An act of insubordination by a temporary employee at the Road Commission of Kalamazoo County lead to a Facebook post that sparked outrage about a removed basketball hoop and one job lost.
Katie Mencz and her children will get their basketball hoop back, but it’s coming after two days of drama.
She said it all started back in November when the Road Commission of Kalamazoo County asked her to move the family basketball hoop farther away from the road because it could obstruct snow plows.
She said she moved the hoop.
“We went months, never heard another word, never received another letter, never anything about the hoop we assumed that we had complied enough that they were satisfied. Then they took our hoop,” she said.
Wednesday a crew came buy and took it from her lawn on the 1600 block of Baker Drive, according to Ed Sternaman.
Sternaman was with that crew. He said he didn’t feel right taking the hoop, because he felt it was far enough from the road that it wouldn’t be an obstruction to plows.
He said he was fired by his supervisor for refusing to take the hoop.
“He says, ‘where’s all the basketball hoops?’ I said, ‘we pushed them up in the yards.’ He had a freakin’ fit. Told us we had to get back in the truck, go back out and pick them up. I said, ‘I can’t do that. It’s back in the yard. That’s stealing,’” Sternaman said.
The commission said they didn’t steal anything, and they didn’t ask anyone to steal.
The road commission also said Sternaman was never a Kalamazoo County employee. They said he was working for the county through a temp agency named Access Point. The road commission said any additional questions about Sternaman’s employment would have to be directed to the temp agency.
Newschannel 3 reached out to Access Point on Thursday. They had no comment.
Sternaman posted a video on Facebook of road commission crews as took Mencz’s hoop. In the video Sternaman was heard saying he was recording because he felt they were stealing from people's property.
Road Commission of Kalamazoo County Managing Director Joanna Johnson said the county did nothing wrong. She said the county can remove personal property that is deemed to be obstructing the right-of-way within a certain distance from the road’s center line. The distance of the right-of-way may differ depending on the road.
Johnson said the road commission believed the distance was 33 feet from the center line on Baker Drive into Mencz’s property.
Late Thursday afternoon, Mencz said a representative with the county road commission contacted her and apologized for what happened.
She said the man told her what occurred was the result of a gross miscommunication and should never have gone so far.
She hoped the agency learned to better communicate with homeowners to avoid incidents like these.
She and her family said they’re grateful to Sternaman for posting the video on Facebook. They believe the post sparked enough attention to force the county to rethink the actions taken.
Sternaman said he was glad to learn Mencz’s children would get their hoop back. He also said he’s perfectly fine not working for the road commission again.
"There's no employer anywhere that's going to tell me I gotta do something that I know is not right," he said.