Kent Co. commissioner issues ‘disappointing’

Left to right: Gary Rolls and Michael Wawee. (Courtesy photos)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In the past two months, two Kent County Commissioners have found themselves in legal trouble.

Former commissioner Gary Rolls resigned after he was charged with six felony counts for allegedly sexually abusing a woman for years. And on Monday, allegations surfaced that Commissioner Michael Wawee Jr. embezzled money from the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids, where he worked. According to police documents, Wawee was overcharging grieving families for the engraving of grave markers then getting a kickback from those who did the work.

“Disappointing and frustrating. Yes, I would say that is true,” said Board of Commissioners Chair Dan Koorndyk.

Though disappointing and frustrating, Koorndyk said it hasn’t stopped the commission from doing its job.

“The county is running efficiently, effectively, We are going about our business. We are doing the things the citizens expect us to do in order to supply all the services that people expect from the county on a day to day basis. We will do that, we have done that, we will continue to do that,” he said.

Koorndyk said he had a short conversation with Wawee earlier this week.

Wawee said he would let Koorndyk know by the end of the weekend as to if he was going to stay on as a commissioner.

“He is currently commissioner.  He has been removed a chairmanship. It’s up to Commissioner Wawee to decide what his future is at this point. We have no legal recourse to remove him,” Koorndyk said.

When asked if he would like Wawee to resign, Koorndyk said “I would leave it up to him, but I would hope that that would be the case, yes.”

He went on to say.

“It’s very unfortunate, but I don’t think it damages the reputation [of the board]. I think you have to look at the whole. We have 19 commissioners — a lot of good solid citizens that work hard every day at their regular jobs and then also coming down to do the commission jobs as well,” Koorndyk said.

He also pointed out that neither of the legal issues the two men are facing have anything to do with the commission.

“The allegations have nothing to do with the running of the county. They are all personal life. Everyone has their personal life outside their county life and all this has to do with personal. Not county business whatsoever,” Koorndyk said.

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