What began with an argument over a letter at the April 12, meeting of the Boyne Falls Village Council ended with a serious accusation.
During the closed meeting portion of the night intended to discuss what was deemed a “personnel matter,” Boyne Falls Village President Bill Carson warned fellow councilman Jim English that he cannot give any impression that he is a member of the village police force.
“We’ve been down this road before,” Carson said of a letter addressed to the Boyne Falls Police Department, but in care of English. “I thought maybe you (English) could try to explain that.”
English said the letter from the Kalkaska Police Department contained shooting scores from a day he spent at the gun range, and that they were accidentally mailed to the village.
“I opened it up and on the back of it … it has officer’s names – it says ‘Jim English, badge number 8510; department: Boyne Falls,’” Carson said.
English said, “The badge number is just something that they use to fill in that spot.”
Carson countered, “They just randomly pick a number out of the air – right Jim?”
According to Carson, English is not now, nor has he ever been, an official village officer or reserve officer.
Carson then read from a July, 2010, letter composed by the village’s attorney Peter Wendling: “It is a misdemeanor to impersonate a peace officer. By definition peace officer includes an official of a police department of a village. I also want the village to be aware that there could be liability attached for an act or omission undertaken by any person impersonating a Boyne Falls Village Police Officer. Wearing a uniform of a police department with a badge as described should end immediately. I trust this matter will be resolved.”
Carson added, “Now here we are again talking about it.”
In a telephone interview in the days following the village council meeting, Carson explained that Wendling’s original letter of warning was written in response to a 2010 incident wherein English allegedly arrived at a council meeting looking like a policeman.
“He’s got a concealed weapons permit and jacket that (read) ‘Village of Boyne Falls Police Department’ or something like that,” Carson said. “It was almost like he was impersonating a police officer.”
He added, “He actually looked like a police officer – it threw up the red flags and that’s when I called up Peter Wendling.”
Carson was careful to mention that English heeded the letter’s warning concerning his appearance.
“I think it’s just blown out more than it needs to be,” he said. “Jim’s a good guy and he does good on the council.”
Carson added, “It was more or less an isolated issue – he never did it more than once.”
Carson declined to discuss the nature of the letter in question and whether he would be forwarding it to the village attorney for further action.
But during the meeting, which at times grew heated, Carson threatened to send the Kalkaska letter to the attorney.
English denied any attempt to impersonate an officer and complained that the letter was opened before it got to him.
A discussion during the meeting was then had over whether council members are allowed to possess mail sent to the village even if it has their individual name on it.
“He ain’t got no business goin’ and gettin’ the mail from the village,” Carson said.
English countered that the letter belonged to him.
“Just so I know what you’re saying – just to make this clear: Any mail that comes to the village police department, you have the right to open?” English asked the council.
Village Councilman Tony Securo said that he would not open it.
“But, somebody opened this letter that was addressed to me,” English said. “And what these are is copies … from years ago. It says ‘copies’ right on it.”
English was then asked why he didn’t have the copies sent to his home.
“I told them to send it to my house,” he said. “She made the mistake and sent it here.”
English added, “This is not addressed to Boyne Falls Council so it should never have been opened – period.”
Carson said it was addressed to the Boyne Falls Police Department and therefore the letter belongs to the village.
“If I think there’s something that’s detrimental to the village – your name being on a police document right when our attorney said about the liability, Jim, I am going to open it,” Carson said. “I see your name on there … Jim English has nothing to do with the police department.”
English said he agreed that he had nothing to do with the police department, but refused to give up the letter.
“You were told way back here about impersonating a police officer,” Carson said. “I’m going to call Peter Wendling. I’m going to explain to him what happened … and how you won’t give us the letter.”
Carson directed English not to leave the meeting with the letter and English ultimately yielded the letter to Boyne Falls Village Marshal David Hague.
During an interview with English in the days following the meeting, he said he has concerns with village council members opening mail addressed to the police.