kent county

Politics & Government
1:25 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Another Kent County Commissioner facing felony charge resigns

A Kent County commissioner is resigning. Michael Wawee Jr is facing a felony embezzlement charge for between $1,000 and $20,000, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Wawee announced his resignation Thursday. The Republican from the Grand Rapids suburb of Walker was arrested earlier this month.

He's accused of overcharging families for the engraving of grave markers while working as a salesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids. Police say the diocese was not aware of the overcharging.

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Politics & Government
11:58 am
Thu December 12, 2013

Kent County Commissioner resigns to focus on proving 'absolute and complete innocence'

Gary Rolls' booking photo
Kent County

Gary Rolls resigned from the Kent County Commission today. In a brief written statement to the board, Rolls thanked his constituents for allowing him to serve.

“I will use this time to prepare for trial to prove my absolute and complete innocence,” Rolls’ letter said. The resignation takes effect January 1st, 2014.

“We accepted the resignation of Commissioner Rolls this morning,” said Dan Koorndyk, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners. “We appreciate that he recognizes it is better for the Board of Commissioners to select a new member who can represent District 4 without distraction.”

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Law
2:00 am
Sun October 13, 2013

Pilot program in Kent County hopes aims for better outcomes, savings in foster care system

Kent County is a part of a new pilot program for children in the foster care system.

Michigan has been working to overhaul its child welfare system for years, after it was sued over problems in the system.

“(That case) tells us that we don’t have a perfect system. So we have to continually improve,” Kent County Assistant Administrator Wayman Britt said.

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Politics & Government
3:55 pm
Fri June 7, 2013

Michigan's governor asks for presidential disaster declaration for counties affected by spring flood

Flood waters in Ada, Michigan (file photo)
Dustin Dwyer/Michigan Radio

Gov. Snyder seeks a presidential disaster declaration for 16 Michigan counties hit hard by floods this spring. Heavy rains in April and early May led to flooding in many parts of Michigan. 

Governor Snyder declared a state of disaster on May 7. That set the stage for state and federal teams to review damage and property losses in 19 counties. The assessment has led the governor now to seek a presidential disaster declaration in 16 counties. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will review the governor’s request.

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Environment & Science
2:05 pm
Wed April 24, 2013

150 allowed home after flooding in Kent County

Michigan State Police

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - Officials say about 150 people who were evacuated from homes in Kent County because of flooding have been allowed to return home.

Kent County spokeswoman Lisa LaPlante says those allowed home by around midday Wednesday are among nearly 700 officials believe are evacuated. She says officials want to make sure homes are inspected before people return and utility crews restore power and natural gas service.

The Kent County number doesn't include about 1,000 people evacuated from downtown Grand Rapids' Plaza Towers because of the rain-swollen Grand River.

LaPlante says it could be weeks before Kent County officials have estimates of the financial cost of the flooding damage in the area.

Law
6:08 pm
Mon April 8, 2013

Legal battle over decriminalizing marijuana in Grand Rapids gets even more complicated

DecriminalizeGR attorney Jack Hoffman explains to reporters Monday morning why he's unhappy with the city's legal position.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The City of Grand Rapids and a group behind the decriminalization of marijuana there are at odds over how to enforce the charter amendment voters passed in November.

In a recent court filing, the city argues police should have discretion, if not the duty, to turn over marijuana charges to the state. That way, offenders would be charged with a crime, not a civil infraction.

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Law
5:05 pm
Wed January 23, 2013

With restraining order lifted, Grand Rapids can decriminalize marijuana… for now

Protestors circle the Kent County Prosecutor's office building in December.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids will work to put a new charter amendment in place that decriminalizes marijuana, now that a Kent County judge today lifted a temporary restraining order preventing implementation.

City residents voted overwhelmingly for the amendment in November. Under the charter amendment people who get busted with a little pot in Grand Rapids would just pay a fine.

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Health
5:35 pm
Tue January 15, 2013

Confirmed flu cases down, health officials warn people to keep guard up anyway

Robert Couse-Baker Creative Commons

Maybe people are washing their hands and staying home when they’re sick. Maybe they’re not even going to the doctor’s office; toughing it out at home on the couch instead.

We don’t know why exactly, but the number of confirmed flu cases in Kent County this week dropped 43-percent from the week before. The number of people visiting the emergency room with flu-like symptoms has also decreased.

Statewide numbers are less dramatic, but also down from a peak in December.

Still...

“If you haven’t gotten a vaccination yet, get it,” Lisa LaPlant, a Kent County Health Department spokeswoman said. “There is a possibility that we could see resurgence of flu,” she adds.

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Law
5:47 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

Protestors circle Kent Co. prosecutor’s office building, demand respect for marijuana vote

Around a hundred people circle the block where the prosecutor's office building is located in downtown Grand Rapids.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The City of Grand Rapids was prepared to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana today. But a Kent County judge issued a temporary restraining order to stop it.

So, roughly a hundred protestors gathered outside Kent County Prosecutor Bill Forsyth’s office at high noon.

“It’s such a bummer that we’re ignored,” resident Nick Monroe said.

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Law
7:28 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

Grand Rapids voters decriminalize marijuana, Kent County prosecutor sues

Under Grand Rapids charter amendment voters adopted in November, people caught with small amounts of marijuana would face only a civil infraction.
Garretttaggs55 wikipedia commons

Update 9:00p.m. - There's a growing crowd of people who say they'll protest the prosecutor's decision in Grand Rapids on Thursday. The event was posted on facebook this evening.

The City of Grand Rapids was ready to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana this week. But a Kent County judge issued the city a temporary restraining order Monday afternoon at the request of the Kent County prosecutor to prevent implementation.

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Politics & Government
3:33 pm
Mon August 20, 2012

Prosecutor says Bolger-Schmidt investigation halted to influence election

Michigan Rep. Roy Schmidt (R-Grand Rapids), and Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R-Monroe).

Republican Kent County Prosecutor Bill Forsyth said today he halted the investigation into Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Monroe) and Rep. Roy Schmidt (R-Grand Rapids) because he wanted the information about Bolger and Schmidt's scheme to be made public prior to the election.

If he continued with his investigation, the Detroit News reports, Forsyth said it could have continued beyond November.

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Politics & Government
11:34 pm
Wed August 8, 2012

Kent County GOP rallies around Hoekstra, Amash, and R-turned-D Roy Schmidt

"Beating an incumbent senator will not be easy. It is hard work. But I’ve got every ounce of confidence that we can get this done with us all working together,” Hoekstra said at the Kent County GOP unity party.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Now that the primary is over, Kent County Republicans are working to get more people to rally behind their nominees.

Even Democrat-turned-Republican State Representative Roy Schmidt Schmidt was among the GOP nominees at a unity rally in Grand Rapids Wednesday night.

He narrowly defeated a write-in candidate who decided to challenge Schmidt in the wake of a criminal investigation into Schmidt's party switch. No charges were brought in the case. However, the Secretary of State's office is still investigating allegations Schmidt violated campaign finance laws.

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Politics
12:32 pm
Fri May 18, 2012

Roy Schmidt party switch prompts Dems to call for perjury investigation

Rep. Schmidt at a rally against Governor Rick Snyder's budget cuts to education funding in June of 2011. He's now switched to the GOP.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Democrats in Kent County are asking for an investigation after a state representative switched political parties this week.

Longtime Democrat Roy Schmidt from Grand Rapids switched parties to run as a Republican Tuesday.

22-year old Matt Mojzak filed to run in the district which includes Grand Rapids. The Secretary of State’s office says Mojzak changed his address from one in neighboring Ottawa County to one within the district just this week. But the affidavit says Mojzak had lived at the Kent County address for 22 years.

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government
5:00 pm
Sun January 1, 2012

Kent County’s ‘reverse eBay’ saves thousands on supplies

Kent County's Adminstration building in downtown Grand Rapids.
Steven Depolo Creative Commons

Kent County is saving tens of thousands of dollars a year on supplies thanks to a customized online auction. The program is like the online auction site eBay in reverse.

When Kent County needs office supplies, like printer paper, it opens an auction online. It lists a maximum price it’s willing to pay based on previous bills. Vendors offer to sell the county printer paper at that price or lower.

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health
9:29 pm
Tue December 27, 2011

Man infecting people with HIV “an extremely serious health concern” in Kent County

51-year-old David Smith faces one count of failing to disclose his HIV status to a sexual partner.

The Kent County Health Department issued a press release Thursday afternoon that said it’s treating this as “an extremely serious health concern”:

Police say the suspect, 51 year old David Smith from Kent County, made statements that suggested his activities may have included people from outside of the area, including individuals he met over the internet.

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Politics
3:30 pm
Sun December 11, 2011

Kent County Sherriff reviewing undercover procedures some say unfairly target gay men

Undercover officers arrested at least a dozen men at public parks during the fall of 2010. During the sting operation, male undercover officers would approach men and suggest engaging in sexual activity. Those who reciprocated interest were charged with soliciting sex or accosting.

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Courts
4:31 pm
Mon December 5, 2011

Computer glitch leads to challenge before Michigan Supreme Court

Joe Gratz / flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court will hear a case tomorrow where an African-American man claims he was denied a fair trial because of a computer error. The error caused fewer jury notices to go to households in African-American neighborhoods.  

Ramon Bryant is challenging his convictions on charges of criminal sexual conduct, stealing $90, and possession of marijuana. Bryant says he was denied a trial before a jury of his peers that is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.

The question is whether the unintentional exclusion of African-Americans from the jury pool entitles Bryant to a new trial with a new jury. A computer error caused fewer jury notices to be sent to ZIP codes in Kent County with higher minority populations.

Bradley Hall is with the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan. He says the law requires juries be a “fair cross-section” of the community.

"Excluding of a minority population from jury service does not create a fair and reasonable representation of the community," said Hall. “"So it sort of happened by happenstance but there's no question it's systematic."

The prosecutor argues the mistake was accidental, and that there are other explanations as to why so few African Americans reported for jury duty.

Michigan's Attorney General says Bryant's conviction should stand. The AG's office contends the jury chosen made its decision based on the evidence.

government
7:45 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Talks about Grand Rapids, Kent County merger will go on

Grand Rapids City Hall and the Kent County building sit next to each other next to Calder Plaza downtown.
Steven Depolo Creative Commons

Discussions about a proposal to merge the City of Grand Rapids and Kent County into a single unit of government will move forward despite numerous concerns about the final outcome.

Earlier this year a group of business leaders launched the “One Kent Coalition”. They didn’t really inform the city or the county of their plan ahead of time so initially there was a backlash against it. Many government leaders, like Grand Rapids City Commissioner Dave Shaffer, remain cautious.

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Weather
4:33 pm
Mon July 11, 2011

95,000 Consumers Energy customers left powerless by strong storms

It may take until Thursday before tens of thousands of people in west and central Michigan get their electricity back.  Two strong storm fronts moved through the state today, packing powerful winds.  

Terry Dedoes is a Consumers Energy spokesman.  He says the utility is busy trying to restore electricity to 95 thousand Consumers Energy customers.   

 “That second wave materialized…and that did a lot of damage…we saw more outages from that second wave that came through in Kalamazoo….which just got brushed by that first one.”  

consolidating government
2:27 pm
Sun February 27, 2011

Private sector leaders proposing Kent County, Grand Rapids merger

Grand Rapids City Hall and Kent County's Administration Building are located right next to one another.
Steven Depolo Creative Commons

More than a dozen private business leaders are taking steps that would make it possible to merge Kent County and Grand Rapids to a single government. The One Kent Coalition includes more than a dozen lawyers, businessmen, and former elected officials.

Attorney Nyal Deems (former mayor of East Grand Rapids) presented the One Kent proposal to the Kent County Board of Commissioners Thursday. He says the coalition would like to see broader approach to governing the metro Grand Rapids region, rather than a number of smaller municipal governments.

 “All of our flow and economic interaction and cultural and social interaction ignores all those boundaries but governmentally we live by them. It would be good to mirror our communities more to match the way we live and work and function."

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