Montcalm Township loses special master

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 4:19 pm on Tuesday, August 30, 2011

MONTCALM TOWNSHIP — Montcalm Township no longer has a special master.

Eighth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Suzanne Hoseth Kreeger appointed Craig Rolfe of Kalamazoo in October 2010 to oversee the township’s financial matters and to work with Treasurer Phyllis Shilling and Clerk Carol Rosebrook on developing adequate fiscal procedures amid a lawsuit involving Shilling, Chemical Bank and Montcalm Township.
Rolfe submitted a report June 3 detailing why Shilling needed to be removed as treasurer “for willfully neglecting the duties of her office.” Township board members took no action regarding the report at their June or July meetings.
Shilling filed a June 23 document with the court arguing why Rolfe’s appointment should not be extended to Nov. 20, 2012.
Shilling’s attorney, Stephen Schultz of Okemos, stated Rolfe is not a party to the case and draws his authority only from the parties’ stipulation and the court’s jurisdiction. Schultz said no party has litigated any claim against the other in this matter since a settlement was reached between the parties in December 2010. Schultz said Rolfe has fulfilled his role as special master and added that Rolfe’s report relies upon “a wholly discredited, year-old report by the Hungerford firm and his own view of proper procedures for township treasurer.”
“The master’s reports do not identify a single violation of law nor a single violation of the rules of the Michigan Department of Treasury with respect to the proper handling of the treasurer’s duties,” Schultz stated. “The special master identifies not a single taxing jurisdiction that complains of improper disbursement of funds or delayed remission o tax proceeds collected by the treasurer. The special master does not identify a single dollar of taxpayer money that is not properly accounted for.”
Shilling also requested that she be awarded her costs and attorney fees for being called upon to defend the interests of her office and the interests of Montcalm Township.
On June 28, Kreeger ruled Rolfe’s duties as special master would expire Aug. 1 if board members did not provide a written request to extend his appointment.
“This court recognizes the concerns presented in the special master’s rulings and reports, however, (it) will not continue the appointment of special master if it is not in keeping with the wishes of a majority of the Montcalm Township Board,” Kreeger stated in her ruling.
Rolfe wrote a resignation letter to the court, which was filed Aug. 8.
“I … implored the board to at least consider before July 31 how the board intended to obtain legal counsel on various matters of township business, generally, after the expiration of the term of the special master appointment on July 31,” Rolfe stated.
Montcalm Township residents will vote on Nov. 8 whether to recall Shilling from office.

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