Residents demand apology for police report

By: Dean Vaglia | Mount Clemens-Clinton-Harrison Journal | Published June 22, 2022


MOUNT CLEMENS — Several Mount Clemens residents called upon the city’s commission to apologize on June 6 after a commissioner filed a police report against a resident in April.

Barb Dempsey, a member of the Mount Clemens City Commission and a former mayor, reported activist and nonprofit operator Thomas Barnes to the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office the day after the April 18 commission meeting. Dempsey claimed Barnes “was attempting to intimidate her” and the commission following a public comment by Barnes regarding what he saw as a lack of respect toward how he and his nonprofit TCB Youth Mentoring have handled events at the Cairns Community Center. The investigation into Dempsey’s complaint did not lead to prosecution.

“I have started to get to know (Barnes) better and become more involved with the Cairns Center and some of the organizations that he supports and some of the programs that he supports, and I cannot be prouder to have Thomas Barnes as a community member and to be able to support him as a resident of the city of Mount Clemens,” said Diana Evennou, a Mount Clemens resident. “I also do think an apology is in order and that, if we lose people that really passionately believe in putting a hand down to help the next generation up, then we are going to fail as a community, and we cannot afford to fail.”

Evennou’s sentiments were shared by several other commenting residents.

“The word of God says that, if we have an odd against our brother and sister, we go to have conversation and figure out what the odd is,” Ruthie Stevenson said. “We do not go to the city manager, and we do not go to the police, but hopefully these two individuals … can come together to have resolution, because they are still impacting the community.”

The sentiment that conversations should be had was a recurring suggestion by the public, starting with resident Erik Rick’s comment.

“I believe an apology is in order for a commissioner calling the police on a resident after they made some public comments, but I also believe we need to start moving past that and hopefully what comes next is more conversation,” Rick said.

Rick encouraged attendees to take part in the community conversations at the Cairns Center on Tuesdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Barnes spoke during the public comment periods, though neither he nor Dempsey addressed the issue at the meeting. The commission did not give a public apology at the meeting.


Second reading of marijuana business ordinance rescinded
On June 6, the commission voted to rescind the May 16 second reading and approval of the city’s marijuana businesses ordinance. City Manager Donald Johnson raised concerns over the licensing process being abused.

“You probably all noticed as you came in today, we have got our first group of people camped out in the parking lot,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he expected license applicants to camp outside of the city offices for an early shot at the licenses, and he did not expect unruly or obstructive behavior by the campers. However, he said the organization employing the campers is “planning to submit multiple applications on behalf of multiple firms in multiple locations, and they are expecting to do that from a single place in line.”

Johnson saw this strategy as problematic, as it could lead to the first person in line “freezing out” other applicants by submitting multiple applications at once.

“Frankly, it is something that we did not anticipate,” Johnson said. “And, to some degree, I have to give them credit for being more clever than we were.”

The ordinance will be revised to prevent that type of filing strategy and will be brought back before the commission at a later date.


Blight and rental inspector discussion
Also on June 6, commissioners tabled a motion to renew the rental inspection contract for Michael Ferron, spending much of the discussion expressing dissatisfaction with how blighted properties were enforced.

“One of the complaints we hear regularly … is the blight that takes place at a lot of these rentals,” Commissioner Denise Mentzer said. “The cars, the trash, the furniture on the porches, etc., etc.”

While Mentzer presented numbers showing that Ferron was inspecting more properties in 2022 than in 2021, she believed there needed to be more strict enforcement of blight and rental maintenance.

When asked by Mayor Laura Kropp about what the biggest hurdle to Ferron tackling the blight issue, Community Development Director Brian Tingley cited the lack of personnel.

“We took a look back to before Mr. Ferron was laid off from his city position in 2011 and brought back as a contractor,” Tingley said. “Even going back to the early 2000s, the city had at one point about one, almost two full-time equivalent people strictly for the rental inspection program. Now he’s an independent contractor, it is not a full-time position technically and I really do think it is an issue of manpower.”

Tingley recommended the commission look into reviving a full-time inspector position, though Kropp mentioned there is no money in the budget to make the change for this fiscal year. Commissioner Laura Fournier was particularly displeased with Ferron’s performance, citing examples like a rental property having a broken window that has been unaddressed for two years.

“I get so frustrated because when you call up here and say that there is an issue, nothing happens,” Fournier said. “That broken window is a perfect example; I walk by it every day, and there it is.”

The rental inspector position will likely be addressed at the June 20 meeting.