TRAVERSE CITY — The man at the center of a swirl of lawsuits in the Village of Honor lost his title as leader of the small, Benzie County community.
Honor voters ousted former village president Dennis Rodzik in a May 3 recall election. They voted 79-13 to have former trustee Bill Ward take over as Honor Village president. Ward will serve for the remainder of the two-year term that ends in November.
"That's a considerably a large turnout, especially for a one-issue election," Ward said. "It really is because people are passionate about it ... He has not much support among those who know him well."
Debra Reed filed to recall Rodzik in October 2015, said Benzie County Clerk Dawn Olney. The recall petition states Rodzik misappropriated public funds after using village money to purchase a space heater, tools and materials for his personal use.
A jury found Rodzik not guilty of a charge of embezzlement by a public official over $50 based on the same accusations on April 27 in 19th Circuit Court.
Petitions must state "factual and clear" reasons for recalling an elected official during a term in office, Olney said.
Rodzik called into question the legitimacy of the recall election since a jury found him not guilty of embezzlement, and called the ordeal a "political witch hunt."
"They've chosen to destroy me," Rodzik said. "My reputation was sterling before this. Now they've managed to destroy me with false charges."
He contended the embezzlement charge ruined his political career. He said he planned to run for Homestead Township Supervisor, but because of the embezzlement charge no longer has a vote-winning reputation.
Rodzik said he won't challenge the recall results in court. He instead is focused on a lawsuit he intends to file in circuit court, arguing four village residents slandered, libeled and defamed him.
"There's something much more bigger that's about to happen shortly," Rodzik said. "Much, much more bigger."
The suit would be the second Rodzik launched against fellow village residents. He is also involved in an ongoing case in which he accused Ward and village trustees Richard Fast and Kathy McManus of violating the state’s Open Meetings Act.
"Mr. Rodzik sues anybody he can for any reason he comes up with," Ward said. "It's basically a nuisance. Vengeful actions against those who stand up to him. He's willing to try to use the court system to basically intimidate, prosecute."
Ward said his first move as president will be to return the village's sewer rate to the level it was before it was lowered in 2014. Ward said the lower rate isn't enough to maintain the system.
Rodzik took credit for the lower sewer rate.
"There's no reason whatsoever to raise rates," he said.