Kalkaska Divided

Supporters of Kalkaska Village President Jeff Sieting gather outside the Sieting Hotel on South Cedar Street in downtown Kalkaska during Friday evening's opposing protests between those in support of Sieting and those against social media posts made by Sieting.

KALKASKA — Kalkaska’s village president’s continued refusal to apologize for his Facebook posts may trigger an attempt to remove him from office.

A series of posts village President Jeff Sieting shared on his personal Facebook page — including one that appeared to call for the killing of Muslims — caught Cindy Anderson’s eye several weeks ago. She and others fruitlessly sought Sieting’s apology at a June 26 village meeting.

Anderson, a real estate broker who owns land in the county and grew up near Kalkaska, returned for Monday’s village council meeting and asked Sieting if he thinks he should apologize for the social media activity. He displayed no remorse.

“I owe nobody an apology for exercising my First Amendment rights,” he said.

Sieting’s refusal to apologize will prompt a meeting of local residents and others who help comprise the Facebook group “Kalkaska Residents for Peace” to determine how to move forward. The group of about 154 people will look at different options, including a potential recall and finding someone to run against Sieting in 2018, Anderson said.

Anderson questioned how Sieting can continue to lead the village after discovering the posts she said “support racism and bigotry.”

“You ran for office to represent all the people of this community, not just the white, non-Muslim ones,” she said. “You were supposed to represent all of your constituents.”

Sieting defended his Facebook posts, including the post he appears to have copied that calls for the killing of “every last Muslim”.

Sieting argued America has been fighting Islam for hundreds of years and contends all Muslims are evil, either by their actions or their lack of action to prevent violence by Islamic extremists.

Sieting said the continuing issue likely is the result of non-village residents’ continuing attempts to kick him out of office because they oppose President Donald Trump and a sign on his Hotel Sieting asking citizens to pray for Trump — a dispute that began before his Facebook page began making headlines.

Other people could be joining this latest charge against Sieting simply because they do not like various changes he’s helped make during his time in office, he said.

“I don’t expect everyone to see things the way I do,” Sieting said.

Joyce Golden, a county resident, supported Sieting and defended his right to post whatever he pleases to his personal Facebook page.

“If you don’t want to read it, get off of (his Facebook page),” she said, supporting Sieting though she acknowledged she does not know him. “From what I do know, you are a very honest, faithful, hardworking man and I thank you for that. I hope you continue and stand your ground for your beliefs. I don’t believe he has to represent everybody.”

Sieting’s role mandates he represent the entire community, regardless of religion or skin color, Anderson said. As village president, his freedom to speak on social media also has restrictions, she argued.

“You don’t have that kind of benefit to speak your mind on your social media page when you’re an elected official,” she said. “You don’t see the mayor of Traverse City doing it. You don’t see the governor doing it.”

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