PAW PAW — Van Buren County prosecutor Michael Bedford says he plans to retire near the end of next year.
On Tuesday, Bedford attempted to get details of his retirement plan in sync with the county board. However, his first proposal was rejected by county commissioners, though but his second was approved unanimously.
Bedford had originally been an assistant prosecutor for Van Buren County, but was fired by then-Prosecutor Juris Kaps over a disagreement, according to Bedford. After that Bedford ran against Kaps and beat the veteran prosecutor.
That firing complicated Bedford’s retirement benefits, because, he said, he lost a year and used his benefits to support his family. He asked the commission to allow him to purchase one year’s worth of service time for $4,000, with the county putting in $23,000 due to the unusual circumstances of his departure. Bedford said the $4,000 figure would have been his 5 percent contribution from his $80,000 salary, had he received it.
Bedford plans to retire Dec. 9, 2020. His elected term ends 22 days later.
Commissioners turned down Bedford’s first request 3-3, with Commissioner Randall Peat absent. A tie vote means the matter is rejected. Following that, Bedford asked if he could purchase seven months of time. “I would pay the full fare,” he told commissioners. He noted that in the past some employees had purchased five year’s worth.
Commissioners unanimously approved that request.
Bedford recounted the story of Kaps firing him in December 2011. “I was fired because of who I was supporting and my political party that I chose to support,” Bedford told commissioners. Also, he and Kaps were on opposite sides of a proposal to eliminate one circuit judgeship in the county after Judge William Buhl retired.
Bedford said that when things came to a head and Kaps fired him, Kaps told him, “I can’t trust you anymore because of who your friends are.”
After that he ran for Kaps’ seat and beat him better than 2-to-1 in the Republican primary election. Kaps had been prosecutor for more than 30 years.
Kaps had said publicly at the time that the firing hadn’t been over Bedford’s friends but largely because Bedford had said he would run against Kaps, plus Kaps felt that Bedford was undermining him on the judgeship issue. Kaps was in favor of elimination, Bedford was opposed.
In other matters Tuesday, commissioners voted to allow sheriff’s Deputy Jason Stasienko to purchase his canine partner TICO.
TICO has served with the sheriff’s department since 2014 but is now experiencing health issues and is retiring. Stasienko is TICO’s partner.