Saugatuck Township Fire District Officials Respond To Public Statement By Township Treasurer Lori Babinski Questioning Their Integrity & Professionalism
The ongoing political and public relations problems facing four of five elected trustees of Saugatuck Township government mounted after Trustee Lori Babinksi publicly during a recent meeting questioned the integrity and professionalism of Saugatuck Township Fire Chief Greg Janik and the members of his department.
At a March 17 Saugatuck Township Board meeting, Babinski lashed out at Janik - who was in the audience - for his efforts in seeking to obtain township resident signatures for a recall petition targeting Township Treasurer Babinski, Clerk Brad Rudich, and Trustees Doug Lane and Roy McIlwaine.
At the center of the controversy say critics of the government leaders, are several decisions and actions by those township officials over the past year, including trying to strip the fire department of its legally constituted duties of overseeing and making decisions on fire safety issues involving developers and home and business owners; funding a township bike trail and future maintenance costs without voter approval; refusing to fire Saugatuck Township Manager Aaron Sheridan who has verbally attacked local and area fire officials, residents, secretly taped a meeting with other government officials and reportedly cursed and threatended then-Township Supervisor Jon Phillips, trying to use taxpayer dollars to reimburse a township employee for printing a pro-township board letter in another local newspaper, and more.
The actions of the township leaders led to the formation of Saugatuck Township Recall, a group of township residents looking to strip the controversial officials of their jobs.
The Allegan County Elections Commission has approved the recall language allowing the issue to be put before voters.
Township residents will decide that issue in the upcoming November election.
Rudich, Babinski, Lane and McIlwaine have repeatedly called the recall effort “a witch hunt” and have blamed Janik and fire department personnel, The Local Observer, various township residents, other goverment officials and others for trying get them recalled from office.
But Babinksi’s recent public statements questioning the integrity of the township’s fire district leader and staff have sparked an angry response from serveral township residents and a concerned reply from the Fire District’s top officials.
In a letter dated April 3 and sent by those fire officials to the Saugatuck Township Board of Trustees, it stated:
“Dear Board of Trustees,
We, the Fire Officers of the Saugatuck Township Fire District, object to statements made at the 3/17/18 Township Board meeting.
We are grateful for Erin Wilkinson donating her time and equipment to videotape the township meeting as it allows taxpayers to see the entire meeting even when they are unable to attend in person.
Trustee (Lori) Babinski made the statement: “I am afraid if I had a house fire right now, you would take the long way there” to Fire Chief Greg Janik.
We find this statement insulting and offensive to all Fire District personnel.
Many would consider the “venting” session the Township Trustees held at the 3/7/18 meeting conduct unprofessional and and unbecoming of elected officials, but we are primarily concerned with the one statement Trustee Babinski made regarding Fire District response to a potential emergency at her home.
As professional firefighters and emergency medical responders, it would be unethical, immoral and a neglect of our legal duties to “take the long way” while responding to emergencies.
We, the Fire Officers of the Saugatuck Township Fire District, are disappointed that Trustee Babinski would insinuate that Chief Janik, or any Fire District personnel, would take their time to respond to any emergency.
All members of the Saugatuck Township Fire District are committed to providing the highest level of emergency services to all residents, business owners, taxpayers and visitors of the three communities we serve.
We respond the same to all emergencies equally regardless of race, gender, national origin, color, ethnicity, religion, disability, political affiliation or other characterstics without privilege, discrimination or bias.
We remain committed to working with the Township of Saugatuck, the City of Saugatuck and the City of the Village of Douglas to ensure all Fire District members are well served and protected.”
The letter is signed by Deputy Fire Chief Chris Mantels, Captain Linus Starring, Captain Brent Van Oss, Sergeant Chris Bernhardy, Sergeant John Mileskiewicz and Sergeant Mike England.