FRANKFORT — The turbulence began a decade ago, a small town political squall over a controversial police officer that years later continues to roil this otherwise tranquil shoreline community.
Frankfort officials laid off Officer Tim Cavric in 2003 amid citizen complaints over his aggressive tactics. What followed was a lengthy, costly court battle that ultimately led to his reinstatement, but a settlement over how much he’s owed in back pay remains unresolved.
The employment battle helped put an already-troubled search for a new police chief on hold and now some residents rumble about what they contend is city officials’ unfair treatment of Cavric, and perhaps something deeper and more insidious.
Dick Haan, a former city council member, echoes the belief of many residents that the Cavric controversy is indicative of a larger problems in Frankfort.
“I think the Officer Cavric thing is a symptom of the council doing whatever they want to do,” Haan said.
Accusations abound that city officials forced Cavric into unnecessary foot patrols in bone-chilling winter weather and that a then-council member made a cash wager that Cavric soon would be fired.
Cavric declined to comment for this story, citing department policy. Others spoke freely.
“They’re trying to make his life so miserable that he’d quit,” said Thelma Rider-Novak, who informally leads a vocal group of residents who are critical of officials’ actions that affect Cavric.
Rider-Novak peppers Frankfort officials with state Freedom of Information Act requests, one of which revealed that Cavric stated in a March 6 letter to Mayor Pro-tem JoAnn Holwerda that a wager by former council member Sandra Jackson helped “create a very hostile work environment.”
Officials redacted more than half the letter, citing a personnel record exemption and contending it pertained to a “mundane” dispute. The rest of the memo states Jackson made $100 bets with two Benzie County sheriff’s deputies that Cavric would be terminated at an upcoming meeting.