."
I will explain, for others that may have missed the context, the reference to the Judas Goat. All other contentions of Ms. Wnuk are covered in sufficient detail, above, that a high school comprehension of the English language, and a basic understanding of logic and the context of the issues, are more than sufficient to understand my perspective, as written.
The Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners has been led to a dangerous, idiotic, and potentially costly liability situation, but NOT by a consequence of being led to it by Commissioner Erickson, who would NOT approve, ignore, excuse or lie about the ugly public and private history surrounding the operation of the Schoolcraft County Public Transit system.
The County Board has been led by the apparent incompetence of the Schoolcraft County Transit Advisory Committee, represented by Ms. Wnuk, that failed to advise the County Board that Schoolcraft County Public Transit Director, Kevin Swanson, appeared to operate Schoolcraft County Public Transit in an unprofessional manner, and, apparently, conducted his public persona in an unprofessional fashion. To make things worse, it appears as if the long standing mess was overseen by influential Commissioners such as Ernie Hoholik and Oliver Scholander, both of whom chaired the Transit Committee, and the County Board. It is they that bear the ultimate responsibility for leading the way to what I can only refer to, in a charitable way, as a F.U. mess.
The reasons to make the blunt statement, regarding Ms. Wnuk's confusion as to who the "Judas Goat" might be, and why, are referred to in the text of the preceding letter to the County Board, and in some of the substantiating documents, and related web pages to be available at this web site, in the future. As to the slaughterhouse inference, associated with a real Judas Goat, it may be the consequences of public opinion at the polls, or the County getting its butt kicked in court, as a result of founded allegations of alcohol abuse, professional incompetence and the consequential retributory Board sanctioned abuse of a county employee, Schoolcraft County Public Transit driver, Ron Risdon.
Then again, as is the norm for Schoolcraft County, from my perspective, it is far more likely that supervisory and oversight personnel will receive accolades for their admirable and unblemished public service to the residents of Schoolcraft County that are more concerned about paying their bills than wasting their lives trying to keep track of, and change, endless political lunacy.
Regardless, to me, concerning a litany of continuing undesirable Public Transit related issues, a herd of Judas Goats, not including commissioner Erickson, has led the reputation of the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners directly into the toilet.
Related Schoolcraft County Public Transit alcohol abuse information