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Huntzinger resigns from village council

ONTONAGON — What was expected, addressed at an Ontonagon Village Council Meeting, and had posts on social media, came to fruition. With no one on the ballot this past November, Jessica Huntzinger was elected to the council, but had never attended a single meeting.

Huntzinger’s first meeting on the council was to be on Nov. 10, 2020. Monday night’s meeting was the fifth meeting that she did not attend. She failed to make a single meeting.

Before the Nov. 3 election, it was known that she had taken a nursing job outside of the Upper Peninsula. During Public Comment an Ontonagon village resident questioned whether Huntzinger should be on the ballot, or let it be known that she took a job that would make it difficult for her to attend meetings.

At that meeting, President Tony Smydra commended Huntzinger and praised her for running for office. Smydra continued his praise of Huntzinger, along with Sarah Hopper and Maureen Guzek for the council having three woman serve.

Huntzinger sent a letter resigning her position that was read by Smydra at the end of the meeting. Her resignation was not on the agenda, nor was her resignation added as an amendment. After reading her letter Smydra stated, “(Jessica Huntzinger) was duly elected and sworn in as a trustee.”

When Huntzinger was sworn in was not given since she had not attended any meetings. However, her name did appear on the village letterhead as a trustee.

The council voted to place an ad for those that would like to apply for the position. The council would then appoint a trustee to serve the remainder of Huntzinger’s two-year term.

An idea that passed around social media before the Nov. 3 election was that since Huntzinger would not be able to attend meetings, she could immediately resign giving the council the opportunity to appoint whomever they wanted to fill the vacated seat. The DMG contacted one of the individuals that questioned whether it was planned to have Huntzinger elected, resign, and give the council the option, that individual, who declined to be identified, simply stated, “This is sad.”

Smydra has used his president’s report in the past, and again at Monday night’s meeting, to state his displeasure with comments from the public questioning the payment of over $4,000 to Richard Ernest for an invoice Ernest sent to the village regarding his alleged work helping businesses with the CARES Act.

For the past year, Smydra has tried to find ways to provide either an advertised job, such as village building inspector, or non-advertised job with the CARES Act for Ernest. He commended Ernest again Monday when the issue was on the agenda and again at the end of the meeting. Both times being critical of those that questioned whether the job Ernest did was legal and if that position was advertised for anyone to apply.

After months of waiting for this issue to be addressed by both the Finance Committee and the Village Council, the issue was settled with no payment going to Ernest.

However, Hopper stated how this job is an important job that once the village’s budget and financial problems are handled, the council should look at having a paid position to do what Ernest states he did.

Both Hopper and Smydra agree that Ernest put a lot of time into helping businesses with getting funds through the CARES Act.

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