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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This letter is an open letter to the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners, or anyone else that will provide me believable answers consistent with what I and others witnessed at the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners meeting, 08/19/03. It is written and published here because I have yet to hear a formal Board repudiation of the deceased Chairman Sholander's personal policy of limiting my public comment to three minutes while others may have as much as they need.
I am tired of being ignored, deceived, and bullied, concerning obvious community problems that imply local failures of individuals and government. Therefore, I have chosen to air my concerns where interested folk, anywhere, may find them, at any time, at will, with the hope that local government officials will deal with the consequences of their flaws and limitations as rational adults, instead of frightened children.
Why The Wobble and Reek of a Public Transit Director?
Does Schoolcraft County Public Transit Director, Kevin Swanson, suffer from Parkinson's disease, or M.S., or some other terrible affliction that leads ignorant folk to suspect substance abuse, when, in fact, he is cursed with a disease, due to no fault of his own?
Why, at the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners meeting of 08/19/03 did I get the distinct impression that Kevin Swanson, Director of Schoolcraft County Public Transit, was intoxicated, or physically and mentally impaired, for some other reason? Why did other audience members, at that same meeting, have the same impression?
Was it an "act", orchestrated by Swanson and his supporters, to discredit those that have reasons to believe Public Transit Director Swanson is an alcoholic whose debilitating disease is ignored by all but a few of his victims?
Why was Director Swanson absent from the Board meeting, when it was scheduled to consider his recommendation to fire Public Transit driver, Ron Risdon? What impact did his absence have on the Board's executive session decision, when he failed to respond to Commissioner Aldrich's page for his presence, at the executive session? Why was a county union employee faced with the choice of representing himself, with no union representative present, against the questionable allegations and recommendation of a management accuser absent from the meeting?
Why do I view both Director Swanson's absence, and the union representative's, as a serious act of managerial dereliction of responsibility, at best? Why do I consider Swanson's absence from the "Step Three" of a union contract dispute, along with his later appearance, looking like a staggering drunk, as sufficient reason to initiate a process to determine cause for the Director's employment termination, or vindication?
Did Director Swanson, and his supporters, know he could have been fired, on the spot, at that executive session, IF he was supposed to be there, and IF an appropriate test verified his apparent inebriation, and IF a responsible government official requested such a test, for obvious reasons?
Does Director Swanson, and his supporters, consider recreational public intoxication, or job related substance abuse, as excusable birthrights of Schoolcraft County and Manistique employees, as history implies, therefore there was little to fear, regardless of the circumstances?
Did Director Swanson just "happen by", in an apparent intoxicated stupor, to check up on his supporters, Mayor Margaret "Peggi" Arnold, and Meg Wnuk, both of whom, over time, exhibited obvious public malice toward Commissioner Erickson, the only commissioner to take a public, outspoken and detailed stand against an apparent history of hidden alcohol abuse and mismanagement, at Schoolcraft County Public Transit?
Why has Mr. Risdon been denied the right to work, for almost a month, when he has not been fired i.a.w. Schoolcraft County published policy, and no other disciplinary action warrants his current denial of work and a paycheck? Does it is take nothing more than the Public Transit Director's unsubstantiated recommendation, based on 2nd and 3rd hand hearsay, to fire Mr. Risdon? Does County Commissioner Aldrich's sole personal decision make it so, at the Step 2 union grievance hearing of ??? What is wrong with this picture?
Why, when Commissioner Aldrich paged Director Swanson, during the executive session of the Board meeting, and there was no response, did I immediately laugh to myself while visualizing Director Swanson tipping a bottle, somewhere?
How vulnerable to termination, due to the reported alcohol abuse within Public Transit operations, is the majority state funding of Schoolcraft County Public Transit?
Did Public Transit Director Swanson leave, with physical support from Mayor Margaret "Peggi" Arnold and an ex-Public Transit Advisory Committee member Meg Wnuk, in an effort to prevent newspaper reporters from interviewing him, or to avoid County Board members being prompted to take action regarding his pitiful appearance?
Why did several audience members comment, to me, after the meeting, about the strong smell of an alcoholic beverage in the vicinity of Director Swanson?
Why was I made aware, by other audience members, that Kevin Swanson staggered into the meeting, during County Board consideration of the last agenda item, sat in the back row "nodding off", and shortly thereafter wobbled out, grasping the shoulders of Manistique Mayor, Margaret "Peggi" Arnold, and ex-Public Transit Advisory Committee member, Meg Wnuk? Did audience members imagine what they saw, and smelled?
Why did several audience members state that Public Transit Director Swanson had apparent problems finding the car he likely drove to the meeting in a severely impaired state?
Why, after the Board meeting, did I observe, in the Schoolcraft County Courthouse lobby main entrance, Director Swanson, in apparent slurred conversation with, and leaning on a woman I recognized as ex-Public Transit Advisory Board member, Meg Wnuk? Why did he wobble away, with one steadying hand on Meg's shoulder, and the other upon the shoulder of Mayor Margaret "Peggi" Arnold ? Why do I know that much of the Board meeting audience watched in hushed silence, behind me, as I watched the spectacle of a wobbling Public Transit Director, and two public officials navigate, slowly and carefully, the courthouse main entrance steps and sidewalk?
Did they navigate Director Swanson to the Michigan State Police post, or Schoolcraft County Hospital, to determine if he was intoxicated or seriously ill, or were they part of another witnessed attempt to coddle with support and denial, a public employee, intoxicated on the job? Is there a more likely scenario that has escaped me, that represents a totally benign view of what I, and others, witnessed?
Why was Meg Wnuk observed transporting an apparently intoxicated Director Swanson from the front of the court house to his car, parked in the rear parking lot of the court house? Do friends let friends drive intoxicated, for other reasons?
Why, when Commissioner Aldrich approached his vehicle in the parking lot, was Director Swanson overheard asking Aldrich why he was "hammering" Swanson about his drinking habits?
At that same parking lot conversation, why was Meg Wnuk overheard to tell Aldrich about Swanson's allergies and bloodshot eyes, and requirement to take medication, in an apparent attempt to plant a seed of doubt about Swanson's obvious intoxication by alcohol? Did Director Swanson need a translator or mouthpiece? Did Commissioner Aldrich need prompting?
Why do I expect some public pronouncement, soon, consisting of prompted fabrication, about the unfortunate combination of a single drink, combined with medication, hot weather and fatigue to be responsible for the Director's late and apparently inebriated appearance at the County Board meeting of 08/19/03? Why would I expect a seasoned and responsible alcohol drinker to know about the hazards of mixing alcohol with medication, and act accordingly? If he cannot act accordingly, what reason do I have to expect him to act appropriately regarding his greater Schoolcraft County Public Transit Director responsibilities?
Why does Public Transit Director Swanson still run Schoolcraft County Transit from his home "office", much of the time, hidden from public scrutiny? Why do I have the impression that I help to pay a high level county employee to drink, malinger and shirk in the privacy of his own home, instead of managing Schoolcraft County Public Transit, and transit personnel, properly, and full time, at the Schoolcraft County Public Transit facilities?
What do the reported "street theater" circumstances, leading up to, and including the night of the 08/19/03 County Board meeting, infer about the ethics, integrity, morals and competence of the notable past and present supporters of Schoolcraft County Public Transit Director Swanson?
Assuming Kevin Swanson had no official responsibility to attend the Board meeting that considered his recommendation to terminate Public Transit driver Ron Risdon's employment, why do I still resent the manner and circumstances of his attendance and what it says about his suitability for the position he holds? Why do I still resent the fact that I must help pay his salary, benefits and retirement?
Does the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners want me to vote to perpetuate 19th century employment and management ethics and practices holding hostage the welfare of those that can least afford the reduction or loss of public transportation, or their jobs? Would I cast a vote for a Schoolcraft County Public Transit that perpetuates Schoolcraft County official incompetence, unfair labour practices, and chemical abuse, fostered by those who place their political and personal fortunes ahead of general public welfare and the legitimate expectations of low level county employees, and the general public?
Why did the Mayor of Manistique offer solace to an apparently soused Public Transit Director, on official business, at a public meeting, with the press present? She knew of Director Swanson's condition. She knew of his alleged problems from various newspaper articles and local gossip. She knew she had an official responsibility to address concerns of substance abuse by government officials in the City of Manistique, she knew Swanson could barely walk, and from the comments of several audience members, it is most likely she knew he stank of liquor.
Her obvious responsibilities were far beyond, "Friends don't let friends drive intoxicated."
To the best of my knowledge, and from my point of view, Mayor Arnold chose to escort Director Swanson out of the court house, without filing a report or calling for a substance abuse test. She helped to let him drive away, apparently intoxicated, from the possibility of being held responsible for showing up late, and apparently intoxicated, at a Step Three union grievance process regarding a county employee he recommended to be fired.
At the City Council meeting of 08/25/03, Mayor Arnold told me, and the community, that the Director of Public Transit Swanson was not drunk, at the County Board meeting of 08/25/03. Her statement makes someone a liar, and without a substance abuse test, I can only speculate who is lying, based on my understanding of events and individuals.
To those that promote the disregard of published laws, regulations and policies, and for those champions of incompetent and debilitated public officials and employees: I will admit that I have no irrefutable evidence to justify my questions and speculation, but I have worked with, supervised, and partied, with enough chemical abusers to recognize and question observed bizarre behaviour and symptoms, I attribute to a chemical cause.
At the moment, I have no information, I deem credible, that would indicate that Swanson's apparent intoxication was caused, primarily, by anything other than the abuse of alcohol.
To paraphrase and answer a question that Director Swanson was overheard asking Schoolcraft County Commissioner Keith Aldrich, in the rear courthouse parking lot, after the County Board meeting, shortly before Swanson entered his car and drove away: "Why am I being hammered for my drinking?"; my answer is "Because the effects of your drinking is hazardous to public welfare, hazardous to Schoolcraft County finances, hazardous to county employees, and is so well known that it implies that Schoolcraft County and Manistique is governed by the ignorant and stupid.
I do not remember falling off the turnip truck, last night, but then, I am not an elected official.
So what is it?
Is it my vivid imagination that leads me to conclude that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, smells like a duck and thinks like a duck, then it is, most likely, a duck?
Is there a body of knowledge, know to a variety of public officials, that implies Schoolcraft County Public Transit Director Kevin Swanson is really an incompetent Public Transit Director and a competent alcoholic, who is employed and coddled by certain public officials for reasons I can only speculate?
The following quote is from my public comments at the Schoolcraft County Audit and Finance meeting, last night.
"Regarding another subject, the broken alcoholic that runs Schoolcraft County Public Transit, I hear via the grapevine that some of you are less than enthused with Commissioner Aldrich's and Arnold's adopted wayward child. I wish to let those that know Director Swanson's public business, hidden behind false privacy concerns, that I will be more than happy to discuss the merits of his ways, in public, if you are not afraid to make public, public business. Allowing that wretch to intimidate you with his alcoholic's false bravado, heard by members of the public through a closed door, does nothing more than paint you as cowards. There is no law that compels Schoolcraft County to retain an out of control alcoholic, given the public record, alone.
Their is no doubt in my mind why H.B.H. Director, Sam Harma, severed his cozy relationship with Kevin Swanson; he knew that he could not afford the professional liability of the impaired judgement of a business associate addicted to alcohol. I find it hard to believe that MMRMA covers Swanson, with full knowledge of how broken he is, and has been. I suspect that if a claim was too high for MMRMA to look the other way, they would hold the administrators of Schoolcraft County liable for dereliction of duty, and I, for one, would be more than happy to testify to that fact, in detail."
Commissioner Aldrich was the only board member that spoke, after my comments, in his transparent attempt to repudiate the manner in which he and his cronies, over the years, encouraged Kevin Swanson to operate outside of all written county policy concerning substance abuse violations, human resources policy violations, union contract violations, accident reporting violation, guns and alcohol in the public transit building violations, shirking, malingering, misuse of public funds, unsafe operation of public transit vehicles, etc... and what amounts to a total lack of accountability fostered, in part, by influential political allies appointed to public transportation related committees.
"It wasn't me and Maggie", Keith said.
"Bullshit!" I say.
The following quoted letter was submitted to all the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioner members, at their regular meeting of April 15, 2003