Belding citizens again voice displeasure of city council, city manager


By Cory Smith • Last Updated 11:06 am on Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Belding resident Katherine Henry voices her displeasure of City Manager Meg Mullendore’s handling of Freedom of Information Act legislation. — Daily News/Cory Smith

BELDING — Serving as a continuation from the most recent Belding City Council meeting on March 18,  residents again voiced their concerns and disappointment Tuesday evening with respect to members of the council and City Manager Meg Mullendore.

The meeting followed a similar theme of two weeks ago, fueled by disgruntled citizens who again addressed their concerns during the meeting’s public comment period, which lasted nearly 35 minutes.

Council members listened as residents raised concerns involving alleged actions of Mullendore throughout the past year and prior to her time in Belding.

A three-page letter titled “City Manager Concerns” written by Belding resident Katherine Henry was handed to each council member, listing  numerous reasons  why she believes Mullendore should be removed.

Belding councilman Jerry Lallo addresses concerns tonight about the council’s handling of the citizens’ rights during public comment portions of city council meetings. — Daily News/Cory Smith

The allegations in the letter include, “Bullying city employees, board volunteers and community members, not having the city’s best interests at heart, giving the city a bad image, managing her own finances poorly, (displaying) a disregard for applicable laws, rules and regulations and having a history of causing problems for (previous cities).”

The letter goes on to list specific instances on each account, ranging from Mullendore’s handling of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, to alleged conversations between Mullendore and members of the community who believed they were mistreated or misinformed.

 

Citizen comment

Throughout the meeting, 10 citizens, ranging from residents to business owners, delivered similar messages that were received during the March 18 meeting.

Belding resident Dan Blunt Jr., president of Belding Tank Inc., voiced frustration with his interactions with Mullendore and the overall handling of his variance request from 2013 not to have sidewalks installed on his business property.

“If something’s not done and you guys approve of what’s going on here, you’re just as guilty as (Mullendore) who’s written half of these documents and caused issues,” Blunt said. “It’s plain and simple.”

Belding resident Mike Henry, Katherine Henry’s husband, reached a point where he asked for an impromptu vote from those in attendance.

“All in favor of city council removing Ms. Mullendore from office, say ‘aye,’” he stated.

The overwhelming response from the standing-room only crowd of about 50 in attendance was ‘aye,” with a few members of the audience then voicing ‘nay’ when asked for any who were opposed.

 

Animosity down the road

Belding resident Jon Francis said he recently attended a council meeting due to his curiosity with how the council handled city business.

Francis specifically pointed to an example of the rumor that the Covered Village Mall was possibly closing, an item that was later clarified to have been a statement by Mullendore that the mall could possibly partially close in July of this year.

Belding Mayor Ron Gunderson addresses concerns made by members of the audience Tuesday evening during the City Council meeting. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Francis said rumors such as that, and a lack of response from council members to those rumors, are creating an image problem for the city.

“I wanted to come see how the council runs,” he said. “I do see some very intelligent people up here. You come in and you give full details so the public is aware. But what I do know is there is a lot of concern out there in the public about what is going on and it creates animosity down the road.”

Francis said he believes though council members are working toward a solution, a lack of response has worsened the relationship between the council and the public.

Providing an opposing viewpoint, Belding resident John LaClear said he was disappointed with the overall attitude expressed by members of the community during the past two council meetings.

“Meg, I think you have done some good things. I think some things have been mixed up, but that happens,” he said. “I think this mentality the last two meetings, it really disappoints me. I think some of you people need to look in the mirror. I don’t think it’s all (Mullendore’s) fault.”

LaClear said he was especially disappointed at comments made at the previous council meeting, in which Councilman Mike Scheid asked Mullendore if she’d be willing to resign, or if the council would have to request it of her.

Mullendore stated then that she is not willing to resign. She stands by that comment today.

 

Council comment

Council members used their opportunity to speak at the end of the meeting to reiterate their option that issues presented before the council are being considered and reviewed leading up to Mullendore’s one-year evaluation on April 15.

“I’d like to thank everyone for showing up tonight. I realize you have some concerns and we are talking about it,” Scheid said. “You’ll just have to bear with us a little bit.”

Mayor Ron Gunderson said he is disappointed with statements from the public that members of City Council are not listening or responding to the concerns and requests made by members of the public.

“As far as not listening, you have passed packets around that have gotten to every one of us council members. To say that we’re not listening, it’s not true,” he said. “We have heard this over and over, and we know what you are talking about. I would just ask that you please keep that in mind. We are working and listening, we are not sitting idle.”

Gunderson said he appreciates the influx in attendance during the past two meetings, which have seen nearly every seat filled with several residents standing at the back of the room.

According to Gunderson, during the previous 45 meetings, the city saw an average of 16 people in attendance.

But Gunderson stressed he would like the public to allow the council to handle current issues regarding Mullendore as planned on April 15.

“To see these numbers here (in attendance), it’s great. That’s what this is all about,” he said. “But I would ask that you keep everything in mind and let us do our job. Continue coming to the meetings, continue speaking your mind if you wish to, that is up to you. I appreciate everyone coming tonight.”

Gunderson also expressed disappointment with threats of recalling him from office.

“I don’t appreciate threats being made to me for recall,” he said. “You have that choice. If you wish to follow that, you can. There are proper procedures for that.”

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