Residents want Mattson dismissed
ESCANABA — An ongoing discussion about Delta Conservation District (DCD) Executive Director Rory Mattson and the Delta County Forest continued Tuesday at the Delta County Board of Commissioners’ reorganizational meeting. A spokesman for a group of residents said they want Mattson dismissed from his position. The county board said, however, they don’t have the power to dismiss Mattson, and questioned whether they would do so even if they had the authority.
The board previously heard complaints about Mattson from residents at its Nov. 5 and Nov. 25 meetings. At the latter meeting, Mattson also gave a presentation regarding the complaints.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Cornell resident Ed Fleury served as a spokesman for those who held grievances with Mattson. According to Fleury, Mattson’s behavior as the DCD’s executive director has been highly unprofessional.
“He has caused the residents of Delta County much heartache — much problems,” he said.
Fleury also voiced his opposition to the presence of gates on the county forest property. He felt this was a violation of the conditions of the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant that funded the county’s purchase of the land.
“Those gates were put up there right in the beginning, and that’s three or four years ago, and they’re still there,” he said.
Because of these factors, Fleury said he and others were seeking Mattson’s removal.
“We are requesting the dismissal of Rory Mattson from the park board for actions and conduct unbecoming of (an) employee of the Delta County,” he said.
After Fleury made his statement, Board Chair Patrick Johnson said he felt the evidence presented by Fleury was not sufficient to justify ending the DCD’s involvement with the county.
“As a board, I feel we need more proof,” he said.
Johnson also spoke about the improvements that have been made to county parks thanks to the DCD.
In response, Fleury said his complaints were not related to the condition of these parks.
“It’s the manner in which it’s done — the manner in which Rory Mattson is operating the park board, and I think you people need to look into that and see,” he said.
David Rivard, the board’s vice-chair, said Mattson is not actually employed by Delta County. The county contracts with the DCD for its services.
“Mr. Mattson is employed by the conservation district — not this board,” he said.
Because of this, the county board would not be able to fire Mattson even if its members wanted to.
“We can’t say ‘Rory Mattson, you’re fired’ — and, to be honest with you, I don’t know if we would. But it’s up to the conservation district to decide Rory Mattson’s employment,” Johnson said.
During public comment at Tuesday’s meeting, other people in attendance shared their thoughts about Mattson and the DCD. Escanaba resident Kristen Bordeau expressed her lack of confidence in the conservation district’s willingness to handle the situation fairly.
“I don’t know where to go. We’re not going to their board; their board is handpicked. We are not stepping foot at that board — I will never step foot at that board, ever. If you think we’re going to go to that board and ask them for help, you’re crazy,” she said.
She also called Mattson’s honesty into question, citing an incident at the Nov. 25 county board meeting where he stated he had offered keys to the county forest to Delta County Sheriff Ed Oswald. During that meeting, Oswald said he had asked for keys on multiple occasions and had been denied.
“The stuff he said at the last meeting — 95 percent of it was false,” Bordeau said.
DCD officials spoke during public comment, as well. Parks Manager Steve Wery said that, when the county forest property was purchased, Weyerhaeuser had a five-year cutting reserve.
According to Wery, the gate closures have largely been intended to allow roads in the county forest to recover from damage done to them as a consequence of earlier use and timber harvesting.
“The last past few years, we’ve had a ton of timber that has come out of there, and I’ve encouraged Rory and the board to have them harvest it as quickly as possible — to get it done so they never have to come back there,” he said, noting the cutting reserve will be ending soon.
Additionally, Wery said he had no personal issues with the Bordeaus.
“I want to take and extend my hand to ask that you would work with the district, and if you have any concerns, don’t be afraid to come to the board,” he said.
Mattson said the gates on the county forest property are not in violation of Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund conditions.
“If the county was out of compliance or even close to out of compliance, the trust fund board would not have given this county almost $450,000 in three different grants right after that,” he said.
He went on to address the incident referred to by Bordeau, stating he spoke with Oswald after the Nov. 25 meeting.
“Since then, we’ve talked, and the one thing that I didn’t know is the sheriff wanted it to go to search and rescue,” Mattson said.
According to Mattson, Delta County Search and Rescue has since received keys.