Southwest Michigan Today: Tuesday May 15, 2018

May 15, 2018

Kalamazoo County has to submit a new plan for criminal defendants who can't afford a lawyer. A Kalamazoo County attorney says she was fired because she planned to file a civil rights complaint. Former Kalamazoo Gazette Managing Editor Jim Borden passes away. 

Kalamazoo County officials are going back to the drawing board on a plan to help criminal defendants who can't afford a lawyer. The Kalamazoo Gazette says the state board that handles the issue recently rejected the county's indigent defense plan. It says there are questions about the county's proposal to spend a million dollars on jail and court improvements. The plan also included a request for a four-million-dollar state grant. County officials say they'll submit a smaller proposal. The county must meet new state guidelines on indigent defense. They include areas where defendants can meet confidentially with court-appointed attorneys.

A Kalamazoo County attorney says she was fired because she intended to file a civil rights complaint. The Kalamazoo Gazette says documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show Amber Beebe, who is African-American, claims she lost her job when it became known she would be filing a grievance alleging discrimination based on race and disability. Beebe declined to comment to the Gazette. The county says Beebe was not fired over the civil rights complaint. They say her employment was terminated for using county resources to maintain a private law practice, insubordination and making a “reckless and baseless” accusation against County Administrator Traci Moored

A new draft plan to restore Monarch butterfly populations in Michigan and surrounding states is accepting public comment through the end of the month. Dan Kennedy is the endangered species coordinator for Michigan Department of Natural Resources says while the Monarch butterfly is not on the endangered species list, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Division will review their status in June of 2019. (WCMU

A large redevelopment project in Vicksburg has won some state money. The Kalamazoo Gazette says the Department of Environmental Quality will loan nearly $1.4-million for the project. It will renovate an old paper mill for use as office and residential space as well as a craft beer tap house and a museum. The mill closed in 2001. Developers must remove industrial contamination and tear down part of the building. Officials say the project could create about 200 jobs.

Former Kalamazoo Gazette Managing Editor Jim Borden has died. The Tribune Review where Borden had been Managing Editor in Greensburg, Pennsylvania says he passed away yesterday from complications related to cancer. He was 61 years old. Borden had also worked at newspapers in Spokane, Idaho and Colorado Springs.