Otsego ends Breedveld suit, talks ethics policy

By: 
Daniel Pepper, Staff Writer

Otsego city commissioners approved an agreement with now former city commissioner Nick Breedveld.

Commissioners voted unanimously Monday, June 3, to accept an agreement with Breedveld and his wife where they agreed not to sue.

Mayor Cyndi Trobeck said, “We’re accepting this and not proceeding with litigation.”

Commissioners had accepted the written resignation from Breedveld Monday, May 27, at a special meeting after they’d voted 4-1 (with Breedveld voting no) to sue him for taking advantage of his positon as  a city commissioner and buying a property the city was seeking to purchase.

Breedveld and his wife Karin, who was also named, met with city officials May 22 to sign a settlement agreement and release. The agreement, approved June 3 by the city commission, called for him to resign his elected seat on commission and to sell the land to the city for the same price he paid for it. The city agreed not to file a lawsuit against the Breedvelds which would have alleged a violation of fiduciary duty, fraud and violation of the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

The Breedvelds have not responded to requests for comment.

The 5-acre vacant lot is at the end of Mitchell Street near the near the city’s defunct hydroelectric dam, and Otsego officials sought it to have available for any future dam removal projects. In recent years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has needed land near its Superfund cleanups along the Kalamazoo River to use as staging areas.

Later, the city hopes to use it to extend the riverwalk east to Brookside Park and possibly even Plainwell’s riverside trails. Planning designs show the city wants to put in a kayak and canoe launch there as well.

Trobeck is seeking applications to fill the open seat on the commission and intends to fill it at the first meeting in July.

 

Ethics policy

At the June 3 meeting, the commission discussed creating an ethics policy for commissioners.

Trobeck said it had been discussed prior to the events with Breedveld the idea of codified ethics policy had been discussed.

“It’s things we all do and know but it’s just put down in writing,” Trobeck said.

Mitchell said he’d developed a similar written ethics policy for elected officials when he’d still be in Decatur and had based it on the City of Battle Creek’s.

“A lot of ethical codes are based on employees but you on the commission aren’t really fireable,” he said.

Mitchell said the city’s lawyer could have a legally-reviewed copy available at the next meeting if the commission chose to go ahead.

The code as drafted calls for city commissioners to while carrying out their duties: act in the public interest; comply with state, federal and local laws; respect the processes and rules set down by the city commission; conduct themselves professionally in public meetings; share substantive information relevant to a matter under consideration; fully disclose conflicts such as material financial interests; refrain from accepting gifts, favors and loans or other dealings that would reflect negatively on their impartiality; not divulge confidential information concerning the affairs of the city; not interfere with the activities or operations of the city; not use public resources for personal use; not represent any other party to the city; advocate for the positions of the city and city commission; adhere to the structure of the city government; not participate in other public bodies as individuals; and support a positive workplace environment.

Trobeck said anyone taking a commissioners’ seat would have to sign a statement of acknowledgement.

The policy would also lay out some penalties for violation with the most severe being removal from the board with the vote of the other four commissioners.

Mitchell said he was seeking legal advice on whether the code would have to be adopted into the city charter or only as an ordinance.

Commissioners directed him to go ahead.

Contact Dan Pepper at dpepper@allegannews.com or at (269) 673-5534.

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