Digest>Archives> September 1995

Lawsuit Divides Lighthouse Society


Last month we featured Michigan's Presque Isle Lighthouse on the cover and our feature story centered around the lighthouse and its caretaker Dan McGee.

It now seems that some members of the Presque Isle Historical Society want to see some changes made. Forty-three members of the group have filed a lawsuit in an attempt to force a change in the Society.

The lawsuit contends that the Society is "in several respects, no longer applicable to the Society's operation, that neither the Society nor its Executive Board has bylaws, and although not restricted the Executive Board has opposed the use of proxy votes, and in 1991, the Executive Board changed the annual meeting date to a date in October when many members, except those who support caretaker Dan McGee and the board could attend."

Board member, Frank Schwartz Jr. said, " We simply feel that the Society has not been run properly and in the interest of the board members, but instead is being run to benefit the caretaker. Financial accounting is a farce and by denying voting rights to members the Society is being run by a select chosen few, not the majority of the membership. We are not talking about personalities, but accountability and procedural correctness."

Caretaker Dan McGee said in a local interview that the lawsuit is an attempt by two people, Frank Schwartz and David Ward, to fire him and his wife. He went on to say," Mr. Ward and Mr. Schwartz have never been involved in the restoration of the lighthouse, nor have they ever helped with any of the projects the Society has undertaken." McGee went on to say that the two men are not even Michigan residents, yet for personal motives they want to control one of Michigan's most popular tourist attractions." McGee said that as far as he knows, David Ward has never even set foot in the lighthouse.

Schwartz said that although he admits that McGee has maintained the property, there is more to it than cutting the grass. He went on to say that "McGee treats the place like it is his own."

Editors comment: Lets get real, Mr. Schwartz. The fact that McGee treats the property like his own is commendable. If more caretakers around the country treated property like their own, more of our historical buildings would be in better condition aesthetically as well as financially. In fact, most employers would love to have employees treat a business as if it were their own.

Who founded the Presque Isle Historical Society in the first place? Who was instrumental in getting the Society started and saving the lighthouse? Who built the fog signal display? Who built the steam whistle display? Who maintains the museum? The answer, Dan McGee.

I'd like to give these guys a quiz on the history of Presque Isle Light and see how many questions they answer wrong.

Yes, they may be able to force McGee out and yes they can always find a new caretaker. But is this the way things should be done? Why is it that in this day and age, people seem to like to file lawsuits? What happened to sitting down and talking things out? There is always room for compromise, there is always a way to work out every problem. Let's keep the courts out of lighthouse preservation.

This story appeared in the September 1995 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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