ALLEGAN — A decision by the Allegan County Board of Commissioners to move the offices of three officials from the Allegan County courthouse to a county complex in Allegan Township has resulted in a lawsuit.

County Treasurer Sally Brook, Clerk and Register of Deeds Bob Genetski and Drain Commissioner Denise Medemar have filed a lawsuit in 48th Circuit Court in Allegan County claiming that removal of their offices to the County Services Building on 122nd Avenue in the township violates Michigan law that states their offices be located in the county seat – which is at the courthouse at 113 Chestnut St., in the City of Allegan.

The lawsuit, filed on the three plaintiffs’ behalf by attorney Charles A. Lawler of the firm Clark Hill PLC in Lansing, contends that the offices of treasurer, clerk, register of deeds and drain commission are “constitutionally and statutorily required” according to Michigan law to be “located in the County Seat.”

The lawsuit further states the plaintiffs have “repeatedly requested the defendant (county board) not move their offices outside of the county seat as this disruption may impair their ability to conduct their constitutionally and statutorily mandated duties, but Defendant have refused.”

The lawsuit was filed March 10 with the plaintiff’s seeking a ruling their offices remain at the courthouse, located in the City of Allegan.

The lawsuit stems from the county board’s 2021-22 strategic goal-setting process to move the offices to the County Services Building on 122nd Avenue in Allegan Township, according to Jim Storey, chair of the Allegan County Board.

“While this transition has been discussed during numerous public meetings over several years, the final decision came during the Board’s 2021-22 Strategic Planning process,” Storey said in an interview, Wednesday.

The county has been in the process over the past decade of moving a number of services and offices from the courthouse to the County Services Building at its Dumont Lake complex in Allegan Township.

“The county previously had to make room for judicial needs in the courthouse,” Storey said. “The county repurposed the County Services Building – the former health department – when it constructed the (new) Human Services Building at the Dumont Lake complex.”

Offices currently located in the Human Services Building include the Board of Commissioners, county administration, human resources, finance, facilities management, equalization and information services.

“The Dumont Lake complex also includes buildings which house Medical Care Community services, Department of Health and Human Services, Public Defender, Health Department, MSU Extension, Michigan Works, Youth Home and Detention Center, including a circuit court courtroom, animal shelter, facilities management and 911 emergency dispatch,” Storey said.

The county chairman said it is not unusual for county government to move certain offices from their courthouses to other locations, to free up space for judicial purposes.

“Counties throughout the state have moved these offices out of judicial buildings,” Storey said, going on to relate that i n some cases, counties such as Ottawa, Ingham and Oakland, have moved such offices as treasurer and clerk, outside of the court building located in what is considered the County Seat.

He also disagreed with the lawsuit’s contention that the county seat is considered as the city of Allegan, not the township, which was formed before the City of Allegan came into existence.

“From a historical perspective the county has been informed its building locations are within the county seat,” Storey said. “The county plans will remain in compliance with the law, including the Michigan Constitution, based on legal review. The Board of Commissioners and Allegan County voters have never voted to make the City of Allegan the County Seat. Thus, the County Seat, Allegan Township, remains unchanged since Michigan became a state.”

Although the county board had planned to create new offices for the treasurer and drain commissioner no later than 2024, those plans might be curtailed with the lawsuit and could result in more costs to taxpayers, according to Storey.

“The lawsuit by three officials of Allegan County is unfortunate and unnecessary,” he said. “There is a required need to provide space for a new, third circuit court judge in early 2025 while meeting other judicial requirements. Within the county’s plans, the three officials could maintain space in the existing building as other counties have successfully done when faced with the same circumstances. However, existing county-owned office space within the historic county seat of Allegan Township would be utilized for these offices to expand availability of general government services for residents and speed the judicial process. Maintaining all current operations at the existing location would require an expenditure of $40 million to $50 million for a new consolidated building...The cost of the Board of Commissioners’ plan is $10 million versus the $40-$50 million cost of a new building.”