Archived Story

Editorial: ‘News release’ was in poor judgment

Published 11:54pm Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The ongoing controversy between Niles Township officials all began with a slip of paper with 86 words typed on it.

Last week at a Niles city council meeting, Township Supervisor Jim Kidwell gave reporters a statement labeled as a “news release” alerting them of an investigation of Township Treasurer Jim Ringler for allegedly violating township policy.

The “news release” was an inappropriate move by Kidwell, with political overtones that don’t serve the best interests of township residents. The investigation cost the township money. Whether or not the investigation was or was not necessary, more than one person’s go-ahead should be given before tax dollars are spent.

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.”

At Monday’s township meeting, township attorney Mary Spiegel informed the board that the investigation, completed by a Kalamazoo law firm, found Ringler did not violate township policy.

See the stories in Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s Star for all the details.

Several board members were unhappy that they were not consulted before the press release was distributed.

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.

Clearly, the township needs to put a policy in place, and the authority to issue what may seem like official township news needs to involve more than one person. If the township did have such a policy, the release probably would not have been disseminated, considering many of the board members did not want to associate themselves with the release.

“This was not a board press release,” said Trustee Dick Cooper at Monday’s township board meeting. “The board did not vote on this or decide on this.”

Ringler’s attorney R. McKinley “Mac” Elliott says the press release was an attempt by Kidwell to “smear” Ringler. But Kidwell says he was trying to dispel rumors around town about the investigation of Ringler.

Regardless of Kidwell’s motivation, it was poor judgment to inform the public of an internal conflict before any violation of policy was confirmed — especially without consulting other board members.

The fact that the public was made aware of the investigation and then Ringler was essentially exonerated from any violation of policy created unneeded controversy and is embarrassing to the township.

This editorial reflects the views of the Niles Daily Star editorial board.

  • madison

    “essentially exonerated from any violation of policy”? Have we been reading the same media reports? No where have I read anything that suggests he was exonerated. The Township Board is not included in the policy manual. Therefore, he was not in violation. I also read that the Township attorney said the investigating attorney “strongly advised” a policy manual for the trustees be put in place as well, regarding expected behavior and surely ethics! It never surprises me how our local media can publish their own version of events in our community. It’s sad we can’t depend on our hometown news paper to publish the truth.

  • Mark

    I find it interesting that Kidwell is taking so much heat for this. As far as I know he has done nothing wrong other than trying to be open with the public. I also would like to bring up that our clerk has done this very same thing when one of our trustees was accused of poor behavior. Marge Durm-Hiatt released information to the press as well.

    In this readers opinion there would not be an issue here at all if Mr. Ringler would have simply separated his career in real estate with his political career. As a township resident I would have been angry with Mr. Kidwell if he had NOT notified the attorney of Mr. Ringler’s wrong doing. This investigation was done due to Mr. Ringler’s anger issues, not because of Mr. Kidwell. In the meantime our poor zoning administrator has to continue to work with Mr. Ringler. Maybe we should be questioning ourselves as voters if we should allow that to continue!

    I also agree with Madison. Mr. Ringler was only saved from breaking any policy and procedure because there are none to break!

  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/kbtonkin Kevin Tonkin

    Motive I say, motive. Roseland is alive and well! Did we say it would be so?

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