New commissioner to face questions about ‘hate group’

FENNVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — Fennville’s newest city commissioner is likely to face a big crowd at his first official meeting on Monday.

But it won’t be a welcome wagon.

Morgan Bolles, recently appointed to fill an empty seat on the commission, will be questioned about his criminal past and his association with an alleged hate group, according to the mayor.

“The Proud Boys would be my main concern,” Mayor Tom Pantelleria said of the group.

The mayor said the city had no idea Bolles, 32, had a criminal record when commissioners appointed him.

Bolles had run for the commission before as a write-in but lost.

“For us, we thought we had a very viable candidate, a young person we thought could grow into becoming a good commissioner for us,” the mayor said.

The criminal record dating back more than a decade includes assault, drunken driving and a car crash causing death, but no arrests since 2015, state police records show.

Now, photographs have surfaced of Bolles from a rally in Lansing in September with members of Michigan Proud Boys, described by watchdogs as a hate group.

One photograph shows him holding the Michigan Proud Boys flag and flashing the OK sign — adopted as a white power gesture.

On its website, Proud Boys USA denies it’s a hate group, says it’s a men’s-only group that longs for the Archie Bunker days when “girls were girls and men were men.”

City Hall’s phone lines are buzzing.

“Many are upset and angry,” the mayor said. “They’re upset that this is a commissioner that doesn’t respect all people, that he might have a dislike for certain groups of people, and therefore they won’t be well-represented in the government.”

In Fennville, whites are a minority. More than half the city’s 1,800 people are Hispanic, according to a 2017 U.S. Census estimate.

Fennville resident Sam Callejas said he has followed the debate on social media and plans to attend Monday’s meeting.

“It’s really weird, one day you’re seeing social media praise him for stepping up, the next day I guess dirty laundry’s coming out and now he’s like a villain. I don’t think it’s right,” Callejas said.

“I’m keeping an open mind,” he said. “Personally, I’m open-minded about it, but yeah I’d like to go to the meeting and see what he has to say about it and hear his explanation. Because there’s two sides to every story.”

The mayor said Bolles told him he plans to serve out the two-year term.

“That’s part of the issue too, is that people with different opinions, they have every right to seek office and try to serve as well, so it’s very important we protect that right as well,” the mayor said.

News 8 tried to reach Bolles repeatedly Friday, but he could not be reached for comment.