Village council votes to appoint new treasurer

Dennis Mansfield, Contributing Writer

KALKASKA – The Village of Kalkaska might have finally come full circle, after a controversial suspension of one official ended up with her termination and a lawsuit against the village.

The Kalkaska Village Council voted unanimously, 7-0, to appoint Valerie Tracey as the new village treasurer at its regular meeting Monday, April 8.

Tracey was hired as an accounting assistant after the village’s previous treasurer, Jennifer Standerfer, was terminated in November 2018 by a split, 4-2, council vote.

In recommending that council confirm Tracey’s appointment as treasurer, Village President Harley Wales said village officials have shared a positive relationship with Tracey since her hiring.

“So, I would like to appoint her as our treasurer,” Wales said.

Tracey’s appointment fills the vacancy at treasurer that had been left open for about four months. And, Wales said it should finally end what had been a sometimes controversial and contentious working relationship with Standerfer, who had served as treasurer for eight years.

A visible rift between Standerfer and council members – including former Village President Jeff Sieting – developed in late 2017, with Sieting eventually suspending Standerfer in December of that year after she refused to re-activate village credit cards issued to Kalkaska Department of Public Safety personnel.

Following her suspension, Standerfer issued a five-page letter that triggered a nearly $14,000 ethics investigation into alleged violations. However, a Traverse City attorney charged with conducting the investigation found that 12 of the 13 charges made by Standerfer were without finding or could not be substantiated.

While Standerfer was reinstated two months later, the two sides remained at odds. And, last November, trustee Tim Ellis made the motion to terminate Standerfer, citing that she had failed to sign a proposed work agreement, nor modified her work schedule to fit the terms of the proposal.

Standerfer then filed a lawsuit against the village, alleging the council had violated Michigan’s Whistleblowers Act, failed to produce personnel records and was in breach of implied contract, as well as breach of contract, by firing her.

In March, it was announced that Standerfer would receive just over $10,665 and the village would also pay her legal representatives nearly $8,567 to settle a lawsuit.

With the lawsuit settled and Tracey’s appointment confirmed, Wales said village officials can move forward and work on more pressing issues.

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