Legal Assessor

Written by Nexcerpt on July 20th, 2012 in Life & Lessons.
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In Van Buren County, Michigan, Antwerp Township Supervisor Daniel Ruzick has been accused of “embezzlement” and similar wrongdoing. Harold “Butch” Cirino began making these accusations after the Township Board, chaired by Ruzick, replaced Cirino as Antwerp Township’s Building Inspector.

Cirino then launched a campaign against Ruzick to win the elected position, and its salary and benefits.

In the August 7, 2012 primary election, voters decide between Ruzick and Cirino for Township Supervisor.

To be precise, the primary election will select a Republican candidate. However, no Democratic or other party candidate filed petitions to run for that office. There is no registered opposition for Supervisor on the November ballot.

[Correction, posted July 31, 2012: one candidate with no party affiliation met the July 19 filing deadline: Daniel Brooks will be on the ballot as an independent candidate for Antwerp Township Supervisor in November.]

On Tuesday, August 7, 2012, voters select our Township Supervisor for the next four years the only major party candidate for Township Supervisor.

Criminal accusations against Ruzick are the basis of Cirino’s campaign — and I believe Cirino’s accusations are false. If you agree, or if you are tired of such accusations in political campaigns, you should vote to re-elect Dan Ruzick.

Here’s why.

[Update, posted July 31, 2012: As of July 23, 2012, the Van Buren County Prosecutor closed the file on all allegations against Dan Ruzick, saying "there is absolutely no evidence of violation of any criminal statutes." In other words, Mr. Cirino's "accusations," described below, were "false accusations."]

Shall I read the big bold questions first?

Yes. Then read the short answer after each question.

If that interests you, read the next sentences (this size). They’re brief, but help explain what happened.

If you want a lot more detail, read smaller text (in a box like this one).

Seriously: most people can skip what’s in boxes. Some of it is boring. If you like details, you may find it valuable.

I apologize for this page being long (and ugly). So many accusations are difficult to address neatly.

What is the issue?

One former employee has accused the Antwerp Township Board of “crimes.”

Early in January, 2012, the Antwerp Township Board voted unanimously to replace Harold “Butch” Cirino as Antwerp Township Building Inspector.

About two weeks later, Cirino began accusing most (at times, all five) members of the Antwerp Township Board of “fraud” and “embezzlement.”

Over a few months, his claim changed to “embezzlement” and/or “misappropriation of funds.”

As he began a political campaign, Cirino’s claim became “misappropriation of funds” against Supervisor Dan Ruzick.

My review indicates that all these accusations by Cirino are false.

Later on this page I point to state law, and other trusted references, that explicitly contradict the basis of Cirino’s accusations. Along with black-letter law, many of the circumstances suggest his accusations are false.

Cirino’s criminal accusations began only after he was replaced as Building Inspector.

The scope and focus of accusations has changed with time, and with Cirino’s goals.

No other person has come forward with any similar or related accusations.

No member of the Township Board believes any of these accusations.

Township Attorney Harold Schuitmaker has not expressed any need for Board response.

No charges have been filed against any member of the Board.

Circumstances do not prove accusations false. However, many informed people agree that these accusations are unsupportable.

What was the “crime”?

It appears that there was no crime.

Dan Ruzick was elected Supervisor of Antwerp Township, legally.

The Township Board also hired him for a different part-time job (Assistant Assessor), legally.

Ruzick is paid for the position to which the voters elected him (Supervisor), legally.

Ruzick also is paid for a different part-time job (Assistant Assessor), legally.

To date, I am unaware of any crime. There have been only allegations, made by one person.

In early February, 2012, I told Harold Cirino I believed strongly that his allegations were false. I also advised him that state law contradicted his allegations. I recommended that he stop repeating his allegations.

Nonetheless, Cirino continued his allegations in many venues.

Cirino spoke at a regular meeting of the Antwerp Township Board on May 8, 2012. There he stated firmly, before several members of the public (including an officer of the court), that the media had “reported embezzlement” and / or “misappropriation of public funds.”

To be accurate, such allegations never came from “the media,” or any independent source of information or research. The allegations were always, and only, from Cirino.

Subsequently, Cirino appeared on WWMT “Waste Watch” to repeat his allegations. On May 15, 2012, he expanded his misreading of the law into false statements on WWMT News.

In that video, Cirino falsely claimed, “Mr. Ruzick has hired himself to be his own assistant.” His statements were sloppy or misleading in multiple ways.

The Township Board hired Ruzick as Assistant Assessor; Ruzick has not “hired himself.”

Ruzick assists the Township Assessor, Ben Brousseau; Ruzick is not “his own assistant.”

As Michigan State Police spokesman Lt. Charles Christensen says in the WWMT video report, “The Supervisor has been above board about everything, and he’s talked to our investigator, and he’s not trying to hide anything.

Even more recently, the June 8, 2012 Courier Leader published Cirino’s letter claiming that Ruzick owed “unauthorized funds” of “$195,000 for collecting monies he was not entitled to.” That letter went on to say “Ruzick was being investigated for embezzling. The actual investigation is centered on the misappropriation of public funds.”

I believe all these accusations about unauthorized use of funds (or illegal work arrangements) were false when Cirino first made them — as I explained to him in February, 2012 — and remain false today.

Why was there an “investigation”?

A public official stood accused of a crime; there had to be an investigation.

Cirino continues to say in public, in newspaper letters and columns, and in postcard mailings, that “Michigan State Police are investigating.” However, the only reason any investigation exists is because Cirino made these accusations.

Very early in 2012, Cirino alone made these accusations to, and asked for investigations by, at least the Michigan Attorney General, Van Buren County Prosecutor, and Michigan State Police.

In following months, he repeated these accusations to many people, inside and outside Antwerp Township; before the general public in township meetings; in published Letters to the Editor; and during at least one broadcast television interview.

The Attorney General’s office did not respond to my written inquiry about the status of this matter.

Van Buren County Prosecutor Juris Kaps did respond in writing: “If someone is stating that I am conducting an investigation, that would not be correct.

The Michigan State Police, though, had no choice but to investigate. According to Kaps, any such “investigation was not initiated by them or myself. Any time a citizen makes claims of criminal wrongdoing, the police agency that receives the report will conduct an investigation. That does not necessarily mean that there is any legitimate basis to the claim.

So, were the criminal accusations exaggerated?

They were at least exaggerated; I believe they were false.

The relevant law in Michigan says exactly the opposite of what these accusations claim.

The law is explained briefly in AG Opinion 6743, from 10 Dec 1992. There, Attorney General Frank Kelley wrote:

The positions of township clerk and township assessor for the same township are compatible in a township with a population of less than 25,000.

According to the 2010 US census, the Antwerp Township population is 12,182. So, this applies to Antwerp Township.

Continuing from the same AG opinion:

"The township board has the authority to appoint a township assessor and establish the assessor's compensation. The township clerk, as a member of the township board, would participate in his or her own appointment as an assessor and in establishing his or her own compensation. This supervision of one public office by another falls within the provisions of section 1(b)(ii) of 1978 PA 566.

Note this mention of participating “in his or her own appointment and in establishing his or her own compensation,” and the “supervision of one public office by another.” The criminal allegations being reported in Antwerp Township rely on a false notion that something vaguely like “reporting to themselves” is illegal.

In fact, the language warning against “establishing his or her own compensation” must be read in its proper narrow context. Thousands of elected Township, Village, City, County, State, and Federal legislative officials have this authority. Where empowered to establish their own compensation, they typically do so by a simple motion, or by approving a budget.

It’s easy to misunderstand this, by being careless while reading the law. It’s possible to make misleading accusations, by being careless in talking about the law.

However, the Attorney General was not careless. He went on to explain specifically that the Michigan Legislature stated clearly that the arrangement in Antwerp Township is legal:

However, the analysis does not end with that determination. Section 3 of 1978 PA 566 was amended by 1992 PA 10 and now provides, in relevant portion:

(4) Section 2 shall not be construed to do any of the following:

(c) Limit the authority of the governing body of a city, village, township, or county having a population of less than 25,000 to authorize a public officer or public employee to perform, with or without compensation, other additional services for the unit of local government.

In other words, in smaller municipalities like Antwerp Township, the law does not prevent a local governing body from employing any qualified person they wish, even if that person already has an elected position.

The Attorney General’s explanation is simple:

In 1992 PA 10, the Legislature clearly recognized the need for governmental units of limited population to utilize their public officials and employees to fill all of the available public positions. An examination of the legislative history of 1992 PA 10 reveals that:

"The bills are a response to problems that have arisen in small, mostly rural communities, which often must rely on the same people to serve in several different capacities in order to fulfill the communities' needs. Larger and more urban communities normally have little need for part-time or volunteer emergency workers."

Senate Legislative Analysis, HB 4262 and HB 4263, February 13, 1992.

It’s very clear. So, if someone suggests there’s a “legal problem,” either they’re confused, or they want you confused.

What motivated these accusations?

That depends upon whom you ask.

Many people familiar with the circumstances perceive them as Cirino’s attempt at revenge. Cirino himself says he only wants to save the township money.

Butch Cirino lost his job as Township Building Inspector. Throughout the process of requesting and reviewing proposals, and making the decision to change inspectors, Butch was very vocal, repeatedly describing his irritation with the Township Board for even considering a change.

One person being irritated, alone, may not matter much. Perhaps Butch thinks that getting more people irritated will help him punish the Board for replacing him.

Or, perhaps Butch just wants Dan’s job — including the very pay and benefits Butch is complaining about now.

It may be even more simple. Some people who become irritated want others to join them, with or without legitimate cause. As the saying goes, “Misery loves company.”

Butch offered me a different explanation: he wants to save the township money.

I asked him why he never raised this issue during the thirty years he worked for the township as Building Inspector. In some years, the township paid Butch more than it paid the Supervisor — up to or over twice as much — but Butch hadn’t mentioned a need to save on either. All that made me skeptical of Butch’s sudden concern for township savings.

Butch responded that he only discovered how much the Township Board members were earning after they voted unanimously to replace him.

Antwerp Township Board salaries have not changed in five years.

What’s all this about assessors?

Either Cirino is confused about the law, or he wants other people to be confused, or both.

By state law in Michigan, a Township Supervisor also becomes “Chief Assessor” upon their election. The Chief Assessor signs the final tax roll. (Depending upon the legal source you read, they may or may not need to be a state certified assessor to do so.)

Also by law, the Township Board may hire up to two “Assessors.” They perform actual assessments, and prepare the roll to be signed, and so must be state certified.

The township also may hire other employees, and provide them various job titles. One such title may be “Assistant Assessor.” They (surprise!) assist an Assessor.

These are three different positions: Chief Assessor, Assessor, and Assistant Assessor.

A few true statements have appeared within the criminal accusations. For example, after a Township Supervisor is elected, by law, he does become the “Chief Assessor” of the township. However, that does not dictate who reports to whom, or anything about the assessment function itself.

Beyond signing one piece of paper annually, the role of “Chief Assessor” is poorly defined. Also, other than “being” Chief, the relationship between the person in that role and other Assessors is poorly defined.

These roles have evolved over many decades. As a result, it’s easy to make them seem confusing. The confusion is made worse by hinting at quaint, badly outdated notions of the law.

For over a century of Michigan’s early statehood, election as Supervisor also instantly made that official a Township Assessor.

As the Michigan State Assessors’ Board (MSAB) Training Manual explains, “Until Act 203, P.A. 1969, anyone was qualified as an assessing officer by the mere fact of his election or appointment to the office.”

That created problems. “Being elected” is not the same as “knowing how to do property assessments.” So, the State added training and certification requirements.

The 1969 changes by the Michigan Legislature mean that today, according to the MSAB Manual, “No one can act as an assessing officer unless he has been certified by the State Assessors Board.”

Further details are available from a book entitled Managing the Modern Michigan Township (MMMT). This extensive text was authored by Kenneth Verburg, Professor Emeritus of the Michigan State University Department of Resource Development.

For those making practical decisions “in the field,” MMMT may be the single most widely accepted, cited, and recommended authority on township policy and practice. I’ve relied on this and previous editions from my reference shelf for twenty-five years.

According to the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, “Dr. Verburg is well known for his comprehensive knowledge of state statutes and court cases, as well as local actions. Professor Verburg has advised the Michigan Legislature, Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Township Association, and the Michigan Association of Counties.”

The following quotes are from the 2002 Third Edition of Managing the Modern Michigan Township. According to Dr. Verburg, the term “Chief Assessor” has been in the law since 1846 without clear definition. From MMMT page 169:

“The various statutes relating to assessment are a little confusing with respect to who signs the assessment role. The statute cited above calls the supervisor the chief assessor. And while one statute states that the township supervisor is responsible for assessing, another says that only a certified assessor may sign the assessment roll. In at least one instance, the state tax tribunal ruled that the supervisor could not sign the assessment roll unless certified as an assessor.”

In that environment, it becomes easy to create confusion. From MMMT page 76:

“Not all supervisors perform this role [assessor] because the state now requires assessors to pass tests and to be certified at various levels, depending on the nature of the tax base in the particular township. Many townships contract with professional assessors to perform that task…”

That’s the situation in Antwerp Township. As Township Assessor, Ben Brousseau is a township employee and performs the duties required of that position. He is professionally certified by the Michigan State Assessors Board to do so.

If a Supervisor wants to become a Township Assessor, nothing precludes them from becoming certified. From among certified candidates, the Township Board decides whom to hire. From MMMT page 155:

“…the property assessment records are the responsibility of the township supervisor or assessor if they are different people.”

Here, MMMT acknowledges the very real possibility that the Township Supervisor and Township Assessor may be the same person.

Although the arrangement is becoming less common, it is legal. From MMMT page 168:

“One other factor has brought about a decrease in the extent to which township supervisors function as township assessors — they must now be certified by the state as being qualified to carry out assessing duties.”

A “decrease in the extent” does not suggest there is any conflict. In fact, it acknowledges that the same person may serve as both Supervisor and Assessor.

Is there a “silver bullet” that proves this arrangement is OK?

Yes: clear state law. Trusted experts on township operations also accept it.

As noted above, the most authoritative text regarding legally appropriate operations for a township in the state of Michigan is Verburg’s Managing the Modern Michigan Township. From page 34:

In the case of the township supervisor who is also the township assessor, the township board may designate a portion of the salary as being compensation for the assessment work.”

Dr. Verburg chooses to cite, as an example of an entirely legal arrangement, “the case of the township supervisor who is also the township assessor.”

This arrangement has been legal for many years, and has been in place in Antwerp Township for many years. Please don’t mistake this for “We’ve always done it this way.” I mean quite specifically that “This way has been, and remains, legal.”

The previous supervisor had the same arrangement. Arlen Winther was elected, then also hired and paid by the Township Board for the part-time position as Assistant Assessor. As I reported to Butch Cirino in February, 2012, I personally recall seeing the line item for that salary in the township budget as long as twenty years ago.

In both cases, as required by law, Winther and Ruzick were/are certified assessors before being hired for that part-time work.

Didn’t the Attorney General criticize this arrangement?

Only if you’re trapped in the 1980s, and ignore what state law says today.

A newer statute, Michigan Public Act 10 of 1992, reversed all those critical opinions twenty years ago.

Similar job and payment arrangements have existed for decades throughout Michigan. During the 1980s, though, State Attorney General Frank Kelley interpreted the law to mean that those common arrangements ought not to exist.

In AG Opinion 6083, from 07 Jul 1982, “A township supervisor is precluded from receiving additional compensation for the performance of assessor duties.”

In AG Opinion 6126, from 15 Feb 1983, “A township treasurer may not simultaneously serve as an assessor in the same township.”

In AG Opinion 6618, from 13 Feb 1989, “A person serving as a township trustee may not simultaneously serve as the township assessor in the same township.”

If we chose to be picky, none of those AG opinions said a Township Supervisor could not serve as an Assistant. In fact, at that level of precision, the opinions are off point in several ways. Luckily, there is no need to argue such fine points, or to rely on outdated interpretations.

Some twenty years ago, the Michigan Legislature realized that these AG interpretations conflicted with how local governments needed to operate.

So, in 1992, the Legislature passed PA 10 to declare these very arrangements legal. The Attorney General subsequently, repeatedly, clarified his agreement in writing. Those writings also take precedence over any previous opinion.

Now, back to the criminal accusations in Antwerp Township. After Butch Cirino lost his job as Township Building Inspector in January, 2012, he went online and began looking for… something. He discovered that thirty-year old, outdated Attorney General opinion 6083. Remember, that AG opinion was issued fully ten years before the current law went into effect.

After Cirino explained his discovery to me, I visited the same web page he had searched. However, I went further: I read beyond three outdated opinions, to read the fourth and only relevant AG opinion which reversed everything Cirino claimed.

As detailed above, the Attorney General was quite clear in AG Opinion 6743, from 10 Dec 1992.

The AG actually issued several parallel opinions approving similar arrangements.

In AG Opinion 6730 from September 4, 1992: “The positions of county commissioner and ambulance worker for the same county are compatible in a county with a population of less than 25,000.”

In AG Opinion 6748 from February 2, 1993: “A member of a county board of commissioners may also serve as a maintenance worker for the county road commission in the same county of less than 25,000 population.”

In all three opinions, the AG includes a footnote:

“1992 PA 9 added section 3a to the statute dealing with conflicts of interest by public servants, 1968 PA 317, MCL 15)321 et seq; MSA 4.1700(51) et seq, to, inter alia, allow members of governing bodies of cities, villages, townships and counties that have a population under 25,000 to also provide additional services for and receive compensation from their respective units of government.”

It’s not possible to miss that point. It’s absolutely clear. There’s nothing to debate.

In February, 2012, I told Butch that the 1982 opinion, upon which all his accusations were based, was “outdated,” “superseded,” “invalid,” and “moot.”

Unfortunately, Che has continued to pretend, at least into June of 2012, that a long-outdated AG opinion is law. It is not. The opinion Cirino cites has been invalid for over twenty years.

Even false accusations make the township look bad. What are we doing about it?

The Township Board has answered every question asked; I believe they have answered honestly.

The Township Board can not prevent citizens from imagining things, being confused, or even lying.

Most public officials become accustomed to all sorts of accusations being made against them.

An employer can do very little about a disgruntled former employee who pushes sour grapes.

And, if someone won’t accept the honest answer, they may not be asking serious questions.

On their own initiative, months before Cirino began making accusations, the Township Board appointed a committee to research issues about compensation for all township officials. It’s the same committee, in fact, that first recommended Cirino’s replacement as Building Inspector.

I serve on that committee, along with Bruce Cutting (Antwerp Township Trustee, and Certified Public Accountant) and Robert Lambert (Antwerp Township resident, and Chief Operating Officer of Summit Pointe).

Late in 2011, we had already begun to study salaries, roles, and related issues months before these accusations began. After these accusations began, we continued our research, and submitted some policy recommendations to the Township Board in April, 2012.

Most recently, we’ve begun reviewing insurance policies and rates. We plan to draft and submit further recommendations on insurance, salaries, and other related matters in coming months.

Personally, I believe this committee could have made far more progress if these accusations had not distracted the community. Such accusations make it more difficult for any person, or group, to focus on municipal policy. They make it more difficult for any elected official, or board, as well.

Can I believe this page?

Yes. I’m Gary Stock, and I take this stuff seriously.

When the Michigan State Police wanted to understand the background of these accusations, Trooper Carey Casperson explained his visit to me by saying: “Everyone on every side of this told me I had to talk to Gary Stock. Everyone.

If you recognize my photo, that may be because I’ve lived in Antwerp Township for nearly twenty-five years. If you’ve been to a public meeting of any Antwerp Township board or commission during that time, I’ve likely been sitting in the audience with you. I try to attend every meeting of every Antwerp Township board.

I am not an attorney, but I know a lot about how townships function. I have looked carefully at these accusations, and related law. I am confident that everything about the Antwerp Township Board’s pay — both how they’re paid, and how much they’re paid — is legal. It has been legal for years.

I’m not saying they are paid precisely the “right” amount. The amounts may be more, or less, than some people might want. I’m saying specifically that, as far as I can discover, there is no truth to any accusation about that pay, or the positions they hold, being illegal.

If you still wonder who I am, ask around. I’ve helped people all over Antwerp Township, and all over Van Buren County, and beyond.

I’ll stand behind what’s written here. It took a long time to write. It’s as accurate as I can make it.

If this page requires any meaningful changes, the original text will be clearly marked.

Still, what makes you so sure?

Years of study, and attention to detail, about how townships operate.

I’ve been following township matters closely for nearly twenty-five years. The first few years, I learned everything I could find about township policy, and researched what wasn’t taught in classes. I bought, and I read, dozens of related books.

I’ve attended dozens of training sessions about township policy and law, from the Michigan Township Association, Michigan Society of Planners, and other County and State education groups. I continue to work to stay aware of township affairs throughout Michigan.

It’s not merely that I “study” this or “know” the material. I’m very serious about applying what I’ve learned.

Over the years, I’ve challenged the Antwerp Township Board (and others) many times, individually or collectively, over inappropriate policies and actions. That list goes back many years. In every case, serious concerns I’ve raised have been addressed because I focus on valid issues about actual problems.

At one time or another, I have focused on issues as broad and important as:
inadequacy of legal notice for public hearings;
personal or political use of public resources;
perceived and actual conflicts of interest;
statutory requirements to establish a Zoning Board of Appeals.

If I see something wrong, I pursue that matter, openly and honestly, until it is corrected.

If anything were illegal about the Township Board’s positions or pay, I’d be challenging it. I wouldn’t be wasting time gossiping over it in coffee shops or casinos, or disrupting workplaces chattering about it — and I certainly wouldn’t be making exaggerated claims to the media.

If there were something illegal going on, I wouldn’t be making wild accusations: I’d be getting it changed.

What do you gain by this?

Nothing — beyond helping Antwerp Township residents and taxpayers, as I have done for years.

I’m not running for election. I don’t have a job at stake. I simply care about the township operating fairly and openly.

Far from “gaining” anything, speaking up about the truth actually feels risky. I suspect I may regret coming forward.

I have no business or personal affiliation with either Mr. Cirino or Mr. Ruzick. However, for nearly twenty-five years, I have attended most meetings of the Antwerp Township Board, Planning Commission, and (as member or chair) Zoning Board of Appeals.

I have volunteered thousands of hours to help assure responsible local government right here in my community. That effort has led to me consider and to argue many positions. Thus I have agreed with both Mr. Cirino and Mr. Ruzick, and also disagreed with both, on many occasions.

I have thought back to my disagreements with Supervisor Ruzick (and to conflicts I’ve observed between him and other people). Dan is not perfect, but usually he’ll resolve the issue in a matter of minutes, in the same setting it began.

Even if a dispute escalates with Dan in the room, everyone can get over it comfortably. The next time Dan interacts with me (or whoever was involved) I can expect him to be civil and fair. I don’t need to worry about Dan badmouthing me to others. I don’t need to wonder whether Dan is seeking spite over some long past event. I believe that I can rely on Dan Ruzick to show me, and other people, respect.

Many people agree with me, in feeling we can not rely on Butch Cirino that way.

If you know Butch, think about how he will react to my correcting his attacks on the Township Board. I do not look forward to how Butch will treat me for clarifying the facts — whether he wins the election or not — for years to come. Posting this is likely to be bad for me, personally.

But, I hope it will be good for Antwerp Township, its voters, its taxpayers, and its residents, so I’m going to take this risk.

Why are you so motivated?

Personally, I see Butch Cirino’s strategy as disrespectful and dishonest.

I don’t like bullies — in Washington, on Wall Street, or right here at home — who’ll say or do anything to get what they want.

I’m tired of watching decent people being treated unfairly.

Imagine this: You manage a neighborhood bar that one guy has frequented for thirty years. At some point, after careful consideration, you decide you need to ask him to leave the premises. He gets really upset, because he believed it was “his” bar. Suddenly, he wishes he could ruin your business — or maybe take over your job!

So, he grabs a copy of the Eighteenth Amendment — yeah, from 1918 — and begins calling every lawman in the state trying to get you shut down for “serving liquor.”

Does he ask you why you think it’s legal? Nope. Does he ask your attorney, his old friend, whether it’s legal. Nope. He just calls the local police, the state police… all the police he can think of, making accusations.

And he keeps doing that for months, disrupting your place of business, and your staff, and your relationship with the public.

Except, prohibition ended in 1933. And the guy knew it.

That’s pretty much what I see going on: wasting Attorney General, County Prosecutor, and State Police time and resources, in a misleading effort to discredit good people, in order to get revenge — or maybe for personal gain.

It seems to me that Butch believes it’s fine for him to say bad things about other people. Butch may even think that saying bad things about other people makes him look good.

In mid-2011, the Antwerp Township Board asked me, and I agreed, to serve on a committee charged with reviewing compensation for township positions. The Board then expanded the task somewhat, to include the review of employee contracts, too.

Late in 2011, after reviewing bids and qualifications, our committee recommended a replacement for Butch Cirino as Township Building Inspector, a contract he had held for some thirty years.

In his proposal letter to retain that position, Cirino made claims of inappropriate or illegal conduct against several private interests and public officials.

Let me emphasize that all bids were sealed until all were opened simultaneously. Upon opening, as well as through review at a public meeting of the Township Board, they became public records. This is public information provided to a public body.

In his letter of application, Cirino stated that he had been “responsible for uncovering vast amounts of fraud” by contractors at MPI.

Cirino accused Lawton’s Village President of trying to force Cirino to alter a finding to benefit the “best man” at the President’s wedding. (At that writing, Cirino had recently lost his position as building inspector in the Village of Lawton.)

Cirino alleged that one competitor for the new contract, Texas Township, was guilty of two forms of dishonesty: one, that the Texas Township Board forced their building inspector to circumvent ordinances on township facilities; two, that their building inspector was under review by the State of Michigan for that circumvention, and would therefore lose his license. (That has not occurred. It became apparent, later confirmed by his own admission, that Cirino had initiated that complaint, just as he initiated the current complaint against Dan Ruzick.)

This constituted two pages of a letter submitted as a job application.

Imagine you were in charge of hiring, and found yourself reading accusations like that about your customers, and neighboring businesses.

Let that sink in for a minute.

After requesting and receiving proposals from a half-dozen contractors, and upon our committee’s recommendation, the Antwerp Township Board acted in January, 2012 to engage a new inspector (Texas Township) with similar qualifications and better support, at lower cost.

In public hearings, and privately, Cirino objected bitterly, accusing every member of our committee, every member of our Township Board, and various officials of Texas Township, of conspiring against him.

Cirino began making his accusations while the committee and/or Township Board were still evaluating whom to hire.

Let that sink in, too.

On February 2, 2012, in a lengthy presentation to me, Butch argued that the Antwerp Township Board had been colluding for years to perpetrate fraud against taxpayers.

Cirino bluntly stated that Ruzick was “reporting to himself,” “being paid twice for the same job,” and, alternately, either that “Ruzick hired himself” or that the entire Township Board was a party to “intentional fraud.”

In that private meeting, I suggested repeatedly that Butch’s first course of action should be to inquire of the Township Board or Township Attorney, Harold Schuitmaker (himself at one time a business partner of Cirino). Butch replied that he had already initiated complaints with (at least) the Michigan Attorney General, Michigan State Police, and Van Buren County Prosecutor.

The following week, after my own research, I explained to Butch that the legal basis for his accusations (as detailed above) was “outdated,” “superseded,” “invalid,” and “moot.”

Nonetheless, Cirino continued making these accusations.

Lost in a flurry of allegations against the Supervisor, Cirino’s underlying message is that the entire Antwerp Township Board, individually and collectively, are either fools or criminals. That is unfair to all the other incumbents, whom I believe to have served well and honestly, and who also stand for re-election.

I encourage you to vote in the Tuesday August 7, 2012 primary, to re-elect:

Dan Ruzick, Supervisor

Bonnie Osborne, Treasurer

Heather Mitchell, Clerk

Bruce Cutting, Trustee

Ron Derhammer, Trustee

Thank you for taking time to review all this. It’s unfortunate that I needed to write it, and that you needed to read it.

If you have questions or corrections of fact, you may contact me at

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