News Story

Resident Wants City Official Removed For Committing Lockdown Protest

Subject line of local realtor's complaint: ‘Dan Fox Protesting in Lansing’

After receiving some complaints, elected officials in Saugatuck are looking into the process of removing a resident from an appointed office after one appointee attended an April 15 Lansing protest against what its organizers called the governor’s overreaching state-at-home order.

Kirk Harrier, the Saugatuck city manager, said the city received complaints against Daniel Fox, who is a member of the city planning commission and a city representative to the Saugatuck Township Fire District board. Fox had attended “Operation Gridlock,” a protest of a recent stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city manager said in an email that the City Council received legal advice from an attorney on the matter, but no action is scheduled on removing Fox from his appointed positions.

The City Council’s recent meeting agenda packet lists an item, dated April 22, which explained the process of removing appointed officials from their posts.

“Proper authorization to remove an appointed City official requires a fact specific analysis. Below is an overview of the generally applicable principles and laws related to the removal of City officials,” the memo read.

The memo was written by Jeff Sluggett, an attorney who deals in municipal law. It specifically mentions how to remove a member from the Planning Commission.

“Although a City has some latitude in determining what constitutes removal ‘for cause,’ there must be a direct connection between the misconduct and the performance of official duties,” it states.

Saugatuck Mayor Ken Trester said Fox was not going to be removed from any appointed positions.

"We are not planning to remove Dan from anything," Trester said in an email. "The item on today’s agenda is there to answer the question that was raised as to what is the extent of Council’s authority to remove anyone from office."

Fox wrote in an April 17 letter to the City Council that he attended the protest and practiced proper social distancing there. (Most of the protest involved people sitting in several thousand cars).

“During the entire event, I maintained recommended social-distancing,” Fox wrote. “I had no physical-touch contact with any person from the time I left Saugatuck until I returned home.”

Fox wrote that he also adhered to proper social distancing protocols when invited to do a TV interview at the event. He added that he spoke as a concerned citizen only and did not mention either of his government positions.

Dick Waskin, a Saugatuck resident and local real estate agent, sent a letter to the Saugatuck Township Fire Chief Greg Janik and the Saugatuck Township Fire District Board via email, with the subject: “Dan Fox Protesting in Lansing”.

Waskin, who included four screen shots of photos to support his arguments, forwarded the email to Michigan Capitol Confidential. Its full text is printed below.

“As most of you are aware Board member Dan Fox attended a protest rally Last week in Lansing in violation of the Governor's emergency stay at home order. He appeared out of his car, in violation of the order and in violation to the protest organizers own rules in a Fox news interview. This has been brought to the attention of the Saugatuck City Council. Dan has since sent a letter in his defense. His letter is a gross misinterpretation of what actually happened in Lansing as was witnessed and recorded in Lansing. According to Dan all was peaceful and there were no issues. As the attached photos show it was filled with people displaying automatic weapons, Trump signs, swastikas and confederate flags on the steps of the capitol. These were protesters out of their cars, not adhering to social distancing and very few, including Dan wearing masks.

Dan goes on to say that there were no issues with emergency vehicles getting through. This is also false as you can see by the attached photo. The protest was called Operation Gridlock, the intent was to Gridlock Lansing. It did. The Gridlock was so successful that the entrance to Sparrow Hospital was blocked and emergency vehicles were delayed access. Patients and Health care workers were subjected to the sounds of persistent honking horns and Health care workers were reported in tears as they attempted to care for their dieing patients during the protest, (see the attached screen capture from one of the Health Care Workers).

What is particularly ironic about Dan attending and supporting Operation Gridlock is that traffic Gridlock was the goal. Yet Dan appeared not to long ago before the Fire Board repeatedly showing the Board a video on the South side of the Blue Star Bridge to show how congestion was slowing the progress of emergency vehicles and threatening safety.

The Mission of the Fire Board is to promote the safety of the people of their district and follow all safety rules and guidelines. Dan's actions fly in the face of this goal. Dan has the right to protest but not as a Fire District Board Member. I would hope Dan would realize this and step down from his position. If he does not I would hope the Board would condemn his actions and request that the Saugatuck City Council remove him from the Board. If Dan is allowed to stay it sends the message that people can pick and choose which laws and safety rules they should obey and which ones they can ignore. I appreciate your time to discuss and decide what would be the best course of action.


Dick Waskin”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.