Monday, March 18, 2013

An Open Letter

Iron County Doings                                   
William J. Vajk
Iron River MI 49935
18 March 2013

An Open Letter To:
Governor Rick Snyder
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing  MI  48909

Dear Governor Snyder:

I recently sent you a carbon copy of a letter to Attorney
General Schuette regarding violations by the municipal
governments of Iron County and Iron River of state laws,
an Attorney General Opinion, and the Headlee
Amendment of the Michigan Constitution, asking his
intervention. For his part Mr. Schuette’s office has chosen

to shift the burden of enforcing the Michigan statutes and
the Michigan Constitution away from the State of Michigan,
where it rightfully belongs, to a private citizen who is
complaining about being currently illegally damaged.

In this letter, I on take the burden of pointing out to the
executive branch of Michigan State Government that:

1) Just because only one citizen is complaining about
violations of state laws and the state constitution does
not imply that only one individual is being damaged.
State laws apply to all equally, as does damage to any

one of us.

2) Similar ordinances and practices are common
throughout this state’s upper peninsula.

3) It is the responsibility of the executive branch of state
government to assert total control over all municipal
adherence to state laws and the state constitution. The
state creates the municipalities, and is ultimately responsible
for everything they do. If this is unclear, please see Dillon’s
Rule and all that implies.

4) It is clear that the state has abrogated this responsibility
for decades. The fearless violations by municipalities in this
region is testimony to that fact.

Attached are several articles I recently published on topics
pertinent to this discussion. Besides the city thumbing its
nose at state laws and the constitution, Iron River also has
a city councilman whose very presence on the council
violates (conflict of interest) the city charter, yet nobody
has done anything about it despite the fact that the violation
is common knowledge and discussions about it have
appeared in the minutes of the city council. Iron County
Doings awarded him a “Lump of Coal” award for this
conduct. Iron River, Iron County, and Iron River Township,
have been running amok in too many ways to detail in a
letter like this!

Please advise the undersigned just what the heck (remaining
polite in choice of expression) is going on here. Just because
there’s a long bridge between the main body of this state and
the upper peninsula does the state think that we can be cut
loose to become some third world backwater unworthy of the
same attentions the rest of the state receives? Is UP law
enforcement implicating local governments a joke to those
of you in lower Michigan? What law enforcement concerned
with municipal misbehavior has the state undertaken up here
in the past hundred years? Is the UP part of the United States
and Michigan?

Please take special notice of the article questioning the
complicity between the Treasury Department and local politics.
The response I received from Mr. Schuette is reminiscent of
the failure of the department of treasury to act in the case of
Mrs. King having two properties concurrently receiving
Primary Residence Exemptions. At the time of this writing I
have no reason to think that any department in the executive
branch is capable of acting independently of local politics,
which is the state’s primary mission.

In fact, as this letter is being mailed I am concurrently
publishing it for public consumption. I would have emailed
your office an advance copy but you have chosen isolation
from the daily troubles of the state by making yourself and
your office unavailable to the public through email. Did you
know that I can email the Pope (Francis, who just assumed
the office) at There’s a man who
exposes himself to the entire world, including more than a
billion faithful congregants, but I can’t email you who answers
to less than 10 million? I find this amazing and inexplicable!
How can you possibly justify isolating yourself from the
people that way?

Dear Governor, I ask you, where does the buck stop in
Michigan if not at your desk? This is a serious question, so
please let me know. Any failure to address these issues is
taken as an answer that the State of Michigan doesn’t care
what its municipalities do, no matter what state laws and
what part of the state constitution your mignons, the
municipalities, chose to violate, the state will turn a blind
eye to it. If what appears to be true is really true, it is only
fair that the choice by the state to chose non-enforcement
should be formalized so all of us can understand the
situation during all future elections. I eagerly and
respectfully await your prompt reply to all the questions

Best regards,

Bill Vajk

Sunday, March 17, 2013

More Buffoonery?

Within the past year I have twice heard “but we have to make a
profit” when the County Clerk’s office was asked for copies of
documents registering business names. Last year the charge was
$10, this year it has gone up to $15. Multiple copies drop to $5
each. There was an article on the cover page of the Iron County
Reporter for January 2, 2013, about this topic. The headline says,
“County increases cost for copies of vital records.”

A little further in this article we’ll count the number of things that
are wrong between the “fee” and the discussions. The article goes
on to say,“Increases in supply costs have prompted the Iron
County Board of Commissioners to raise the price for copies of
vital records.”


Joan Luhtanen is quoted as stating that the adjustment to the
“fee” is a “financial necessity.” Also mentioned is that it has been
a number of years since the fee was last increased. That, in this
editor’s opinion, is the only real reason for the most recent

But what we need to look at is the basis for anything called a
“fee” by local government because that’s where our politicians
have found a place to cheat by overcharging. Interestingly enough,
overcharges land in a general coffer rather than being used solely
to pay local government the actual costs for the service being
provided. There’s no other place for that excess money to go.

Let’s analyze this little process. State law requires the county
clerk to maintain vital records. All the costs associated with
procuring, recording, and maintaining vital records are covered
in the budget allocated by the county to its clerk. That’s materials,
payroll, and secure infrastructure. So far, any request for copies
doesn’t implicate immediate costs, or any “increase in supply

I just checked on the price of copy paper. It costs less than
$ 0.01 per standard 8.5 X 11 inch sheet. Walking into any
business that sells copying to the public, the cost of a single
copy is well under a dollar in all cases. Office Max copy
centers get just 10 cents per copy for small quantities with an
employee, costing them money, handling the originals. So paper
and copier costs can’t be the source of costs that increased
the current price of the first copy from Iron County by $5.

But vital records copies must be certified by the county clerk’s
office. That means that someone, certified by the state as a
notary public, has to take the time to stamp, seal, and sign the
document. Yes, and all those costs are already covered in
the clerk’s office budget paid through our taxes to Iron
County, Michigan.

Thus the real costs, not already paid for by the residents
and business of Iron County are the use of a copy machine
and the cost of less that 1 cent in paper, and fairly 10 cents
per commercial copy. That’s a far cry from $15 for the first
copy, let alone $5 for subsequent copies.

Having thus established that the actual uncovered cost to
the county clerk’s office is, at most a few pennies, we next
look to what the courts have had to say on this topic. We
really need to go no further than the case of Mapleview Estates
vs. Brown City[1] in 2003, where the court restated what had
already been established, “A `fee for service' or `user fee' is a
payment made for the voluntary receipt of a measured service,
in which the revenue from the fees are [sic] used only for the
service provided.” And very simply, any “fee” not included in
the definition is a (ta da!!!!) tax that must comport, in its
imposition, to the Headlee Amendment of the Michigan

The Headlee Amendment requires that any new tax or increase
in (that didn’t exist prior to adoption of the Headlee Amendment)
any tax imposed by local government must first be submitted to
all qualified electors for approval.

Should this tax ever be submitted to a court, it is likely that the
“fee” for copies of vital records will be rolled back to the amount
it was prior to November of 1978. And I’d be willing to wager
that even at those rates, whatever they were, the county clerk’s
office would still experience a profit of some sort.

So which is it? Did the outgoing county board not know, or not
care, about their complicity in violating the law and their oath of
office? Was it the simple consequence of mere buffoonery, or
was it more sinister than that? It  was the outgoing board in 2012
that authorized the increase. Is the current board smart enough to
correct this issue without being sued?

And is our Iron County Clerk smart enough to stop charging the
high fee for documents not authorized by ordinance, and charge
only the fee for ordinary business copies?

Bill Vajk

[1] Mapleview Estates, Inc. v. Brown City, 671 NW 2d 572,575
Mich: Court of Appeals 2003

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Buffoons or Pinheads?

One of the things that has happened in Iron County
has been a “brain drain” where the best and the
brightest growing up have fled to regions of the
world that offer better opportunities and intellectual
challenges. Those who remained have engaged in
professions and businesses that they find personally
rewarding, leaving average, and below average,
individuals the chore of running local government.

In short, most of the elected officials in Iron
County have no idea of what, precisely, their
position, and authority, consist of. Generally
speaking, most of them have no idea of the
relationships between their local government,
state government, and the federal government.

On April 6, 2012, I sent a letter to the mayor of
Iron River, Mr. Terry Tarci. Asking him for the
source of the authority for the city council to
have enacted, and to enforce, the “readiness to
serve fee,” and several other charges in section
52 (special assessments effectively excise taxes)
of the municipal ordinances. Since Mr. Tarsi
doesn't know, he did not provide any response.
Instead, a letter best classified as unabashed
baloney (an effort on my part to keep this
discussion readable by anyone) was offered by
the Marquette lawyer paid for by the MML
(Michigan Municipal League.) It is obvious
that the letter was a subterfuge designed to
appear to be an answer, but it in fact it is not.
I advised Mr. Tarci on April 23, 2012, that the
letter from the lawyer is unacceptable.

Naturally, when faced with what was an
insurmountable obstacle to him, Mr. Tarci fell
silent on the matter, “So if you have the
authority Mrs. MacGregor claims you have,
why can't we resolve this simple question right

The only available conclusion is that the city of
Iron River, through its city council, has
exceeded its authority to enact and enforce
several of the water related ordinances.

Attorney General Bill Schuette issued Opinion
7263 on April 17, 2012, explaining how the
Iron County Treasurer is prohibited from
collecting the “real property taxes” (they're

Despite showing them the error of their ways,
the treasurer's office proceeded in the prohibited
activity anyway. Although all this was brought to
the Attorney General's attention with a formal request
that municipalities be required to obey the laws of the
state, the Attorney General purposely misread my
request and has refused to intervene.

My patience is once again at an end. I sued (and lost
the case) once before about these bogus “fees.” So it
seems we must go into court once again, and so we
will. It isn't as though I haven't communicated
extensively with the evil doers, so they have no
reason to be surprised.

From the standpoint of the City of Iron River and
Iron County elected officials, ignorance is bliss.

Would Bill O'Reilley call them buffoons or pinheads?

Bill Vajk

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