Parks board, projects still an issue for county

ESCANABA — The future of Delta County’s parks and the people responsible for them has continued to be a major focus for the county, following the dismissal of two members of the parks’ advisory board, the resignation of a third, a meeting without a quorum, and ongoing questions about a planned pavilion project at O.B. Fuller Park.

“p4″>Concerns about the dismissal of Former Delta Conservation District CEO Rory Mattson and Allen “Snuffy” Ettenhoffer, a prominent member of the U.P. Whitetails Association, from the recently-formed parks and recreation commission at the June 4 meeting peppered the public comment periods at Tuesday’s Delta County Board of Commissioners meeting.

“I believe you violated your board bylaws rules. You need to have a public hearing and it needs to take place to show cause and take public input,” said Former Delta County Commissioner Bob Barron, who was the commissioner who initially appointed Ettenhoffer to the parks commission.

Both Mattson and Ettenhoffer were removed from the parks commission by the newly-seated county board after county commissioners Kelli Van Ginhoven and Myra Croasdell put forward motions to rescind the appointments made prior to their election. Van Ginhoven requested the removal of Mattson, who was appointed by Former County Board Chair Dave Moyle for County District 4, which Van Ginhoven now represents. Croasdell requested the removal of Ettenhoffer, who was appointed to represent District 3, which she now serves. Both commissioners’ motions were approved in split votes by the board, with Commissioner Steve Viau opposing rescinding of both appointments and Commissioner Matt Jensen opposing only the removal of Ettenhoffer.

The county’s rules of procedure, however, outline a different process for removing individuals from an appointment. Specifically, the rules state “Members of all statutory, standing and special committees may be removed for cause by majority vote of the Board after the individual has had an opportunity to explain his/her actions and in accordance with fair procedure and governing statutes.”

At the time of the votes to rescind Mattson’s and Ettenhoffer’s appointments, the parks commission had not yet had a meeting, and some in the community have argued the dismissals were unfair because neither Mattson nor Ettenhoffer had taken any actions in their new roles.

“Unfortunately, your actions discourage citizens from participating in the many boards committee and commission that the county board appoints people to. Rory Mattson and Allen Ettenhoffer are the two most knowledgeable people about the parks and the county forest there is in this area. Their reputations have been tarnished by your actions, inappropriate actions, and restitution needs to take place,” said Barron.

Barron was not the only former commissioner who attended Tuesday’s meeting and pointed out the rescindments did not follow the county’s written rules of procedure. Former Delta County Board Chair Patrick Johnson — who last served on the board in 2022 but is currently seeking reelection to the District 2 seat currently held by Viau — reminded the board about the policy and warned the board about dismissing people with “opposing views.”

“If we’re removing people because of accusations, that is a really slippery slope, as well. Now I know Mr. Mattson has been a controversial figure in the past, but I still think he deserved a little bit more of a look at as far as being removed from this board,” said Johnson, referencing Van Ginhoven’s argument that Mattson should be removed because of ongoing investigations into his actions while employed by the Delta Conservation District.

In response to Johnson’s comments, Van Ginhoven said she had given specific reasons for her desire to dismiss Mattson in the agenda packet, requested information about the removal process from County Administrator Ashleigh Young, asked Mattson to attend the meeting, and had sought a legal opinion prior to Mattson’s dismissal.

“Just because it didn’t appear in the meeting that things were — I don’t know. I thought that we did fine, but I’m sorry for appearances’ sake that I wasn’t more transparent, but if you read the agenda packet and asked questions at that time I would have been able to answer them,” she said, adding she would reiterate things included in the packet moving forward.

Croasdell made no comments about her request to remove Ettenhoffer, nor did she indicate Ettenhoffer had been asked to attend the June 4 meeting. The only reason she has given for seeking his dismissal was a verbal statement given at the June 4 meeting, saying that “there was another person who was very qualified for this spot and was looked over, and the appointment went to Mr. Ettenhoffer.”

The rescindments have had a ripple effect. On June 5, just one day after Ettenhoffer and Mattson were removed from the parks commission, Raymond Grew, who was appointed by Former Commissioner Bob Petersen on April 2 to represent District 5.

With only two remaining members of the five-member parks board, a quorum was no longer possible. According to Young, the parks and recreation commission still held a meeting after Grew’s resignation. During that meeting, the two remaining members discussed the bylaws for the commission, and heard comments from the public about Fuller Park, the county forest, applications for the board, and the county’s yet-to-be-developed five-year recreation plan. Van Ginhoven also stated during her commissioners comments Tuesday that she had attended the meeting.

Despite Young describing the discussion as a “meeting” and Van Ginhoven stating she attended, the lack of quorum prevents the gathering from meeting the legal definition of a meeting and the two parks board members from taking action under the Michigan Open Meetings Act. No minutes for the gathering were included in the county board agenda packet, and neither Young nor Van Ginhoven indicated any actions were taken.

In other parks-related business Tuesday, the board unanimously approved County Parks Director Steve Wery continue to move forward with a plan to construct a pavilion and playground at O.B. Fuller Park. The board voted to continue with the project in a roll-call vote — requested by Wery, who raised concerns the new commissioners might have different thoughts on the project than the prior board.


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