Saugatuck Township Nixes Former Attorney's Request To Represent Laketown In Dispute
In a four-to-one voice vote, the Saugatuck Township Board at its meeting last week told former township attorney Ronald Bultje that it is not okay for him to represent Laketown Township in an ongoing legal dispute Laketown has with Saugatuck Township over public water and sanitary sewer connection matters.
“The conflict of interest is there—it is no longer a debatable issue, that is why Ron (Bultje) asked us to sign this,” Saugatuck Township Manager Aaron Sheridan informed his board Wednesday, adding that it was up to the board members, not him, to reject or approve a waiver for Bultje.
The Saugatuck Township Board move may lead Laketown Township officials to scramble for another attorney to represent them in a legal case that, according to Saugatuck Township officials, involves Laketown asking Saugatuck Township for a significant amount of money in reimbursements related to water and sewer connections.
The board has previously discussed the Bultje issue in a number of occasions and determined Bultje could not be the legal counsel to both Saugatuck Township and Laketown Township in this particular legal case without it constituting a conflict of interest.
In fact, it was precisely that conversation and its conclusion that prompted Saugatuck Township officials to completely divest itself of the legal services provided by Bultje and replace him with a new township attorney, Scott Smith of the Dickinson Wright law firm.
The board made that decision - unanimously in a roll call vote - at a special board meeting held on Monday, April 6 in which only three of the five-member body was present: Saugatuck Township Clerk Brad Rudich, Saugatuck Township Clerk Lori Babinski and Saugatuck Township Trustees Roy McIlwaine.
That vote upset Saugatuck Township Supervisor Bill Wester, who was absent from the special meeting.
Saugatuck TownshipTrustee Jonathan Phillips also was not present at the special meeting.
Wester represented the only dissenting voice on the matter, asking his colleagues for more time to review the issue. “I have some reservations about doing this hurriedly,” said Wester.
He also argued that by not allowing the waiver, the Saugatuck Township Board “was creating a situation where somebody (Bultje) is not allowed to work.”
As for the legal proceedings, the board recently held a closed session about it and has closely guarded information about those talks which is in accordance with the Michigan Open Meetings Act.
The case is related to the Kingfisher Cove Development, noted Sheridan.