Opinion | Written by John Face | City Watch NEWS | October 27, 2020 | Albion, MI – Two years ago Albion was in a bad place. At the time we had City Manager Latonya Rufus that was not well liked locally except by a few. City Watch was constantly reporting on the state of City Hall and ultimately what appears to be the theft of several thousand dollars by the Manager, who would be fired in early 2019 and eventually indicted.
In the election of 2018 Dave Atchison challenged incumbent Mayor Garrett Brown and easily won the election. Mayor Garrett Brown was a catalyst in bringing Albion’s City Manager Rufus to town that eventually would be fired by Atchison’s Council. Albion’s vacancy at the City Manager position would be temporally filled the Director of Public Safety Scott Kipp. The replacement that was hired by Atchison’s council lasted just a few short months. Not much longer than the prior City Manager. At least the new Manager didn’t steal from us but the fact is the Mayor Atchison and council failed miserably in finding a replacement. Albion has had three City Managers in less than three years and two Mayors, Brown and Atchison who have not been able to lead us in finding a suitable replacement.
A New Start
Haley Snyder was appointed Acting City Manager by the council with incredible support from the local community that she came from. She has been Albion’s Assistant City Manager and is held in high regard while performing her duties. She has dealt with many situations inside City Hall and for the most part done well.
It wasn’t long after her appointment that rumors began. Albion Mayor Dave Atchison was constantly interfering with her and her work. City Watch heard from several people that Atchison was ordering her to do many things. It was reported he encouraged employee’s to come to him instead of following protocol and going to supervisors and the City Manager. City Watch sources told of regular interventions from the Mayor that frustrated Snyder. These actions by Atchison were no different than what former Mayor Brown was accused of doing with then City Manager Sheryl Mitchell.
The Covid-19 Pandemic has created hell on earth here in America. Locally we saw most all of Albion’s businesses closed due to restrictions from the state. The Albion Malleable was one of a few businesses that remained open and appeared to do well. As summer loomed they followed state guidelines to a tee and when it was allowed began seating inside. They furiously worked to get their Beer Garden opened as the state had said it would speed up the approval process to allow restaurants to sell alcohol outside.
An Award to Bring Recognition to Albion
The process at the State was quick, in Albion not so much. The owners at the Malleable submitted paperwork, requested the proper variances and ultimately received approval from the city to build their Garden. During all this City Watch started to hear of complaints about the Mayor. It was reported that he and Council member Al Smith expressed reservations about the Malleable’s Beer Garden, specifically the fence.
Reservations you say?
Well shortly after it was installed one employee tells the story that he heard a large noise shortly after they opened the Malleable that morning. When he looked up they saw the Beer Garden fence being rocked back and forth. Expecting to see a child outside they went out not to find a child, but 3rd Precinct Council member Al Smith vigorously shaking the fence. He stopped when the employee came out and said he was checking to see how sturdy it was. Rumors of negative comments from Smith and the Mayor about the fence were rampant.
Then in the midst of the Covid something good happened in Albion. The Malleable won the Best Burger in Michigan award from M-Live. Out of over 100 businesses judged this turned out to be a great honor. They suddenly had standing room only and the customers came from around the region. Luckily they had their Beer Garden opened and were able to seat outside.
Within days of the award a large street sized banner was delivered. It would be hung over Superior Street at Ash, the corner of their business. Again rumors that the Mayor was upset at this circulated. It was time for this reporter to sit down with the Mayor.
What is Your Problem?
I sat down with Dave Atchison on his front porch on a warm afternoon. I advised the Mayor I had some questions regarding his alleged interference at City Hall. I explained the rumors I had been told. He was adamant that he doesn’t interfere and that they were lies. He said I should speak to Haley (Snyder the Acting Manager) and she will tell me that he doesn’t do anything like that.
I pressed him and he continued to state he doesn’t interfere even though he gave me an example of how he went to her about an issue and asked her to deal with it. I then pointed out to him that he can’t do that and directions from him to her need to happen in council meetings.
I then asked him what his problem with the Albion Malleable was. He stated he had none. I asked about the banner and if he had issues. He said he had no problem except that the banner can’t be over Superior Street. He said he was pretty sure it can’t be there. I advised him my research showed it could be. He went on stating it was wrong, and “what if I wanted a banner for his B & B over Main Street should it be allowed?” I then told him that if his B & B was declared the best in the state that a banner would be appropriate. He said it’s unfair for the city to allow for this kind of advertising.
After several minutes of back and forth with him and eventually his wife I decided that I had enough for this story.
I reached out and met with the Acting City Manager Haley Snyder, we met in City hall in the Mayor’s office. I asked her about the rumors of the Mayors interference. She told me, “Mr. Face I have had no issues with the Mayor or any members of council”. She went on to say that the Mayor does not interfere. I asked her about the banner over Superior Street. I told her the Mayor said it shouldn’t be up. She advised that she is the one who authorized the banner to go up and that it is not against any rules for it to be there and she set a date for its removal.
This whole situation taught me one thing, the Acting Manager is a professional and whether the accusations regarding the Mayor were true or not she would have said only what she did.
Elections and CEO
As people continued to contact me about Mayoral interference our election draws near. This has turned out to be a crazy election season and in Albion there is no shortage of drama. There are several contested races for city offices. The Mayor’s race appears to be up for grabs.
Mayor Atchison is running for re-election. He is up against Joedy Brown and Victoria Garcia-Snyder. Many have opinions about this race and sadly many issues are on the table. This reporter’s phone and email exploded a few weeks ago as Mrs. Browns husband Scott was pictured standing beside a protester holding a sign that read “fuck the police” at Molder Park downtown. He was smiling and giving a thumbs up while appearing to support the sign.
Many said that this situation reflects poorly on her, I don’t know if it does. I do know that many asked I report it. I thought long and hard on whether I should. Are the actions of a spouse a reflection of the other? I think that answer is left to you the reader to answer. It would be unfair though to only report on Brown.
Mayor Atchison’s wife made a comment several months ago on Facebook about a sitting member of Congress. Corinne Atchison was engaged in a back and forth and ultimately made the comment that “she needs to (the congresswoman) go back to where she came from”. The Congresswoman is an American citizen. When I first heard about this I asked to see the post. There it was, she was repeating a comment that Trump made referring to the Squad. Three Congresswomen he has issues with because they are brown skinned.
Is Scott Browns actions wrong? Is Corinne Atchison’s? Should we consider them when we are voting? It’s your call. What we can consider are the actions of those running for office. Mayor Atchison’s “attempt” to start a conversation regarding race in Albion fell very short. His two Facebook posts created a firestorm of criticism with a majority of those responding insulted. If the posts weren’t racist they certainly showed an unbelievable lack of common sense.
Atchison recently wrote a letter to the Editor proclaiming everything he has done. How he is the CEO of Albion. It’s a list that sounds impressive. Of course the Mayor is not the CEO of Albion, nor did he accomplish anything else. He was the Mayor with one vote and together with the council accomplished many things. He gets the same amount of credit as the other elected members of council.
The CEO comment makes one wonder if in fact the statements made to City Watch are true, of his directing city employees, you know like a CEO would do.