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Sincere Responses to Cruel Critics

Those of you who know me best also know that I rarely use social media. Call me 'old-fashioned' but I still prefer to communicate via email or a phone call.

Yet, this morning, one of my critics (Ms. Ann Jones -- spouse to John Jones, Planning Board Chairman and owner of several Marvin development companies) -- published a post to Nextdoor. For the first-time in a long-time I felt inclined to respond with information. Not for Ms. Jones's sake but for the sake of anyone who might be hearing particular narratives and want another perspective.

Unfortunately, when I went to post my response, I found Ms. Jones' post had been deleted. Since I had already written out the response, I decided to post my reply to the heartless criticisms here...



Dear Ms. Jones,

I hear your concerns. However, your post failed to pass on important information.

Please allow me to correct some inaccuracies.

My First Attempt to Make Peace and Get Along

Firstly, immediately after being appointed to complete Ron Salimao’s elected term in office, and continue representing (his) constituents on the Council, I wrote my fellow Council members requesting we put aside politics and gamesmanship and focus on Village business. I promised them I would serve my time peacefully; I recognized I was in the minority and said I posed no threat as long as we could be mature and civil to one another. (You can read that email here.)

In response to my letter, the Council majority held illegal meetings, took unlawful actions, spent extraordinary funds beyond public view, avoided meetings and, most notably, failed to uphold their duty to pass a municipal budget by June 30, 2018. This broke statutory law and their absence from meeting caused the Village to shut-down. As the State said, this was an abdication of their duties in office. I am responsible for accepting an appointment. I am not responsible for how the Council majority chose to react and cope with that appointment. Read the State Department Letter to the Council.

I agree with you. The Council's reactions and the fall out from their decisions were embarrassing for the Village. I understand that some Council members were upset. I acknowledge they were unhappy about my appointment. However, responsibly managing our emotions is not only expected as we get older, it’s required; particularly when one has duties and responsibilities to fulfill. The majority of the Council chose to indulge their emotions, at the expense of duty, responsibility and transparency. But, to be accurate, I did not take part in those decisions, nor would I have chosen those courses of action. Therefore, I am not responsible for the drama which ensued, nor am I responsible for the embarrassing fall-out from those actions.

The First Set of Unlawful Actions

Secondly, because the Council insisted on acting beyond lawful, jurisdictional boundaries of their power, they refused to allow me to participate in meetings. When they finally held a meeting, they voted to: (a) vacate the seat I lawfully held (b) construct a litigation committee (c) pursue a lawsuit against my title (d) unlawfully use public funds to pursue a private lawsuit -- all counter to state law. These same members of the Council hired a second Village attorney to file a lawsuit against me. Again, these actions were not lawful, or necessary -- but they certainly were dramatic.

Actions Cause Reactions

Thirdly, in order to represent constituents, and fulfill my oath of office, I filed a mandamus injunction to stop Village Council members from unlawfully preventing me from serving, along with an additional lawsuit to address the illegal meetings and illegal actions consistently being pursued by the Council majority. I did not sue for money or personal gain, I only sued for legal expenses. I realize the filing didn't have your support. Yet, other citizens were supportive. They realized that sometimes it's necessary to hold government and officials accountable for unlawful actions and abuse of power. Regretfully, it was incumbent upon me to hold this particular government accountable and I was duty-bound to follow through.

Piling Bad Judgment On top of Bad Decision-Making

Fourthly, soon after the Village shut-down, the Marvin Council majority kicked the dust back up again by making sweeping changes to policy and the Marvin Village Charter (Our Constitution) in order to provide the Mayor with more power (even though they already held the majority and had changed every rule imaginable). Rather than invite citizens to weigh-in through a referendum, the Council majority tried to hide the resolution under a different agenda item. (I asked them to correct it for transparency sake) Then they attempted to enact a unilateral charter change without a referendum; thereby drawing the ire of even more citizens. Again, I did not initiate this Village Charter Amendment, nor did I perpetuate embarrassing Council conduct with ever-increasingly controversial initiatives. I calmly advised the Council majority against it. I left for Canada after August 9, 2018 for the remaining part of August. You are correct. The day I returned I found the citizens of Marvin had been made very angry by the drama this Council majority stirred up . However, none of that drama was instigated nor perpetuated by me. The Council majority seemed intent on piling bad judgment on top of bad decision-making.

The Council's Refusal to Accept the No-Cost-to-the-Village Settlement

Fifthly, in October, after incredible resistance from residents, and approximately 700 petition signatures later, Councilman Dispenziere put an end to the Council’s unilateral Village Charter amendment. Meanwhile, a judge also ruled against Pollino and Vandenberg’s effort to remove me from office. Still, Pollino & Vandenberg they continued with their vindictive legal pursuits. So, in an attempt to mend Council Discord, I offered to absorb the $30,000 in legal fees I had expended at that point and settle my case with the Village for zero-cost to Village taxpayers if Vandenberg & Pollino would also drop all lawsuits against my seat in office (in the minority!). (Read about the offer here.) Pollino and Vandenberg refused the offer. (Response from Pollino and Vandenberg)

Had your friends Pollino and Vandenberg maturely put aside their personal vendetta, for the sake of the Village, the lawsuit would have had zero impact on taxpayers. Instead, Vandenberg and Pollino refused; filed additional motions in court; and caused expenses to soar beyond an affordable settlement point. Meanwhile they voted to grant themselves $100,000 more in public funds for their own legal defense. (See the minutes.) This is what cost the Village.

Once they lost all the substantive motions in court (three times) Dispenziere and Epps realized they had better attempt a settlement before Village costs soared even higher.

So, counter to what you espouse, I tried to save taxpayers money at a personal cost to myself and my family. Pollino and Vandenberg cost the Village an approximate total of $225,000 of public funds on a private lawsuit and a personal vendetta. (See the $18,000 spent, and the $30,000 budget plus $100,000 budget increase, plus the $75,000 partial reimbursement amount) Pollino and Vandenberg made the decision to forego peace, perpetuate legal conflict, and spend taxpayer dollars. I tried to avoid it.

Council Members Choose Personal Vendetta Over Village Taxpayer Dollars

Lastly, it's crazy to perpetuate the notion that holding Council members accountable was somehow a profitable venture for my family. I did not profit from the reimbursement. In fact, the settlement did not cover my legal fees which had climbed well beyond $100,000. Additionally, Vandenberg, Pollino and their secret financiers have taken their losing lawsuit to the court of appeals and have cost my family over $6,000 in the past three months. I believe they pursue this in an attempt to intimidate me out of office. Not very democratically respectful of them.

One Lawsuit, Not Eleven...

It appears you have confused the notion of "motions" -- within a lawsuit -- with the actual lawsuit itself. There was only one (1) lawsuit. However, If we're counting "motions" you would need to count the many motions this Council also filed using public funds... Which, to be honest, are too numerous to count...

An Apology to Village Citizens

Regardless, I do feel the Village Council owes the public an apology. Because I am now a member of the Village Council, I apologize on behalf of Council members who could not maturely set-aside their personal feelings for the sake of the Village. I wish it had been handled differently but it was not for lack of trying. I was willing to make a tremendous personal sacrifice to accomplish peace. The drama and turmoil that continued, and the costs that ensued, had very little to do with me.

With Regard to this Election and Candidates on the Ballot

Had current candidates, on the ballot, made their positions known and campaigned for their positions, I don't think I'd be a write-in candidate for Council. However, voters were dismayed at how little information your candidates provided about themselves and their positions on vitally important issues. When citizens asked if I would accept votes (in and around October 25th) I took time to think about it and eventually responded on October 31st. There is no secret. Upon request, I'd be happy to let respectful citizens inspect records which support this truth.

Believe it or not, as a voter, I would still consider casting my vote for someone other than myself, if I could get behind a candidate's positions. Unfortunately, I still have no idea what those positions are. And, I'm not comfortable voting for any candidate who takes public office and our electoral votes for granted... and puts none of their positions down on paper.

I am grateful to Rob Giebel for calling the candidates and asking the questions. He is a steward of the people and doing what good citizens should do - asking questions of public officials!

I am also grateful to Mr. Chris Smith, candidate for Mayor, for being the first candidate on the ballot to provide answers. This is why Chris Smith earned my vote. He finally realized how important it was to be clear with voters about where he stands on vital Village issues and citizen interests.

Dear Citizens of Marvin:

Please accept the following apology: I am deeply sorry for the tumultuous 18 months everyone had to endure. I wish, for the Village's sake, it hadn't happened. However, I am grateful for the many lessons I have learned. Councilman Epps and Councilman Salimao chose to appoint me because they knew I would look after you and watch over this Council. I feel I have done that to the best of my ability. With your support we passed important policy initiatives which will ensure Marvin's government is more transparent and accountable. Thank you for your support.

Most of all, I want to thank you for the incredible support you displayed for democratic values in 2018! Your participation in the Charter Amendment petition resulted in 750 signatures in the end, and it was a hopeful exhibit of democracy at its best! 😊

Regardless of what happens with this election, citizens can always count on me to provide insight, support information I provide with documentation, and advocated for residents.

Please feel free to contact me with sincere questions, or constructive criticism. I will do my best to provide whatever information I can to address sincere concerns.

Sincerely yours,

Mary Shkut

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