By Graham Sturgeon, staff writer
The Byron Village Council is experiencing their latest bit of turbulence, as several members of the council are being charged with harassing and slandering a village employee.
Police Officer Lex Crooks, on Sept. 9, filed a complaint with the Village Office against Trustees Tony Prestonise, Vicki Bessenbacher, Hugh Miller and Duncan Orr for harassment. President Kit Brunell has not yet formally brought the complaint to the council, but Crooks detailed several inappropriate and threatening incidents that have taken place in the recent months in the letter he turned in to the office.
Crooks alleges that the aforementioned councilmembers have become “hostile” toward him recently, and he believes that those four members are targeting him because he resisted Bessenbacher’s desire to “meet socially.” He claims to have texts and written statements that affirm his charges against Bessenbacher, as well as written statements that show Prestonise was plotting to have him removed from the police department.
“After hearing what community members told me Bessenbacher said to them about me sexually and how she would get me, I feel this is why I am experiencing hostility from councilmembers and their families,” Crooks said in his letter. “I have always served this community to the best of my ability; risking my life for little pay. I feel very violated and upset over the sexual things that were said to the public I serve by Councilperson Bessenbacher.”
While Crooks’ written statements were not released, President Kit Brunell has given it all to the village attorney, John Gormley, and is awaiting his opinion as to the best way to proceed. She has also forwarded the information to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office for review.
“They have constantly created a hostile work environment for all of the employees, including myself,” President Brunell said of Prestonise, Miller, Bessenbacher, Orr and Trustee Ron Berecz. “They have been responsible for two people quitting in the last six months (Treasurer Lynndsy Tykoski and DPW Director Granger) and more are coming. It is really pathetic and I am disgusted by this council and their actions over the past year. They seem to be trying to destroy our town.”
The council meets at the Byron Village Hall at 7 p.m. Sept. 14. The complaint will surely be on the agenda, and the council will also probably discuss some new applicants for their police chief vacancy.