OUR VIEW: Has Belding learned from its own history?

By Daily News • Last Updated 12:30 pm on Monday, April 14, 2014

The city of Belding is earning quite a reputation for hiring and then losing city managers.

Go back almost 40 years … Ken Mendenhall, who had been city manager for a decade resigned in 1975 amidst a storm of financial and personnel controversy, a recall of council members and the election of new council members.

Four years later, Scott Wepfer quit in 1979 amid budget and personnel controversy. He had been city manager just one year.

In 1990, the City Council voted not to renew John Niemela’s contract due to multiple issues.

Five years later, Alan Hartley quit in 1995 due to difficulty with city projects and personnel.

In 2004, Mike Wood infamously resigned after being charged and later convicted of child pornography involving computers in his office and at home.

Belding was fortunate to have Randy DeBruine at the helm from 2004 to 2012. The city benefited from eight years of relative stability and when Mr. DeBruine left, there wasn’t any drama. He had simply decided to accept another job.

Enter Meg Mullendore.

This month marks one year on the job for Ms. Mullendore, who received a positive evaluation and a raise in salary in a unanimous decision from City Council members during her six-month review last November.

But a storm had started brewing in Belding just a few weeks before that review.

Belding Police Officer Jason Cooper was allegedly involved in an off-duty altercation at the Grattan Irish Pub in October. Cooper, a 17-year veteran of the Belding Police Department was fired for “policy and procedural violations” after an internal investigation by city officials. Community members rallied in support of Cooper and asked that he be reinstated, which proved to be a futile request.

Emotions bubbling under the surface since then spilled over at March’s City Council meeting. A standing-room-only crowd was present as multiple complaints were voiced against Ms. Mullendore.

Angry charges referred to comments Ms. Mullendore made that the Covered Village Mall would be closing this summer, her alleged lack of support of new city businesses, her alleged misinterpretation of Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests, her alleged unprofessional conduct and lack of leadership and her alleged dishonesty about a previous village manager job.

Strong accusations, all of them. Ms. Mullendore has denied any wrongdoing.

“In a professional capacity, regardless of the innuendoes and insinuations that were made, with my merits and willingness to continue, I will not step down,” she told The Daily News.

This Tuesday night’s City Council meeting promises more tumult as the council is slated to discuss Ms. Mullendore’s one-year review and will then more than likely make a decision about her future with Belding.

We are not choosing a side, but we strongly encourage members of the Belding City Council, as well as members of the Belding community, to take a long, hard look at their city’s history, put today’s current events in context and decide what decisions need to be made for the longterm good of the city.

Belding, what do you want to be known for? What image do you want to project to surrounding communities? What do you want people to think about when they hear the word “Belding”? Are you making a knee-jerk reaction to allegations fueled by personal emotions, or do the accusations have merit?

As the saying goes, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Editorial opinions are the consensus of The Daily News editorial board.

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