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Two governmental units

Two governmental units sewer & water

Ian Watsonb Contributing Writer Is there a conflict of interest if the director of the Gun Lake Area Sewer & Water Authority is elected to a trustee position at Yankee Springs township?
That is the question being asked in Yankee Springs, where Larry Knowles, the GLASWA director, is unopposed in his candidacy for township trustee. Yankee Springs is one of the four townships that established GLASWA. Larry Knowles doesn't see any conflict. “I can’t think of any topics that would create a conflict of interest between my position as director and trustee.” “I decided to run with the hopes that I could help set Yankee Springs in the right direction and bring professionalism back to the board,” he said.

Knowles has support from the majority of his superiors on the GLASWA board: Glenn Leap, GLASWA chairman and supervisor for Martin Township; Thomas Rook, supervisor for Orangeville; and Roger Vanvolkinburg, supervisor for Wayland Township, all voiced support for Knowles during the Oct. 4 board meeting. All three supervisors, who act as their townships' representatives to the GLASWA board, said they see no conflict of interest with Knowles staying on as director while serving as a trustee in Yankee Springs.

Mark Englerth, supervisor of Yankee Springs township, said there is an issue with Knowles serving as both the director of the GLASWA and as a Yankee Springs township trustee. Englerth said a legal opinion provided to Yankee Springs township indicates that the GLASWA Articles of Incorporation would need to be amended in order for Knowles to serve in both capacities. The legal opinion is from the firm of Bauckham, Sparks, Thall, Seeber & Kaufman, P.C and was provided to Yankee Springs township in 2017.

In the first week of October, the Yankee Springs township board voted against an amendment to the GLASWA Articles of Incorporation that would allow for Larry Knowles to serve as both the director of GLASWA and as a township trustee.

According to Article XVII of the GLASWA Articles of Incorporation, all four townships that comprise the Authority (Yankee Springs is one of the four) must approve any amendments to the Articles. But the GLASWA board has its own legal opinion concerning whether Larry Knowles can serve as both director of GLASWA and trustee of Yankee Springs. And that opinion, provided by the firm Dickinson Wright, differs from the one cited by Yankee Springs township officials. The Dickson Wright opinion allows for Larry Knowles to maintain his position as GLASWA director and serve as a trustee for Yankee Springs township without any need to amend the GLASWA Articles of Incorporation.

The difference of opinion on this issue dates back to late 2017 when Larry Knowles applied to a vacant trustee position created after Roger Rottschafer resigned in November 2017. In late 2017, Knowles said a Yankee Springs resident asked him to provide a legal opinion on whether there would be any potential conflict of interest if he was appointed to the vacant trustee seat. Knowles sought an opinion from Bauckham, Sparks, Thall, Seeber & Kaufman, P.C, who, in the past, had provided legal services to both the Yankee Springs Township and GLASWA. After receiving the opinion, Knowles then proceeded to send it to Yankee Springs township.

Knowles didn't share that opinion with the GLASWA board because he didn't believe it was necessary. “GLASWA did not need the opinion if Yankee Springs had appointed me and decided to get a second opinion. “If the township board decided to appoint me and a second opinion was received, I would have shared the end result with the GLASWA Board.” But the Yankee Springs township board did not appoint Knowles to the vacant trustee position. Instead, Michael Boysen was picked. Knowles ran against Boysen in the August Republican primary. Knowles won and is unopposed in the November general election for the trustee seat that is held by Boysen who is finishing out the term.

Currently, both the Yankee Springs township and the GLASWA board are sticking with their legal opinions. GLASWA concluded its Oct. 4 meeting by tabling the issue until its November meeting. Meanwhile, Yankee Springs Supervisor Mark Englerth plans to bring both legal opinions to the next meeting so the board can compare them.

The outcome has yet to be determined.


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