Government, Human Resources, and Law

Kent County commissioner resigns

February 13, 2014
| By Pat Evans |
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Commissioner charged with felonies over cemetery plots
Michael Wawee, Jr.’s mug shot.

In the midst of embezzlement charges, a Kent County commissioner is resigning.

Letter of resignation

District 6 Commissioner Michael Wawee, Jr. sent a resignation letter to Kent County Board of Commissioners Chair Dan Koorndyk, in connection with charges of embezzlement and false pretenses.

The commission said this morning that the resignation takes effect Feb. 28, but the application process for a new commissioner starts immediately.

Wawee maintains his innocence in connection to his job selling cemetery plots for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids.

“In this country, we’re blessed enough to have a judicial system where we are innocent until proven guilty,” Wawee says in a statement. “That being said, I need to focus my energy on my family and proving my innocence. That, unfortunately, means I will not be able to dedicate the time necessary to represent my constituents on the county commission.”

The commission has continued work as normal, Koorndyk said.

“We, as a board, have continued to operate without a glitch,” Koorndyk said. “It has not impacted day-to-day operations at all. We have a professional, dedicated staff in Kent County that manages the operations.”

Charges

On Feb. 3, Wawee was arrested and charged with embezzlement of less than $20,000 from a nonprofit or charitable organization and false pretenses to acquire less than $20,000. The felonies could result in a prison sentence of up to 15 years or a $25,000 fine.

According to the diocese, Wawee, 43, has been a member of the cemeteries staff for more than 20 years, but currently is on leave.

“The charges are related with his work with the cemetery, and the diocese has been cooperating for many weeks with the Grand Rapids Police Department,” Diocese Communications Director Carl Apple told the Business Journal previously.

The case is being handled by the Montcalm County Prosecutor’s Office, as appointed by the Michigan Attorney General’s office, because Wawee is a Kent County commissioner.

District 6 seat

As a Republican from Walker, Wawee was elected to the District 6 seat in 2010 and currently has a “Re-elect Michael Wawee for County Commissioner” website.

The Board of Commissioners has 30 days from the date of resignation to select an individual to replace Wawee through the end of the term, December 2014.

Wawee is the second Kent County commissioner to resign in the past few months, as District 4 Commissioner Gary Rolls resigned in December, because of sexual misconduct charges.

People seeking appointment to the District 6 seat need to send a letter and resume to the Board of Commissioners Office, 300 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, MI, 49503, by March 5.

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