Law And Order

April 26, 2002
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This is a story about a house of a different color.

 

And some mudslinging.

With maybe a historical perspective.

Or maybe it's a story about the long arm of the law as it pertains to LAW.

More likely, however, it's a story about a tit-for-tat match that has absolutely nothing to do with paint and everything to do with embarrassment, harassment and public humiliation.

In one corner stands William Tingley III, executive director of the Local Area Watch (LAW), general manager of Proto-Cam Inc., and general thorn in the side of city government.

In the other corner stand city government officials who like to operate without their motives being called into question while doing the public good.

And in the middle stands the public, which has to be wondering just what the heck is going on here. The relationship between Tingley and the city makes George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden look like barbecue buddies.

Tingley has made a nuisance of himself, in public officials' eyes, over the alleged illegal hauling of contaminated dirt from the site of the former Berkey & Gay building, which is near his Proto-Cam operation. Tingley blew the whistle, the Department of Environmental Quality got involved, and city officials, including Mayor JohnLogie, as well as businesses like Pioneer Inc., Spectrum Health, the former Old Kent Bank and others got dirt on their shoes.

No wrongdoing has been proved, the matter is still being investigated and everyone involved is more than a little miffed. City officials and executives from the area's biggest businesses don't like their names being dragged through the mud. Tingley doesn't like being made out as a pariah in the city, and has formed the separate entity, LAW, to keep up the watchdog vigil.

So they stand at odds, each sticking to their guns.

Now comes the latest salvo in the mudslinging (or moving) saga.

Tingley claims the city has declared its intent to obtain a warrant his arrest on the ground that Tingley has violated the city's historic preservation code.

He questions the timing of such action, as it comes on the heels of LAW filing a lawsuit against the city to disclose documents concerning the alleged dirt dumping.

In essence, Tingley claims the city is threatening to arrest him for painting his house the wrong color.

Tingley owns and resides in a house in the Heritage Hill historic district of downtown Grand Rapids. He began a renovation of the house in July 2000 and said he obtained the approval of the city's Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) for his plans.

"I gave the HPC all my plans. I made full disclosure of what I wanted to do so that they could make sure my improvements were in accord with the historical character of Heritage Hill. I agreed to all the changes they made to my plans. Then I stuck to those plans," he said.

Tingley said his community activism and his private renovation were kept separate, until he notified the city of his intent to sue based on a state environmental protection act.

"I had no problem with the HPC until after my organization, The Local Area Watch, notified the city last April of our intent to sue under the citizens suit provision of Michigan's Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act," he said. "We alleged that the city assisted local developers in the illegal excavation and dumping of contaminated soil by making available to one of the developers an old city-owned water filtration plant for use as a landfill.

"Then a few weeks later the HPC told me they received a secret complaint about the color I was painting my house. They told me to change it. Later they told me that I couldn't paint my house the same color as my garage. Apparently it didn't matter that they had already approved my plans, including the painting details, months earlier. Later the HPC told me that I didn't get their permission for repairing the sidewalk. I had a permit. I replaced an old broken concrete walk with a new concrete one. Then they held me responsible for the new concrete driveway my neighbor poured for his house.

"The city's so intent upon harassing me that they can't even get their facts straight," he said

Last month, Tingley and LAW sued the city under the Freedom of Information Act in an effort to obtain some documents pertaining to the alleged dirt dumping. The Business Journal carried the story in last week's edition.

On Jan. 31, Tingley claims, attorney Preston Hopson Jr. notified him of the city's intent to arrest him for violation of the city's historic preservation code.

Attorney JohnSmietanka, a former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, is representing Tingley in the matter.

Looks like this mudslinging might be heading to court.

  • Who deserves to be on a list that includes Dorothy Comstock Riley, Irma Elder and Marge Byington? That's for you to decide.

The Michigan Business & Professional Association (MBPA) is accepting nominations for its Women & Leadership in the Workplace Awards through Feb. 28.

The categories include business; human service/philanthropic; media; civic affairs/government; education; professional; and small business achievement. Award criteria will consist of significant achievements in given professional fields; recognition by peers for outstanding service; and contributions to the advancement of issues related to women in the business world.

Recipients will be honored by the MBPA at an awards ceremony during the "Women & Leadership in the Workplace VI" conference on April 18 in Livonia.

To receive nomination materials, call the MBPA at (888) 277-6464, or visit its Web site at

www.michbusiness.org

 

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