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Traverse City Record-Eagle

KALKASKA — The former Kalkaska village treasurer filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the municipality three months after her public firing.

Jennifer Standerfer was terminated on Nov. 5 by vote of the Kalkaska Village Council after months of friction between the treasurer and village leadership. That night she alleged village trustees were punishing her for questioning past administrative decisions, an accusation borne out in her complaint filed Friday in Kalkaska County Circuit Court.

Standerfer could not be reached for comment and deferred questions to her Traverse City-based attorney, Anders Gillis.

"We're still open to finding a resolution but needed to make sure we preserved her rights, so we filed the complaint," Gillis said.

Among the contentions in Standerfer's lawsuit are: violation of the Michigan Whistleblowers' Protection Act; failure to produce personnel records; breach of implied contract; and, breach of contract. She's seeking more than $25,000 in damages.

The suit alleges village officials devised a "scheme to retaliate against the plaintiff by terminating her employment in violation of agreed upon terms and Michigan law."

The complaint also includes a demand for a jury trial.

Scott Yost, Kalkaska village manager, said legal counsel has submitted the case to the village's insurer and it remains unknown what attorney will defend the municipality from the civil suit. Otherwise, Yost declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Village President Harley Wales said this lawsuit was not unforeseen.

"It did not come as a huge surprise," Wales said, but declined to comment further.

Standerfer's woes with village leaders began in December 2017 when she discovered missing village police credit card receipts to the tune of $1,000, canceled those cards and refused orders to reinstate them. She was suspended from her job until February last year, when officials reinstated her to the treasurer's post.

Standerfer's employment agreement came up for review in October last year, a matter of weeks after the results of an ethics probe into a litany of her allegations of wrongdoing inside village government, primarily against Yost and Jeff Sieting, former village president.

Attorney Todd Millar of Traverse City was hired by village officials to investigate and interview those associated with the village regarding Standerfer's ethical violation complaints.

Millar determined Sieting should not have entered into various contracts with the village because it violates the municipality's conflict of interest policy, even if he was the sole or low bidder on multiple projects. Also, Millar said Sieting should not have been hired to build a squad room for the village and Yost violated the village's conflict of interest policy by allowing that.

Millar determined the remainder of Standerfer's allegations to either not be an ethical violation or to be "de minimis" in scope, meaning inconsequential.

Court records show no hearing dates have yet been scheduled for this case.

Reporter