A man convicted of disturbing the peace at a March 7 Novesta Township Board of Trustees meeting repeatedly interrupted others after using his allotted five minutes to address the board, and ignored multiple warnings to stop butting in, according to the township clerk.
Wesley B. Yeo, 48, who pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor and was ordered to pay $280 in fines and costs by Tuscola County District Judge Kim David Glaspie, also refused the townshiap board’s order to leave the premises, said Clerk Joann Peters.
Township meetings take place in a building the township rents from the Cass City Gun Club off Englehart Road north of Severance Road. Yeo entered the plea as part of an agreement with prosecutors, who dismissed a second misdemeanor charge of trespassing.
Disturbing the peace carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. Peters said township board members at the March 7 meeting told Yeo to leave “the premises – not just the parking lot” after he continually interrupted and criticized audience and board members, even after speaking for five minutes during the portion of the meeting reserved for public comment.
After township Supervisor Ralph Zinnecker ordered Yeo to leave the meeting, Yeo took about five minutes before departing, and kept making statements to interrupt the meeting during that time, Peters said.
“He made more remarks, then he left,” Peters said.
Yeo then re-entered the meeting, informing board members he would not leave the premises but would wait in the parking lot until police officers came to the scene. During the meeting, township officials called police, who arrived and arrested Yeo on the criminal charges, Peters said.
Yeo told The Advertiser he was prepared to go to trial on the misdemeanor charges on June 14, but that he decided to plead guilty to one of the two charges after his lawyer summarized what Judge Glaspie told the attorney in a conference.
“The judge basically said he didn’t want it in his courtroom,” Yeo said. “He’d hear the case, but if he heard the case and I lost, he would be stringent. I don’t know what you know about this county, but if a judge is saying that, you’re in deep (trouble), brother.”
Peters said both she and Zinnecker ordered Yeo to keep quiet several times during the meeting.
“I’m sure I probably told him to quiet down once or twice – maybe three times,” Peters said.
Yeo didn’t dispute Peters’ general summary of the meeting.
“Actually, what she’s saying is correct,” Yeo said. “But what she’s not telling you is the supervisor was sitting there trying to get somebody else money under false pretenses. He was saying that our old (zoning administrator) quit about money.
“I have a right to instruct the board under the Michigan state constitution. So I was instructing him to tell the public the truth. The (zoning administrator) quit because of the time involved in the job. He has a family, he works 10 hours a day, he’s got kids in sports and he just don’t have the time to put in for what the job requires.”
Yeo and another township resident frequently interrupt township board meetings, causing chaos and making it hard for board members or the audience to communicate with each other, according to Peters.
“Personally, I don’t think (Yeo) needs to sit in jail or anything else,” Peters said. “He needs to understand how the process works, and we can’t have meetings that are like that, because then it takes the whole process and throws it out the door.
“It’s very hard to keep minutes (of the meeting) on stuff when you’ve got people yelling. Half the time you can’t hear, and the audience can’t hear what we’re saying up there. You have to pretty much talk over them. There are a lot of times where we’re just sitting there talking over them.”
Members of the audience may speak for up to five minutes each during the portion of the board meeting reserved for public comment, but the time after that is set aside for the township board to conduct business, Peters said.
“(Yeo) simply will not let us conduct the business,” Peters said.
Tom Gilchrist is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org