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MOUNT PLEASANT — Sean McFarlane, 35, was expecting some money from the Village of Mount Pleasant when his residence was among those acquired for the Foxconn development.

However, when McFarlane’s mother (who doubled as her son’s landlord) signed an inaccurate affidavit about how many people lived on her property, McFarlane and his family were overlooked in the settlements landowners and tenants made with the village.

Now, McFarlane is blaming Mount Pleasant officials for misleading him. Simultaneously, the village is considering suing McFarlane’s mom for lying on a legal document when she sold her property, but promised to back off if she covers the money owed to her son.

The situation

McFarlane was paying his mom $500 rent monthly so that he, his girlfriend, Pamela Voss, and their four sons (ages 4 to 14) could stay with her at 12305 Braun Road. This would make McFarlane a tenant of his mother, Sherri Shaver, even though they lived in the same house.

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Shaver signed over ownership of the home to the village in April, the affidavit incorrectly stated that she was the only occupant, even though there were seven people living there. Shaver claims that she only signed the form under the advice of her attorney, Tom Devine, although Devine denies knowing that the affidavit was incorrect.

Devine reportedly represented as many as 20 residents who were displaced by Foxconn.

According to village officials, Shaver received 140 percent of the assessed value of her property plus $54,000 in relocation benefits in her settlement.

Village officials said they didn’t realize McFarlane’s family was living at the Braun Road address until just a few days before the home was to be vacated, although McFarlane claims that he had spoken with Claude Lois, the village’s Foxconn project manager, weeks earlier.

In response, Mount Pleasant extended the deadline for the home to be vacated and provided a temporary home on 90th Street for McFarlane’s family to live in rent-free. Mount Pleasant also paid about $2,000 to cover moving expenses. Shaver moved to a new home she purchased on Airline Road.

Before leaving the house on Braun Road, McFarlane received a letter from the village. The letter, dated June 29, said his household could receive up to $22,080 in relocation payments. That number is approximately equal to the difference in McFarlane’s current rent ($500/month) and his future rent (a $1,000/month lease at a home on Four Mile Road that Shaver purchased), multiplied over 48 months. The letter also included a “90-Day Notice of Occupancy,” stating that McFarlane and his family would have to be out of the home by July 30, 31 days after the letter was received. The letter claimed that the 90-day window had already started on April 30, the day that his mother’s sale closed with the village.

Soon after, McFarlane’s family moved into a rent-free temporary home provided by the village.

Then, on Sept. 26, less than a week after the Braun Road home was demolished, McFarlane received a voicemail from relocation specialist Peter Miesbauer, informing him of the following: “The village did approve that amount ($22,080). However, I was told that they are not going to cut a check for that amount … Because you are in effect renting from your mother, they are taking the approach that your rent with your mother has been already prepaid (as part of her settlement with the village), so she can deduct that $22,080 from the amount the village provided her for relocation assistance … I know that may come as a big surprise for you, it came as a big surprise for me as well.”

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“How come they waited until I moved out of Braun Road (to tell us this)?” McFarlane said. “They just said this to get me out of the house.”

On Sept. 28, Shaver received an email from Devine, informing her that the village was threatening legal action if she didn’t pay her son the $22,080. The village believes that she technically lied on her affidavit by saying she was the only resident at 12305 Braun Road, and thus, since her settlement was meant to cover all occupants of her property, she owes her son the money he was pledged.

What’s next?

Everyone to whom The Journal Times spoke agrees that McFarlane and his family are entitled $22,080. It’s now a question of who should pay them.

Village officials believe it wouldn’t be fair or legal for Mount Pleasant to pay McFarlane, since the village already paid Shaver for her property, plus relocation benefits, to cover all of the residents at 12305 Braun Road.

“It is not appropriate or fair for the owner and occupants of the original property to misrepresent who was living there and then seek to recoup the same relocation benefit twice,” Lois said in a statement sent on Sept. 27.

“I think it’s unfair for my mom to have to pay … I was never included in that settlement,” McFarlane responded. “They said they never knew I existed.”

McFarlane and Shaver believe that the village should pay McFarlane directly, since he was a resident of a home Mount Pleasant took over during land acquisitions for Foxconn. They believe that Shaver is entitled to all of the original money she was promised and that settlement shouldn’t affect what McFarlane receives, especially since they think she was improperly advised by her lawyer.

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Shaver claimed that Devine knew McFarlane and his family were living with her. Devine told The Journal Times that, at the time it was signed, he believed the affidavit was accurate.

“I felt very uncomfortable with my lawyer,” Shaver told The Journal Times. “He never would tell the village about my son.”

After leaving 12305 Braun Road, McFarlane was planning on moving his family to another home Shaver purchased and paying her rent. But that home, a foreclosure on Four Mile Road, had belonged to a hoarder and it needs a lot of work before it’ll be hospitable for his family, according to McFarlane. He was planning on using the $22,080 to fix up the house, but now he’s not sure when, or if, that money will be delivered.

“I never would’ve had my mom go along with (purchasing this foreclosed home) if we weren’t going to be getting this money,” McFarlane said. “How can I expect her to keep paying for us?”

Other issues

Meanwhile, from a broken furnace to murky water, McFarlane’s family isn’t pleased with the temporary home Mount Pleasant provided on 90th Street.

McFarlane lost a leg in a car accident 13 years ago and gets around using a power wheelchair. Although he can get in and out of the house OK, he says that the house isn’t fully wheelchair accessible, even though the village promised it would be.

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A ramp was installed at the front door but not the back, and McFarlane had to remove the doors to his bedroom and bathroom so that his wheelchair could fit through them.

When his family moved into the temporary home last month, there wasn’t any air conditioning. The village provided a window A/C unit, but McFarlane said it doesn’t work well. The furnace is also broken, which the village said it didn’t know about until after the family was moving in.

“It’s getting cold. I’m freaking out that I don’t have heat here (at the temporary house) or at the other place (on Four Mile Road),” McFarlane said.

Since nobody had lived in the 90th Street home for several years, the well water has become questionable. It “smells toxic,” according to McFarlane, but it’s gotten better since the family moved in. Regardless, they are still afraid of drinking it.

“We don’t want to be here any longer than we already are,” McFarlane said.

When Devine heard about the ongoing dispute, he reached out to see if Shaver wanted legal representation again. She rejected the offer.

“He can go kick rocks,” McFarlane said.

McFarlane made a GoFundMe online fundraiser (bit.ly/2NiyPgs) on Sept. 29 to help cover moving costs, but there haven’t been any donations as of Tuesday evening, even though it has been shared 25 times on Facebook.

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Reporter

Before the JT hired him, Adam graduated from St. Cat's in 2014 and Drake University in 2017. He covers homelessness and Caledonia, is the JT's social media leader, believes in the Oxford comma, and loves digital subscribers: journaltimes.com/subscribenow

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