Ludington council reprimands councilor for social media comments.

July 26, 2019

Angela Serna

Ludington council reprimands councilor for social media comments.


By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — During its regular meeting Monday, July 23, the City Council voted unanimously to reprimand Fifth Ward Councilor Angela Serna for her recent comments on social media. Mayor Steve Miller cited the council’s code of conduct in reading a resolution of reprimand.

The vote was 6-0 with Councilor-at-Large Brandy Miller absent. Though Serna may not have verbally voted in favor of the reprimand, she did not vote against it, therefore casting an affirmative vote.

“Recent posts on social media prompt me to make this statement,” Mayor Steve Miller said during the meeting. “Previous conversations regarding Council’s expectations for person conduct have been ineffective as demonstrated by the comments posted on social media the weekend of July 20, 2019.

“The comments impugning the character of Police Chief Mark Barnett and those of the entire council are a direct and willful disregard for the standards set forth in the code of conduct, section 3: The professional and personal conduct of council members must be above reproach and avoid even in the appearance of impropriety. Members shall refrain from rudeness, disrespectful comments, insults, name-calling, abusive conduct, personal charges or verbal attacks upon the character or motives of other members of council, boards, committees, and commissions, the staff or public.”

The motion was made by Second Ward Councilor Kathy Winczewski and seconded by First Ward Councilor Joe Lenius.

The code of conduct was passed unanimously by the council in May (Serna voted in favor of it). The freshman councilor is often critical on social media about the city’s government.

Miller told MCP that he tried to hold a one-on-one meeting with Serna prior to the council meeting to discuss her recent online behavior. He said his main concerns were over her comments about Chief Barnett and also her conspiratorial comments about a meeting between a developer and councilors Winczewski and Lenius. However, Serna refused to meet with him, he said.

“I’ve actually had multiple conversations with Councilor Serna about her conduct. I’ve had messages and phone calls from community members stating their concerns. In this case, I didn’t want to get into a phone debate with her and preferred to speak to her in person. She wouldn’t meet with me unless I told her specifically what posts I was referring to.”

Miller said Serna expressed online concerns about a meeting that was called by a developer who invited Winczewski because she represents the ward the development will be located and Lenius because he represents the ward that is located across the street from the development, Miller said. Serna asserted on social media, and then later during the city council meeting, that she, Winczewski and Lenius are members of the building and licensing committee and therefore she should have been included.

“In reference to your meeting, your and Joe’s meeting with the, um, thing that’s going on, yes that’s your ward and I understand that’s your ward,” Serna said to Winczewski. “Joe does border it, but it looks kind of fishy and I had many people contact me this weekend in regards to that because you, Joe and myself are on the building and licensing long range planning and development committee are we not?”

Winczewski responded: “This has nothing to do with B&L (the committee).”

“It looked like it and that’s what everybody that contacted me said,” Serna said.

“That’s was your interpretation…,” Winczewski said.

Serna then cut off Winczewski: And lots of citizens’ interpretation.”

Mayor Miller then stopped the conversation. “This is an opportunity for comment and not back and forth discussion,” he said.

“The truth hurts sometimes and yet you reprimand me, and the truth hurts,” Serna said. “Yep, I might have been rude, that was me being nice. The truth hurts.”

During a social media conversation on July 18, a commenter was discussing the reduction of lanes on Ludington Avenue. Eric Thomas Kruer commented: Maybe instead of bike lanes for ‘safety’ said bikers should be educated on the rules of the road when riding and to LPD should enforce them.”

Serna responded: “lpd can’t even enforce current parking ordinances. instead they want fo (to) make new ones.”

In another post on July 20, regarding conversation of two people who were swept off the north breakwater, Serna stated: “Why weren’t they given a ticket then if it was blocked off LPD needs to start doing their job chief needs to start doing his job.”

(Editor’s note: Chief Mark Barnett stated in a news article earlier this week that LPD had been issuing tickets, since July 19, to people who violated the closure of the breakwater).

Another commenter, Robert Wilson, responded to Serna: “Just thought it would be brought up in the city meeting. On here it sounds like you’re still running for office instead of already being on the council. At least I thought you won.”

Serna responded: “It will be brought up…. I have inquired on other things publicly and chief tries to tell me differently, like saying campers agent aren’t vehicles (which according to MCL they are) I’ve proved him wrong but he wont’ admit it so I do it this way… call him out, do your job plain & simple.”

Miller said reprimand is following the procedures adopted by the council unanimously, which included Serna.

“This isn’t a witch hunt,” Miller said. “Councilor Serna actually does her homework and asks questions and that is exactly what councilors should do. I would like to see more conversation and more discussion on how it’s presented afterward and prevent a councilor’s conduct from becoming combative. Nobody is trying to deny her from speaking her mind but when you are an elected official you have to maintain a standard. The citizens deserve to have that standard upheld and each member of the present council agreed to that when they voted for the code of conduct.”

Miller said in reading the resolution if Serna is reprimanded again she will likely be removed from committee assignments.

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