MOUNT PLEASANT — In front of a packed village hall, Village President Dave DeGroot opened the Mount Pleasant Village Board meeting on Monday with an apology for his behavior on Aug. 28, when he barred a village resident from speaking during the public comment period.
Despite the apology, DeGroot still ended up being censured — or publicly reprimanded — by his peers on the board.
At the Monday meeting, DeGroot said public comment should be a place for residents to interact with officials in a “respectful and civil manner, and that responsibility starts with me.”
“Two weeks ago I did not show the civility that I ask of others in this chamber,” DeGroot said. “My comments were inconsistent with the decorum expected at board meetings and of my own values. It was unacceptable. I offer my sincere apologies to the citizens of Mount Pleasant. As village president, I hold myself to a high standard, and I did not live up to that standard on Aug. 28.”
The Village Board members each mentioned they were embarrassed by what happened on Aug. 28 and they, along with DeGroot, took their licks during the public comment section Monday as residents expressed their discontent with DeGroot’s previous behavior, the hiring of a project director and concerns about the prospect of Foxconn Technology Co. building a massive manufacturing facility in the village.
Kelly Gallaher, the resident who was barred from speaking in August, finally got her chance to respond to the board about how she felt two weeks ago.
Gallaher said she was frustrated with what happened on Aug. 28 and added DeGroot “does not have the authority to threaten, intimidate or humiliate any resident when making public comment before this body.”
“The events that took place two weeks ago … indicate to me that this president cannot be questioned, cannot be challenged and demonstrates little respect to the rules, ethics and customs governing village business,” Gallaher said. “In my opinion, you do not have the temperament to lead the village forward during this crucial time.”
Gallaher’s husband, Dan Dimler, also spoke during the public comment period in defense of his wife.
“Mr. DeGroot, you said you were going to throw Kelly ‘out on her can,’ is that exciting to you? Envisioning throwing a resident, a lady and my wife out on her can?” Dimler said. “We are your neighbors, Mr. DeGroot. We literally live 10 doors down from you … I suggest you stop spending your time obsessing and fantasizing about my wife and work for our village in a more competent and productive manner.”
Board divided on censure
Toward the end of the meeting, Trustee Gary Feest recommended that the board censure DeGroot’s behavior, officially expressing their disapproval of his behavior.
“There’s no real tooth behind this; there’s no fines,” Feest said. “It’s a statement saying we, the Village Board body, who are part of this process, feel that that process was egregiously ignored.”
Trustee John Hewitt said he was embarrassed by what happened but he was not going to support the censure.
“Mistakes were made,” Hewitt said. “It isn’t easy being up here … we are adults; it won’t happen again.”
During the vote on the censure of DeGroot, DeGroot voted against the resolution but Feest pointed out that he couldn’t vote on the issue.
Feest’s assertion was supported by a village attorney present at the meeting; DeGroot’s vote did not count. The remaining members of the Village Board censured him in a 3-2 vote, with Hewitt and Sonny Havn voting against the resolution.