A crowd of over 75 residents filled a meeting room at Eaton Rapids City Hall Jan. 28, more than double the normal number of participants, to speak and hear comments regarding an issue involving City Clerk Kristy Reinecke, her husband, and unearned vacation days she approved for him, said City Assessor Mike Baker, who has served as city assessor since 1995 and said he rarely misses a city council meeting.
Reinecke was first discussed at the council’s Dec. 26, 2007 meeting (read the Dec. 26 meeting’s minutes). As city clerk, Reinecke’s duties include completing the city’s payroll and making sure it is accurate. An investigation found that there were a number of errors throughout the past two years on the city’s payroll. The biggest problem found was her husband receiving pay for 94 hours of vacation time that he had not earned.
On the 26th, Reinecke was asked to step down for the remainder of the meeting when the matter came up and City Deputy Carla Mazur took her place as clerk. Councilwoman Letarte moved that Reinecke be removed from her position and it was seconded by Councilman Harri. The motion failed and a new motion was suggested. The new motion proposed that Reinecke keep her position but suffer a reduction in pay and one year of probation. The members approved the motion 3-2.
During the public comments portion of the Jan. 28 meeting, residents commented on the handling of the payroll discrepancies, unhappiness at the lack of snow removal on local streets and the inappropriateness of saying the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer before the meeting began.
One concern of residents is that the meetings on Reinecke’s behavior were not open to the public. Reinecke’s attorney Larry Nolan said that some of the meetings involving the issue were deemed private so closed to the public, even though he said Reinecke was willing to open the meetings. “People who have nothing to hide have no problem discussing it in open session,” Nolan said in Reinecke’s defense.
Since the payroll scandal, residents are also more concerned about where their money goes and how it is used. Resident Rod Schulte said in the meeting that he is determined to get to the bottom of how much the mayor and council members earn, as well as how money is spent and reimbursed by the city. He said that he is contemplating writing a letter to the Lansing State Journal so they will investigate the matter. Schulte also addressed the need to separate church and state at the meetings In the council’s closing remarks, Councilman-at-Large Roger Greenhoe thanked Schulte for his concern.
After discussion of the Reinecke situation, Charles Cartwright, a 52-year Eaton Rapids resident, expressed concern with the city’s snow removal process. He said that in his subdivision snow had not been completely plowed, causing children to walk in the street instead of snow covered sidewalks or grassy areas. He said he is concerned with the safety of Eaton Rapids’ school-aged children.
In new business, Mayor James Davidson recommended reappointing Daniel Wrubel to the Hospital Finance Authority Board for a three year term. He also recommended reappointing John VanArk and Kathy DeGrow to the Planning Commission, as well as Nelda Greenhoe to the Library Board for a five year term.
Along with the reappointing of numerous city board officials, Eaton Rapids’ storm water drainage system and utility improvements, planned to begin in the summer of 2009, were also discussed, and Mayor Davidson honored Marcus Greathouse for earning the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America, and for his contributions to the city of Eaton Rapids. Greathouse is a member of Boy Scout Troop 52, which was the mayor’s troop as well.