Commissioner conduct hot topic at Buchanan City Commission meeting

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, July 11, 2023

BUCHANAN — The public hearing on a citizen complaint against Buchanan City Commissioner Dan Vigansky was canceled prior to Monday’s Buchanan City Commission meeting, but that didn’t stop people from talking about it. 

The complaint filed by resident Tony Houser was withdrawn late last week. He alleged that Vigansky had violated the city’s Code of Conduct and Ethics by using profanity in two private conversations, revealed information from Commission closed session meetings and disrupted a Buchanan Area Recreation Board meeting in June. 

Vigansky himself addressed the matter during his comments at the end of Monday night’s City Commission meeting. He thanked Houser for withdrawing the complaint. He added that while others had criticized Houser for filing the complaint, he said he would defend Houser’s right to do so. 

“The circle I run in wanted to assassinate you,” Vigansky told Houser who was in attendance at the meeting. “I defended you. You have a First Amendment right to speak.” 

While Vigansky didn’t criticize Houser, he did criticize fellow city commissioners for voting to hold the hearing in the first place as well as the city attorney for his advice on the subject. He noted that others besides Houser had accused him of misfeasance which he denied. 

“The only thing I’m guilty of is being politically incorrect,” he said. “I’m not going to apologize for my personality … If people really listen to anything I’m saying, it’s all about the money and trying to keep the city from spending too much.” 

Vigansky was defended by people at the start and end of the meeting. Cass County resident Roger Boyer said he came to support Vigansky and hadn’t been aware that the hearing had been cancelled. 

“I’m pretty convinced that he has been pretty much singled out because he’s willing to stand up,” he said. “I want you to understand that people support him in and out of the county.” 

Buchanan resident Carla Johnson suggested that the commission reconsider the Code of Conduct and Ethics it passed a few years ago.  She noted that under state law, only the governor can remove a local elected official and then only for things like official misconduct, willful neglect of duty, extortion, habitual drunkenness or a felony conviction. 

“You need to reconsider your Code of Ethics,” she said. “Because when you weaponize it, you open a Pandora’s box. I put together documentation for complaints against three other covered individuals for doing exactly what Dan was accused of.” 

She said the complaint filed against Vigansky had done nothing but divide the community.

“This could have become a Hatfield and McCoy feud ending in even more damage than the process of approving and setting up a hearing has already caused,” she said. “That damage is irreparable enough.” 

“People had to pay for lawyers and suffer unnecessary stress and damage to their reputations and not just Dan,” she added. “Supporters of both sides were upset and would have been here tonight despite a hostile environment. You set the gossip mills on fire, and further lost faith in City Hall … Was it really worth it? Why did this happen?” 

In action at Monday night’s meeting, commissioners approved the purchase of new timekeeping software which should make city government run more efficiently. The quote from Time Clock Plus was approved, with a one-time cost of $10,689 and an annual cost of $6,264. 

Commissioners also approved two downtown façade grant applications. The façade grant application allows downtown businesses get 60 percent or up to $10,000 of projects paid for by the city.  

Applications were approved with Vigansky voting no for McCoy’s Creek Tavern and Lehman’s Orchard Brewery Farmhouse. The McCoy’s Creek Tavern project involves replacing the awning at a total cost of $6,428. The Lehman’s project involves installing a new patio seating area along the creek at a total cost of $20,136. 

Commissioners approved a request for proposals for the city-owned vacant lot at 123 Days Ave., again with Vigansky voting no. A similar request for proposals for the Ross-Sanders House came back with only the Michigan Gateway Community Foundation submitting a bid which will now be under review by the city.

A groundbreaking has been set for the new Department of Public Works building. It is set for Thursday, July 20 at 1 p.m. Construction is expected to be done by next March.