HOLLY, Michigan – Rearrangement of agenda items leading to one resident’s inability to defend himself have left several residents and one councilman questioning Village President Jeff Miller’s motivation for the changes.
The topic came up during the June 14 Village Council meeting after Miller for the second time within the last month, made a motion to amend the agenda, moving the final public comment segment above staff and council reports.
During the council meeting held on May 24, Miller amended the agenda in the same fashion and later directed Village Manager Jerry Walker to read a letter penned by village Attorney Richard Figura into the record. The letter detailed Figura’s legal opinion regarding comments made by village resident Larry Lilly during the May 17 water and sewer public hearing in which Lilly questioned where $18 million in enterprise funds were spent, and alleged that village officials funneled some of the funds into the quest for cityhood and into developing the village's then non-existent fire department. The amended agenda sequence of May 24 left Lilly unable to rebut Figura’s letter.
In a vote of 4-2, Miller’s motion to change Tuesday's agenda was passed, with council members Jason Hughes and Sandra Kleven casting the dissenting votes.
Hughes maintained Miller’s changes prevent residents from having the final say on important village matters, and urged council to discuss such changes during public session and give notifications of such proposed changes to all council members in a timely fashion – something Hughes says hasn’t been happening in the past.
Village resident and Holly Township Code Enforcer Roger Welsh was among those residents against changing the agenda on Tuesday, and passionately defended Lilly’s comments of May 17, and maligned the way in which council has conducted business recently.
“The Larry Lilly ‘witch hunt’ has taken the irrelevancy of this government to a new level, and it’s one that I can no longer ignore,” Welsh said. “When I read our local papers, I expect to see – and this is not an unreasonable expectation – how you’re moving forward and how you’re responding to some of the incredibly serious issues that this village is facing,” he added. “Instead, I read about a Village Council so infinitely ineffectual that it has chosen to harass a 78 year old man in a public meeting and then in the ultimate expression of being a coward sitting behind a table – gives him no opportunity to respond.”
Welsh was quick to point out that he is not a close friend of Lilly’s, even noting that the two don’t often agree on matters. “I’m here tonight to support his right to speak and to sometimes be wrong,” Welsh said.
“I’ve tried to figure out what happened as it defies any logical explanation,” he continued. “You will never convince me that in the many years of this village’s existence, nobody has ever exaggerated a claim or complaint before, and yet I’ve never heard of any citizen being charged with these foolish charges.”
Over the years, Welsh said he witnessed many a council member openly lying about issues. “I believe should you decide to continue this action, that each of you commit to accept charges of misconduct anytime you misspeak, anytime you make a mistake or exaggerate a claim, or maybe do something really serious like screw up the water system of this village to the point that residents are forced to move – or that some people may be forced to choose whether they eat tonight or flush their toilets,” he added. “Perhaps these trumped up charges are meant to stifle the debate and intimidate the taxpayers that would dare to question your inexcusable misuse of taxpayer funds or even worse, perhaps this is just political theater.”
Welsh acknowledged the fact that Lilly has run for public office on numerous occasions, both for the office of village president, and also for Holly Township supervisor.
Larry Lilly is a common fixtur...
“He’s our perpetual candidate, and he has been Mr. Miller’s opponent in multiple elections,” Welsh said. “You can rest assured that he will be in the next election – that is, unless Mr. Miller under the cover of using my tax dollars to accomplish it, can publicly discredit him.”
Welsh described Lilly as Miller’s number one political rival. “No one else, not in the history of the village has ever been so accused before, because we all know that this would be an obvious conflict – you would assume that Mr. Miller, should he care about providing any appearances of fairness, would recuse himself from participation in this farce, but instead he leads it, and this leadership has the potential of providing him with personal political gain.”
Calling the Lilly litigation a “clear waste of tax payer money,” Welsh then asked if Lilly’s questions of May 17 had touched a nerve.
“Perhaps Mr. Lilly was getting a little too close to the truth,” Welsh said. I can’t blame him for speculation – and you shouldn’t either,” he said.
“You need to support and cherish free speech – it’s one of our most important gifts and this matter needs to end now. You have important business in which to attend – this is not one of them.”
After thanking Welsh for his comments, village resident George Kullis later offered his thoughts on the matter.
“Under this agenda, the citizens of Holly had the last word,” Kullis said holding up an agenda. “Now you’ve taken that away from us after you yourself ran on the promise of transparency – I just think that it’s very sad that we lost the last say,” he added. “And whatever the clerk or village council – any of you have to say, now we’re stuck waiting until the next council meeting to comment, and it’s an excellent way to push things under the rug and it’s cowardly.”
Village Manager Jerry Walker said he had the opportunity of listening to tape recordings provided by Lilly predating the Pulte/Silverman agreement, and that so far, he has no information that support’s Lilly’s allegations of last month.
With a deadline of June 16, Walker said as of June 14, Lilly had not provided the village with additional information. Walker will return to the office on June 21, and is expected to present council with a summary of his findings pertaining to Lilly’s allegations at the next council meeting to be held on June 28.