Mount Pleasant Village President Dave DeGroot was censured by his fellow board members Monday for an outburst he directed at a resident that attempted to speak during the previous board meetings public comment section.
DeGroot barred Mount Pleasant resident Kelly Gallaher on August 28 from speaking during the public comment period saying that she was overheard swearing during a previous meeting and was therefore out of order. Gallaher denied ever swearing.
Not only did DeGroot bar Gallaher from speaking that night, but he publicly reprimanded her telling her that if he had personally heard it, he would’ve thrown her out on her can. He also demanded a letter of apology five days in advance before the next meeting if she wanted to speak during public comment again. And he threatened Gallaher with being cited or arrested for the alleged foul language.
DeGroot and Gallaher have a long history as antagonists in Mount Pleasant politics. Their disagreements came to a head during the last election in spring 2017 when Gallaher was working closely with the campaign of former village president Jerry Garski, whom DeGroot unseated.
Before the meeting opened began Monday, DeGroot delivered an apology to a packed Mount Pleasant village hall promising to never behave in that manner again.
“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 with my own values.”
But that didn’t stop a number of residents using the public comment period to shame him for his actions. Nor did it stop his colleagues from censuring him, which is a formal expression of disapproval that has no legal or punitive effect.
Gallaher had the opportunity to speak for herself during public comment. She told DeGroot saying that he, “Verbally abused, humiliated, and bullied” her. She said she has never seen anything like the meeting two weeks ago and added, “In my opinion, you do not have the temperament to lead the village forward during this crucial time.”
Trustee Gary Feest, who made the motion for censure, said not only were DeGroots comments to Gallaher “out of line,” but threatening to have Trustee John Hansen removed for trying to call a point of order over the debacle was: “Flat out not doable.”
Trustees Sonny Havn and John Hewitt voted against the censure. Hewitt said “mistakes were made” and there were “embarrassments on both sides.” Havn said he was embarrassed by what transpired that evening, but also said DeGroot was not the “only one out of line that night.”
DeGroot attempted to vote against his own censure, forcing a 3 to 3 tie. But he was stopped by Feest and a village attorney who said the trustee being voted on can’t participate in the vote on their own censure.
Citizens unhappy with DeGroot’s behavior
A number of residents spoke during public comment coming to the defense of Gallaher.
Most notably, her husband, Dan Dimler, who excoriated DeGroot for the words he used toward Gallaher.
“Is that exciting to you,” he said. “Envisioning throwing a resident, a lady, and my wife out on her can. We are your neighbors Mr. Degroot. We literally live 10 doors down from you, and you disrespected my wife.”
Dimler told DeGroot to stop “obsessing and fantasizing” about his wife and to, instead, focus on villages business.