Michigan Supreme Court

    June 11, 2012 Update

    Robert McClure, investigative journalist and cofounder of Investigate West,
    published a well researched article titled: ‘Heart of Michigan park sacrificed for
    private golf course’. Among other critical facts he exposed another case of conflict
    of interest in our Request for Leave to Appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court and
    Attorney General Bill Schuette's intervention in the appeal process.

    "The state attorney general who filed an amicus brief to the Michigan Supreme
    Court in Supreme Court in support of Harbor Shores’ bid to build the golf
    course in January 2011 has received $35,000 in campaign donations from the
    City of Benton Harbor's law firm since 2010, according to the National
    Institute for Money in State Politics. The firm is his fifth-biggest donor.”

    Not only did Bill Schuette, 2010 Candidate for Michigan Attorney General, benefit
    from generous campaign donations from an exclusive reception at the Harbor Shores
    Golf Club given by Jeff Fettig, CEO of the Whirlpool Corporation (see prior update
    below), but as McClure revealed in the excerpt above, Bill Schuette ALSO received a
    $35,000 campaign contribution from the very law firm that represented the city of
    Benton Harbor in our Request for a Leave to Appeal with the Michigan Supreme
    Court. In fact, this is the first that we knew of this additional layer of conflict of
    interest.

    We wonder if after reading this and the prior update below if others see the same
    conflict of interest that we do? If so please let us know at: info@savejeanklockpark.
    org.

    January 13, 2012 Update

    January 21, 2012 will mark the first year since our case went before the Michigan
    Supreme Court, but was soon after declined by the court. To say it was disappointing
    to make it all the way to Lansing just to be rejected is a huge understatement,
    especially knowing what we knew that we never shared with the public -- that is until
    now.

    On June 20, 2010, Jeff Fettig, Chairman of the Board and CEO of the Whirlpool
    Corporation held a reception for Bill Schuette, then Republican candidate for
    Michigan's Attorney General, helping to raise possibly tens of thousands of
    dollars for his campaign. The Host Committee alone paid $500 per couple. This
    pricey soirée was held at none other than the privately owned Harbor Shores Golf
    Club - the crux of the entire argument in the litigation is the existence of it's private
    golf holes on public parkland.

    On January 21, 2012, the VERY DAY of our Supreme Court appearance, newly
    elected Attorney General Bill Schuette sent the court an Amicus Brief instructing the
    court to not hear our Leave to Appeal. We shouldn't be surprised that the newly
    elected Attorney General would support the developers since he was so generously
    and graciously supported into office by them.

    We cannot help but feel that this is yet another heinous example of justice being
    blatantly manipulated by corporate and political interests.


    February 4, 2011 - Court Denies Plaintiff's Leave to Appeal

    On Friday, February 4th the Michigan Supreme Court issued a shocking 6 to1
    decision that there would be no further review of our leave to appeal and ordered our
    application be denied. The sole reason given in the Court Order was,
    " because we are not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed
    by this Court.” The news wasn’t released until Saturday, February 5, 2011.

    We are enormously displeased with the court’s decision and feel that aside from
    Justice Stephen Markman, the court got it tragically wrong. Obviously Justice
    Markman agrees with our arguments as in the Court Order he made direct statements
    in his dissenting opinion in reference to our arguments:

    “… I believe that the City’s use of Jean Klock Park, by leasing portions of
    it for 105 years to a private commercial entity, the Harbor Shores
    Community Redevelopment, Inc., for its use as a golf course, constitutes a
    breach of faith …"   

    "Although the City prevails today, it, and other communities throughout
    our state, may well come out losers tomorrow as later generations of
    philanthropists look at the legacy of J. N. and Carrie Klock and come to
    question the faithfulness of government in upholding their intentions after
    they too have passed. I respectfully dissent.”  – Justice Stephen Markman –


    January 21, 2011 - Oral Arguments Have Been Heard

    On Friday, January 21, Oral Arguments were heard by the Michigan Supreme Court
    in the case of Carol Drake and Clellen Bury -vs- The City of Benton Harbor and
    Harbor Shores Community Redevelopment Inc. We are cautiously optimistic that the
    court will rule in our favor. Although we anticipate it will be sooner, the court has
    until July 31 to reach a decsion.


    Initially oral arguments were to be scheduled for December of this year but due to
    the election there was a change in the Supreme Court Justices. As a result, all of the
    December cases will be scheduled for January of next year, after the incoming
    Supreme Court Justices take their seats.




    At oral argument, the parties shall address whether the City of Benton
    Harbor may lease a portion of Jean Klock Park to Harbor Shores Community
    Redevelopment Corporation to develop 3 holes of a proposed 18-hole championship
    Jack Nicklaus golf course, without violating: (1) the restriction set forth in the 1917
    deed; or (2) the January 27, 2004 consent judgment in an earlier lawsuit between the
    plaintiffs and the City relating to the City’s sale of a portion of Jean Klock Park to
    Grand Boulevard Renaissance, LLC, for the construction of a residential
    development.

    We feel more strongly than ever that the Trial Court and Court of Appeals erred in
    their decisions and we are deeply concerned about the dangerous precedent that has
    been set; making it easier for corporations and government to take dedicated public
    park land to use for privately owned commercial purposes. People who make a gift,
    who leave a legacy like the Klocks, should know that their legacy will be protected in
    the future. Unless the Michigan Supreme Court reverses the lower court's decision,
    "those who do not own a foot of ground...have no piano or phonograph", as John
    Klock promised at the dedication ceremony, are the biggest losers because the park,
    and others like it, will no longer belong to the general public.


    March 3, 2010 - Application for Leave to Appeal

    Two members of the Friends of Jean Klock Park made a decision to challenge a  
    Michigan Court of Appeals ruling in favor of the City of Benton Harbor and Harbor
    Shores Development Inc., and filed an Application for Leave to Appeal with the
    State of Michigan Supreme Court.


    November 3, 2009 - Michigan Court of Appeals

    The Michigan Court of appeals heard oral arguments regarding the 1917 Klock deed
    and 2004 Berrien County Court Consent Judgment. At that time it was noted by two
    of the judges on the panel that this case was their most difficult case of that month
    and that they would be taking a hard look at the written arguments in this case. Click
    to read the Brief on Appeal that was filed on November 26, 2008.

    On January 21, 2010, the State of Michigan Court of Appeals in Grand Rapids ruled
    in favor of the defendants, the City of Benton Harbor and Harbor Shores
    Community Redevelopment Inc. We maintain that the Circuit Court, and now the
    State Court of Appeals, attempted to define individual words in the Klock deed, not
    the full context of the language of the deed.


    July 8, 2008 - Berrien County Circuit Court

    From 2005 until the summer of 2008 we worked non-stop to show government
    officials and regulatory agencies how the public had been kept out of the process and
    that the process itself was, and is, in violation of State and Federal laws. There has
    been no transparency, no truth. After exhausting all efforts within the system we had
    no choice but to take legal action. On July 8, 2008 a lawsuit to uphold the Consent
    Judgment and Klock Deed was filed. On August 22, 2008 the lawsuit was dismissed.  
    On November 26, 2008, an appeal was filed with the Michigan Court of Appeals in
    Grand Rapids.


    Grand Boulevard Litigation 2003 - 2004

    In 2003 a group of citizens joined together to prevent the sale of a portion of JKP for
    a housing development. Their efforts resulted in a lawsuit, Settlement Agreement
    and Consent Judgement that allowed a small portion of property to be developed in
    exchange for permanent protections of the remaining park property forever.

    During the 2003 litigation over the housing development it was discovered that there
    was no reverter clause in the Klock deed and that the entire park was up for grabs. A
    retired Berrien County Judge who acted as our "advisor", and our attorneys, advised
    us to settle out of court as they felt the risk was too great and that the park could be
    lost forever if we didn't.

    Language in the Klock Deed states: "...shall forever be used by said City of Benton
    Harbor for bathing beach, park purposes, or other public purposes." "Other public
    purposes" could have meant gas lines oil wells, or a hospital etc.

    Supposedly, to remedy that threat, new language was included in the Settlement
    Agreement and the Consent Judgment that was described to the plaintiffs as an
    additional layer of protection against further privately owned or commercial
    development in the park. The new language included: "The Court permanently
    enjoins the City from using any portion of the property depicted as "Jean Klock
    Park" as depicted in Exhibit C to this Consent Judgment for any purpose other than
    bathing beach, park purposes or other public park purposes related to bathing beach
    or park use, except for recreational vehicle campsites.  

    What was unknown then, and therefore not entered into discovery,
    was that for more than 20 years the former Whirlpool CEO and Cornerstone
    Alliance, the Whirlpool founded Chamber of Commerce, were planning to
    "transform" this publicly owned Lake Michigan park into a privately owned golf
    course development. We discovered the undisclosed intentions in December of 2004,
    eleven months after the Consent Judgment was signed.



Save Jean Klock Park
Litigation History

Friends of Jean Klock Park | PO Box 8988 | Benton Harbor, MI 49023
info@savejeanklockpark.org | www.savejeanklockpark.org
© 2009 Friends of Jean Klock Park. All Rights Reserved.