Since leaving office as mayor of Grand Rapids, John H. Logie has been a political cipher. Unloved and unwanted, Boss Logie has opened his yap many a time on this and that over the past few years and has been met with a collective yawn. However, a week ago he finally found an audience for one of diatribes. He took the lectern at the leftist Fountain Street Church, where he is a long-time member, and brayed about the need to impeach the evil George H. Bush. According to the Grand Rapids Press, the congregation responded with applause as Boss Logie thundered, "Isn't it obvious we are being led by 'wicked men, ambitious of power, with a hatred of liberty, and a contempt of law?'"
That's rich, to say the least. Even if the Grand Rapids City Charter by deliberate design reduced the office of mayor to a ceremonial post, our ambitious Hizzoner wasn't about to be restrained by mere law. And so Boss Logie notoriously grabbed power on as many local government boards as possible to ram through his agenda for River City, and then twisted arms in backroom deal after backroom deal to get his way. One of his legacies is "Logie's Landfill", the old Monroe Avenue water filtration plant that he sold, as mayor, to the developers of the Boardwalk project.
It just happened that the developers needed a nearby spot to dump 25,000 tons of toxic waste they were excavating from the Boardwalk site to accommodate the requirements of the project's anchor tenant, Spectrum Health's training and research consortium. It also just happened that Spectrum Health was a major client of Boss Logie's law firm, Warner Norcross & Judd. And it also just happened that the Boardwalk project was owned and controlled by another major client of Boss Logie's firm, Old Kent Bank (now Fifth Third Bancorp). Spectrum wanted the site excavated to make room for a new level for its consortium, Old Kent wanted the developers to get rid of the excavated waste no questions asked, and the developers wanted a convenient place to dump it. And Boss Logie had just such a spot to make everyone happy, the big empty underground water tanks of the filtration plant.
So in February 1999 Boss Logie got the City Commission to agree to sell the filtration plant to one of the Boardwalk developers, one of his favorite city contractors, Dykema Excavators Inc. After that he suspended the provision of the purchase agreement, required by the City Commissioners to prevent the dumping of hazardous waste at the filtration plant, that required the Boardwalk developers to allow city inspection of the materials for filling in the underground tanks. With the inspection regime neutered, the Boardwalk developers then proceeded during the spring and summer of 2000 to fill the tanks with twenty thousand tons of waste from the Boardwalk site, including soil contaminated with toxic concentrations of lead, arsenic, and mercury.
Meanwhile Boss Logie got the city government to promote the GEWT project to redevelop the filtration plant as a research center and museum for clean water technologies. GEWT, the Global Enterprise for Water Technologies, was the creation of Robert Newhof of the environmental consulting firm, Prein & Newhof Inc. As it happened, once again, Prein & Newhof was the environmental consultant for Dykema Excavators. The purpose of GEWT was to funnel enough public and private donations into this project to pay Dykema Excavators for a long-term lease of the filtration plant. The effect of this transaction would have been to provide Dykema Excavators with a windfall on what it, along with the other Boardwalk developers, had turned into a toxic landfill without an actual sale of the property. A sale would have necessitated environmental testing of it, which would have discovered the illegal dumping of the Boardwalk waste there.
Needless to say, that the sheer chutzpah of this scheme was to cover up an illegal toxic dump with a non-profit program dedicated to eliminating pollution. With Boss Logie's assistance (and that of other local pols), Newhof got Michigan State University, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and local philanthropist Peter Wege to seriously consider supporting the GEWT project. At one point GEWT claimed to have $30 million lined up in pledges. With a great deal of hoopla and media hype, GEWT had an opening gala to kick off its fundraising drive in November 2000. Immediately after that, GEWT disappeared and nothing more was heard of it. Why?
The scam had been exposed. In November 2000 all of the big names that GEWT lined up to pour money into the filtration plant project -- i.e., MSU, the MDEQ, and Wege -- had learned from the Local Area Watch about the landfilling of the Boardwalk's hazardous waste into the plant's tanks. They all bugged out. In fact, the MDEQ opened an administrative investigation of the dumping at that time and later a criminal one in February 2001. In February 2004, the MDEQ tested, at the direction of the attorney general's office, the soil landfilled at the filtration plant, and those samples revealed the presence of the Boardwalk's waste in toxic concentrations. (This is now part of the Local Area Watch's hazardous waste complaint against the Boardwalk developers now pending in the state court.)
At official sessions in March and again in May 2001, the City Commission discussed with Boss Logie the environmental problems at "Logie's Landfill". He denied that any problems existed and that his ties to Old Kent Bank and Spectrum Health had any impact upon his role in the sale and subsequent lack of regulation of dumping at the filtration plant. However, when the Local Area Watch attempted to get the minutes of these sessions in the spring of 2002, Boss Logie had them destroyed by Assistant City Attorney Daniel Ophoff. To prevent the Local Area Watch from seeking court protection of these documents, Ophoff lied to L.A.W.'s attorney about his plan to destroy them.
Of course, boys and girls, that's just one Boss Logie tale. Suffice it to say, his screed at the Fountain Street Church to impeach Bush as a liar and scofflaw was a fine example of the pot calling the kettle black.