Ludington councilor reprimanded after swearing at mayor. 

November 24, 2020

Ludington councilor reprimanded after swearing at mayor. 

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — Outgoing Fifth Ward City Councilor Angela Serna was reprimanded by a 4-3 vote Monday, Nov. 23, during the regular City Council meeting. The reprimand included a formal letter along with removal of Serna’s seat on the city’s Building and Licensing Committee. 

During the Nov. 9 regular meeting of the council, held on Zoom, Serna told Mayor Steve Miller to “F@*k off” after he would not allow her to ask a developer a question about the price the developer was planning to charge for townhouses. The council was reviewing a preliminary sketch plan for a proposed development at 110 E. Danaher St.

“Does anybody, like, know the cost?” Serna asked. “Are these going to be half million cottages like those cottages on Loomis Street that are $700,000?”

Following the question City Manager Mitch Foster said the developer was listening to the meeting and, with the mayor’s permission, could be asked the question. In response, Mayor Miller stated: “Is this relevant to the sketch we are approving? We can move through that later on but what we are here for is sketch approval. The question can be asked and relayed.” 

Serna then responded, raising her voice: “I have a question. I have a right to ask, Steve… it’s relevant to the building.”

Miller then said: “Councilor, I prefer to move on and approve this preliminary sketch plan and get your answer in a bit. I don’t think it has any affect on the sketch plan.” 

Serna: “I think it does, that’s why I asked it.”

Mayor Miller: “Then I’m willing to hear the argument of what the cost of the unit has to do with the plan itself.”

Serna: “It’s feasible for this area, that’s why. If I have a question, if somebody from the Fifth Ward wanted to know and asked me to bring it up at the Council, I have a right to ask that for somebody in the Fifth Ward. You’re stopping my right to ask a question…. f@#k you…. kiss my f@&king ass.” 

Serna then left the meeting. 

In May 2019 the council approved a “code of conduct” which allows for the elected officials to reprimand a councilor who violates the code. One of the courses of action from a reprimand is removal of committees. Ultimately, the councilor’s constituents are responsible for removing a councilor from office, as they did during the Nov. 3 election this year when Serna was defeated 267-266 by challenger Wally Cain. 

During Monday’s meeting, the council voted 6-1 to add the reprimand on the agenda. 

“Previous direct conversations and actions reinforcing council expectations for personal deportment have obviously been ineffective, as demonstrated by the unacceptable comments made by Fifth Ward Councilor Angela Serna during Council’s last meeting and her subsequent postings on social media directly thereafter,” the letter stated.

“Councilor Serna’s inappropriate language, accented with profanity, are a direct and willful disregard for the standards put fourth in the Code of Conduct, Section 3.

“The professional and personal conduct of council members must be above reproach, and avoid even 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.”

Serna admitted during Monday’s meeting that she “may have acted inappropriately. But I would not have acted that way if I would not have been provoked by the mayor.” 

“I am very passionate about my responsibilities as your public servant, like using foul language to get the point across,” she stated. 

Councilor-at-Large Brandy Miller described Serna’s use of vulgar language and gestures, along with her comments on social media as “shameful to the people of the Fifth Ward,” adding that the citizens of the city deserve better.

Second Ward Councilor Kathy Winczewski said she supported the reprimand. “Angela, you’ve been part of our team for a few years here, but you really came in with a chip on your shoulder… I don’t understand your animosity.” 

Third Ward Councilor Les Johnson said Serna’s language was uncalled for. “I guess it doesn’t matter how upset you get with someone, when you start using the f-bomb like that a lot of people will lose respect for you. I honestly feel this could have been avoided by everybody involved. It wouldn’t have taken much from keeping this from happening. I think we are turning this into a circus. As far as keeping her from any of the committees, I guess there’s only three meetings left. I just say leave things the way they are and go on from there.” 

Fourth Ward Councilor Cheri Stibitz reiterated that the mayor did state that Serna’s question could be asked at a more appropriate time. “I found it embarrassing,” Stibitz said about Serna’s behavior adding that young people may have been watching the meeting. “That was an exact example of how not to act when we feel wronged.” 

First Ward Councilor David Bourgette said he has tried to encourage Serna while she’s been on the council. “I’ve never hidden the fact that I have talked quite highly of Angela and her enthusiasm…. the last meeting was just a little over the top. I did not appreciate that she came out with quite a few swear words. I still think she has a lot to add to the council but needs to get her temper under control.” 

Johnson, Bourgette and Serna voted against the reprimand. 

Serna will continue to serve until Dec. 31. Cain will then take her place at the beginning of the year.

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