Allegations against Andrew George addressed before city commission

Responding to recent discussions about Andrew George’s alleged record of conduct, Michael Hogoboom read a statement aloud at a Three Rivers City Commission meeting Tuesday evening. Hogoboom is Vice Chair of the Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority (TRDDA), and George is its Chair. George has been the subject of recent public scrutiny in the wake of his involvement with a proposed marijuana ballot initiative in Three Rivers and his candidacy last year for the St. Joseph County Commission.

Two weeks ago, at its previous meeting on February 16, the City Commission reappointed George to another three-year term on the TRDDA board after a discussion about his relationship to an organization that filed a lawsuit against the city last summer. Watershed Voice provided coverage of that conversation.

The lawsuit alleged that city staff erroneously rejected their petition to place a marijuana ordinance on the city election ballot and was dropped after commissioners agreed to authorize City Attorney J. Patrick O’Malley to draft an ordinance for City Commission approval, and to appear on a future ballot in 2021. At the February 16 meeting, two commissioners questioned George’s loyalty to the city because he was employed by the organization which filed the lawsuit. Mayor Tom Lowry and other commissioners defended George, and his reappointment was approved.

The following day, on February 17, a Kalamazoo resident and Three Rivers native named Megan Martin posted a comment on a Watershed Voice Facebook post about the meeting, alleging that George had raped her in the late 2000s. Watershed Voice also provided coverage of Martin’s allegations, including follow-up comments by George in which he denied the allegations were true.

Hogoboom’s statement addressed Martin’s allegations against George. Although he had written it beforehand, Hogoboom read it aloud during the meeting’s usual public comment period. The statement was as follows:

I’ve been asked by our City Manager to address concerns over the allegations against Mr. Andrew George from a private situation 12 years ago.

I’ve spoken with both parties involved as well as individuals that may remember details of the night and its aftermath. At the request of Mrs. Martin and out of respect for Mr. George I will not be sharing the details of those conversations. What I will say is what I found were two very different, and contradictory accounts.

“It is my opinion that what occurred that night 12 years ago may not have been violent and predatory, but rather more nuanced and miscommunicated which often occurs when drugs and alcohol are mixed by young and inexperienced individuals.

The next board meeting of the DDA has not occurred yet and for that reason I have nothing to report on at this time. The Executive Board has met, and its members had weighed in before the meeting, and at this time the recommendation is to take no action and allow for the individuals to handle this matter privately.

Contingencies are in place and Mr. George has been fully cooperative and understanding that when this matter is discussed or action is taken, his authority as Board Chair and ability to vote on anything that may come about on the matter is to be temporarily suspended.

To my knowledge, Mr. George has always conducted himself in a professional manner, and never made staff, volunteers, or board members feel uncomfortable or unsafe. I have spoken directly with Ms. Meyer and have been assured that she feels comfortable with Mr. George continuing his role as her direct supervisor.

Mrs. Martin has expressed to me that she would be open to discussing the incident with Mr. George, provided that the goal of the conversation was an outcome of closure and reconciliation. Specifically, her words were, “I am open to a conversation with him as long as apologies are involved.”

Oftentimes, in these situations that happen behind closed doors, nobody wins, and there is no resolution, but in this particular situation there is an opportunity to move on with the aforementioned closure and reconciliation, and I think that should not be taken for granted. We have seen many examples from Hollywood and national politics of good and bad ways to handle situations like these, and to paraphrase a local leader on a different matter, “We can do it the right way here [in Three Rivers].”

Following Hogoboom’s statement, there was no further discussion during Tuesday’s meeting about George, nor of Martin’s allegations against him. There were no related agenda items. No commissioners brought George or the allegations up, and no one addressed Hogoboom’s statement. In a follow-up telephone conversation with Watershed Voice, Lowry said, “I know of no action being considered.” Lowry said he did not expect commissioners to raise the topic in the near future.

Watershed Voice will be providing additional coverage regarding the rest of Tuesday’s Three Rivers City Commission meeting later this week.

Dave Vago is a writer and columnist for Watershed Voice. A Philadelphia native with roots in Three Rivers, Vago is a planning consultant to history and community development organizations and is the former Executive Director of the Three Rivers DDA/Main Street program.