Options available for Auxiliary

GAY — Sherman Township Supervisor Rob Middlemis-Brown addressed the issue of the Gay Fire Department Auxiliary using the Sherman Township Hall for fundraising events, even though the events are for the sake or raising money for the fire department, are in violation of the law.

“We sort of had an understanding without a written policy,” Middlemis-Brown said. “The board has been in violation of the (state) law by doing that. We have to have a building use policy, and I’ll tell you why, because, the attorney said we put the whole township at risk.” Middlemis-Brown said it comes down to a matter of liability insurance.

According to an attorney from the Michigan Township Association (MTA), the Auxiliary, because it is not a township entity, is considered by law to a be private party. As such, a private party is not covered under the township’s insurance policy.

“With a private party, we lose what’s called government immunity,” Middlemis-Brown said.The township is covered by insurance if an event in the hall is a government event, such as a township board meeting, he explained, but a rummage sale conducted by a private entity is not covered and in the event of an accident or injury, the township is at risk of lawsuit.

As soon as he heard the MTA attorney’s opinion on the matter, Middlemis-Brown said he had a legal responsibility to bring the matter forward to the board and to the public.

“That’s my primary responsibility as a supervisor is to protect the township,” Middlemis-Brown said. “As the fire chief, I didn’t want to have this conversation.”

The auxiliary has a couple of options, which includes dissolving the Auxiliary and reorganizing it under the township. In that event, the organization would be considered a township entity, and would be protected under the township’s government immunity. Also, as a township unit, the Auxiliary would not have to pay taxes. However, the other side of the coin, while the Auxiliary would come under the protection of the township, as a township entity, it would lose the autonomy to determine where the revenue it raises would be spent. The revenue would simply be turned into the township.

Another option the Auxiliary could consider is to remain a private entity and when conducting a fundraising event in the township, it could purchase what is called a blanket insurance policy, which is a temporary liability insurance that covers a single event.