Would-be township firefighter files petition
Trustees Charles Weldon and Victor Matthews and Supervisor George Meek are hotly contending allegations made in a recall petition filed by Nick Prill. Prill, who was once in the township’s fire academy and dismissed, filed the document June 17 and wording on the document was approved by Kent County July 9.
The three are accused of repeatedly violating the Open Meetings Act, increasing water and sewer rates rather than making cuts to the budget and hiring a convicted sex offender.
“There is no investigation of allegations in approving a recall petition,” said Matthews of the approval. “The county only has to approve that the wording is clear.”
Matthews stated that the recall effort is one more step in a long campaign by a small, vocal special interest group to intimidate board members to adopt their agenda to the detriment of all the people of Plainfield Township.
The group was successful in changing the minds of four board members earlier this year to approve and pitch in a portion of payment for a more than one million dollar upgrade to Belmont Avenue. In addition to the cancellation of the project, the township was informed by the Kent County Road Commission (KCRC) that the township must reimburse for work done on the project following the original unanimous vote by the full board to approve funds for the work. That cost has yet to be totalled but the KCRC said it may be as much as $100,000.
The three board members who refused to waiver in support of the project are the three listed in the petition. All three released a joint statement addressing each accusation.
In regards to the accusation of violation of Open Meetings, all state that the board has relied upon the advise of legal council prior to having any closed meetings.
They state there has been no water increase and an increase in sewer rates—an average of $2.71 per average household—was necessary in response to a significant decline in residential development and as part of the township’s contract with the North Kent Sewer Authority (NKSA). The new NKSA plant has saved residents about $5.5 in sewer rates, the statement by the three under recall states. In addition, they point out while writing the new budget over $1 million in cuts were made.
On the third and final charge, trustees and Supervisor Meek say convicted sex offender Jeff Hawkins was originally hired as a paid-on-call firefighter prior to his conviction. He later was hired by then-Clerk Sue Morrow as deputy clerk. At that time he had been placed on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry. When former Clerk Sue Morrow lost her job to current Clerk Scott Harvey, Hawkins was rehired by Harvey. According to the statement from the three under recall, Harvey knew about Hawkins’ conviction.
According to Susan deSteiguer, Kent County Director of Elections, the petitioner must gather 3,794 signatures for each of the three to get the issue before voters, either in the November election or in a special election which would be held for this issue alone.