HUDSONVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) - District Court Judge Kenneth Post will be defended by an attorney paid for by Ottawa County.
The state's judicial tenure committee alleges Post didn't follow the law and was improper to a defense attorney in a December 2011 hearing.
County officials told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday that since Post's actions were an error committed while he was on the job, their "errors and omissions" insurance would cover the cost of his defense.
"If you're performing your regular functions if you're sued for whatever reason, or a mistake was made, then the insurance was intended for that purpose," said county administrator Al Vanderberg.
Vanderberg said the insurance is intended to cover county officials -- which could mean anyone from a sheriff's deputy to the judge -- if they make a mistake on the job.
Post, through his attorney Doug Van Essen, told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday that he made a mistake with defense attorney Scott Millard in a December hearing.
Ottawa County has a unique insurance situation. Many counties and municipalities join groups like the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority or the Michigan Municipal League for insurance or risk management issues.
Ottawa County instead has its own insurance authority -- the Ottawa County Michigan Insurance Authority -- that is a separate legal entity to the county but a part of the county government.
The authority is run by a board made up of county commissioners and officials. It handles issues like lawsuits for the county. The county website says the authority "assumes financial and operational responsibility for all matters relating to risk retention, risk management, and insurance coverage (except employee benefits) for the County, including its departments and agencies, and the Ottawa County Building Authority."
The attorney for the authority is Doug Van Essen. Van Essen is on retainer for the authority to handle cases like Post's. He is paid an hourly wage for his services that he would only describe as less than his private fees and "competitive."
24 Hour News 8 asked how the authority is funded. Officials said it is funded through several different sources -- one being taxpayer funds.
County officials told 24 Hour News 8 that authority's full board did not make the decision to pay for Post's defense, rather a separate work group for the authority -- made up of the county administrator, county on-site counsel and Van Essen -- decided that Post's case would qualify for coverage under the county insurance.
Both Van Essen and Vanderberg told 24 Hour News 8 that all employees aren't automatically defended if they're accused of wrong doing, but rather each case is looked at independently. In Post's case, the fact that his alleged wrong doing happened during work played a role in the group's decision to fund his defense.
Officials said the possibility that action may be unpopular did not play a role in the ultimate decision.
"With the insurance authority, and the role of a county administration, we really do our best to not look at the politics of a situation but just do the right things as far as what the rules are. And there are standards in the public officials errors and omissions insurance and we tend to want to do what the right thing is," said Vanderberg.
This is the first time the county had to discuss the issue.
"It seems like every situation's a new situation, but yeah, this is more unique," said Vanderberg. "At least I've been here about nine years, we haven't had a judge investigated by the judicial tenure commission."
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