New Buffalo City Council votes to remove city manager

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New Buffalo, Mich. Tensions ran high at a more than 5-hour New Buffalo City Council meeting to discuss the fate of former City Manager Rusty Geisler, who was voted out of the position in a 3-2 vote.

Geisler was placed on paid leave at an August 8 special meeting from his position -- pending Tuesday night's discussion.

The former New Buffalo mayor, council member and most recently city manager has been a fixture in the community for decades.

But recently concerns over his qualifications for the job and certain complaints from residents have put his employment status into question.

The crowd of residents was so large that the meeting was moved to the auditorium of New Buffalo High School. Nearly a dozen members of the Berrien County Sheriffs Dept monitored the meeting and at least four residents were ejected from the meeting for interrupting proceedings.

Dozens of residents took advantage of the public comment section of the meeting to speak on Geisler's behalf.

"This is the Charter, people, this isn't anything we can just make up," said New Buffalo resident Ezra Scott, who felt the City's charter was being overlooked in this matter. "We can't make up rules as we go along."

Fellow resident Jeff Johnson also spoke in support of Geisler - addressing the concern that Geisler does not hold a college degree.

"On behalf of Rusty, I want you know that as a man of honesty, integrity, he's a credit to the community and he's an excellent man to have as a city manager," Johnson said at the podium. "And last but not least, his education includes a master's degree in common sense."

Residents who spoke against Geisler were in the minority, but they were present.

"In selecting the way to run the city, he has picked the role of a dominant father whose word is law," said Nancy Smith, referring to Geisler's character. "He reacts with anger when he thinks his power has been interfered with. He seems to think it's a virtue to defend at all costs a position once he has declared that position."

Much of the crowd became enraged when Council Member George Scarlatis opened up a 69-slide PowerPoint outlining the reasons for his vote more than 5 hours into the meeting.

Geisler was given an opportunity to address the allegations made against him. He took the podium but said he would not give comment at this time.

Ultimately Scarlatis voted to remove Geisler, bringing the vote to 3-2.

Geisler and much of the crowd left the auditorium immediately following the vote.

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