‘Defamation of character’
Credit: Former planning commissioner accuses Douglass Township Board of publicly lying about her | By Elisabeth Waldon | Daily News | March 05, 2022 | www.thedailynews.cc ~~
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A former planning commissioner accused the Douglass Township Board of publicly lying about her, even as a township trustee threw back his head and laughed in response.
Wednesday evening’s meeting began with Supervisor Terry Anderson, Clerk Ronda Snyder and Trustee Tom Jeppesen voting to ratify a decision regarding the township board sending out a Feb. 1 letter to the public regarding the township’s work on a wind energy ordinance. The vote came one month after the fact of the letter being sent out and the vote was at the recommendation of their attorney, Ron Redick, who was present Wednesday (Treasurer Amy Laper and Trustee Pat Althoff were both absent).
Cindy Shick, who was ousted from the Planning Commission by the township board in January, was the first to speak during public comment, noting that she had consulted with attorneys before making her statement, which she said she was making “with a heavy heart.”
Shick referenced the results of Monday’s clarity hearing by the Montcalm County Election Commission (which voted 3-0 to deny proposed recall language against four Douglass Township Board members), as well as a letter the township board provided to the Montcalm County Clerk’s Office in their defense. That letter contained screenshots purporting to show the following: “The secretary (Shick) was caught allowing Josh Nolan, the anti-wind lawyer, to view and edit all of the Planning Commission meeting minutes and agendas that were sent to Ronda through Google Dropbox (Google Drive),” the township board’s letter stated.
Shick vehemently denied this accusation at Wednesday’s meeting.
“False accusations were made against me,” Shick declared. “You, the four named members of the township board, stated that I was caught via screenshots allowing Josh Nolan, the ‘anti-wind lawyer,’ to view and edit all of the Planning Commission meetings and agendas that were sent to Ronda, our clerk, through Google Dropbox (Google Drive). I have proof that this statement is false.”
Shick said on July 3, 2021, she did allow Nolan to have view-only access to Shick’s “share with Ronda folder” in response to a FOIA request, but Shick then explained what she thinks really happened to lead to the township board’s accession against her, her voice rising with emotion as she spoke.
“On June 29, 2021, Ronda Snyder shared my ‘share with Ronda’ folder and all contents with a different email of Josh Nolan, giving him editing privileges to all current and future documents,” Shick said.
Snyder reacted with expressions of shock and disbelief to this statement as Jeppesen began openly laughing.
“I plan to pursue legal remedies for defamation of character, libel and/or slander since you have falsely accused me of malfeasance while serving my community,” Shick said. “Tonight I ask for a public apology here and in the Daily News, as well as a retraction of the letter at the Montcalm County Clerk’s Office. I call for each one of you to resign from your township positions.”
The majority of people in attendance stood and gave Shick a lengthy standing ovation with cheers and shouts, even as Jeppesen continued laughing heartily.
As public comment continued, multiple people spoke to say they supported Shick.
Planning Commissioner Rick Baldwin referenced the township board’s letter to the Election Commission which stated in part, “We had four Planning Commission members who were only working for their own agenda.”
“This is not an agenda,” Baldwin said. “What we were trying to do was just make it something that the people would support, that the majority of the people would support. It’s not a collusion thing. It was the majority of opinion that we were representing. There has not been collusion that I know of. I think you guys are in the wrong on this.”
“To quote our supervisor (Anderson) at (Monday’s) recall hearing, ‘We have a little funny business going on here,’” township resident Sheila Crooks added.
Township resident Wendie Switala also referenced the township bills document that was handed out Wednesday, noting that the township has now spent $75,000 in attorney and planner fees on the pending wind ordinance.
“Going in excess of $75,000 for attorney and planners is way over the top, way over the top, when our revenue is only $300,000 per year,” Switala said. “Do the math, people, do the math.”
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