RJ Peterson's Attempt To Obtain Seat On The Kalamazoo Lake Harbor Authority Board Rebuffed
The area’s most important marina owner’s attempts to take Saugatuck-Douglas Convention and Visitor Bureau Executive (CVB) Director Felicia Fairchild’s at-large seat on the Kalamazoo Lake Harbor Authority Board amounts to “harassment,” say Douglas city officials.
And if it actually took place, it would represent a “textbook” case of “conflict of interest,” said Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere.
LeFevere and the Douglas City Council talked about the matter during this week’s meeting.
The city officials went over a January 12 memo Fairchild sent to the city in which she relates, in part, that she had been “approached a month ago by local Tower Marina owner RJ Peterson “who told me that he wanted my seat on the Harbor Authority.
“He said that he was an important stakeholder by virtue of the amount of property that he owns on the harbor (Tower Marina etc.). He feels I am not a stakeholder even though I represent our $255 million tourism industry.”
Fairchild went on to say she would delegate the matter to the governing agencies (the cities of Douglas and Saugatuck and the harbor authority) as she was not ready to resign unless they felt “Rollie’s (Peterson) appointment would be more suitable to moving harbor plans and business along more quickly and efficiently.”
Meanwhile, Peterson strongly repudiates the characterization of the conversation between him and Fairchild as harassment.
“Felicia and I have no problems; we had a great conversation about the harbor, about what is the best way to move forward (about the silt problem and harbor improvements) because so far nothing has been accomplished,” said Peterson.
“Felicia is the one that said, ‘If it would help things, I would step aside.’ But the real issue here is that the harbor authority, per its own governing rules, must have a stakeholder. “You must have someone on that board that at least owns a marina,” said Peterson. “Otherwise, how do you communicate and how do you know what is going on with things related to the harbor?”
This is not the first time Peterson has tried to secure a seat on the harbor authority; he unsuccessfully attempted to gain a seat in 2013 as well, LeFevere said, noting he wanted to remind the council.
“I have prepared a response to Felicia…and apologize to her for what I consider a fair amount of harassment (on the part of Peterson),” said LeFevere.
In that letter, LeFevere states, in part, “Mr. Peterson has invented what he calls a ‘structural problem’ that would apparently all be fixed if he were only given a vote on the Authority Board.
“In reality, his appointment to the board would represent a textbook example of why we have laws regulating against conflicts of interest.”
Council members supported the move and expressed their high regard for the CVB director.