Archived Story

Twp. treasurer may seek lawsuit

Published 10:46pm Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It appears Niles Township Treasurer Jim Ringler’s name has been cleared for now, after it was revealed Monday night that an internal investigation showed he did not violate township policy.
But the issue is not dead yet.

Jim Ringler

Ringler’s lawyer, R. McKinley “Mac” Elliott, said in a phone interview Tuesday that he and Ringler are “examining the option” of pursuing legal action against Niles Township Supervisor Jim Kidwell for distributing a news release that Ringler has called “defaming.”
The issue stems back to last week when Kidwell gave reporters a news release alerting them of an investigation of Ringler. According to the release, the investigation was the result of a complaint from Niles Township Zoning Administrator Stefanie Woodrick about “two separate occasions when Ringler … tried to intimidate (her) into making illegal zoning changes.”
If the changes had been made, according to the release, Ringler and the real estate company for which he works, Grubb & Ellis/Cressy & Everett, would have benefited financially.
After Township Attorney Mary Spiegel shared with the township board the results of the investigation completed by Kalamazoo law firm Miller Canfield, Kidwell asked if the investigation revealed any criminal offenses. Spiegel said it hadn’t, because the investigation was only to see if Ringler had violated township policy.

Jim Kidwell

Contacted by phone Tuesday, Kidwell said the complaint was also forwarded to the state attorney general’s office, but the township has yet to hear back about it.
Elliott said the fact Kidwell would even insinuate the possibility of criminal charges was out of bounds.
“It should be obvious if there was no violation of the township policy manual, then logically there could not have been a violation of something more serious in nature,” he said. “For someone to raise that question simply underscores the extent to which he is willing to go to smear Mr. Ringler.”
Kidwell said he was not trying to defame Ringler through the press release. He claims he was trying to do the opposite.
Kidwell said he had been hearing “far-fetched” rumors around town about the allegations against Ringler.
“I gave the new release to put a stop to the rumors,” he said.
Asked about the possible litigation against him, Kidwell said: “If there is a lawsuit against me for telling the truth, I guess that will be something for the courts to decide.”
At Monday’s meeting, several board members expressed frustration for not being consulted before the news release was put out.
The township does not have a policy regarding who can administer press releases or whether they need board approval, but Kidwell said being the “spokesperson” for the township is part of his duties as supervisor.
“Since I’ve came in here, I’ve learned one thing,” Kidwell said. “A lot of things are trying to be kept from the public. As long as I’m supervisor, I’m going to let the public know what’s going on.”

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