MARQUETTE - Marquette County officials are expecting an insurance policy for review from the Huron Mountain Club to consider in lieu of a previously proposed indemnification agreement on deputized law enforcement officers who also work on the club's security force.
Deputized law enforcement officers working as security guards for the private club to police recreational trespass - primarily involving fishing along the Salmon Trout River - became a prominent issue over recent months with allegations from some local trout fishermen that the guards have been intimidating and harassing anglers legally accessing the river.
Since the county board first began discussing the issue, some alleged trespass cases have been resolved, the allowability of public access to the river restated by the county prosecutor and the access points to the river near the club's gates, along Marquette County Road KK, have been surveyed and clearly marked.
A section of the Salmon Trout River downstream of a bridge along Marquette County Road KK and the gates of the private Huron Mountain Club is pictured. Marquette County officials are expected to review an insurance policy from the club which could add deputized security guards as additional insureds, relieving the county of liability concerns. (Journal file photo by Dave Schneider)
No incidents of clashes between anglers and club guards have been reported and fishing pressure on the river has been low, according to county officials.
The issue left outstanding has been that of potential liability to the county for the nine former or active law enforcement officers working as guards for the club, deputized by Marquette County Sheriff Michael Lovelace.
In late March, Marquette County civil counsel Stephen Adamini said he had finished a proposed hold harmless and indemnification agreement, which was subsequently approved by the county administrator, risk manager and Lovelace.
Adamini said then he had sent the proposed agreement to the club for their review and hopeful signing.
The county informed the club it had wanted this issue resolved before the April 28 opening of trout season. Adamini said Lovelace was prepared to withdraw the deputizations if the agreement was not approved.
"The Huron Mountain Club in that agreement would indemnify and hold harmless the County of Marquette as a result, if the county or any person who is in the employee of the county or is an agent or servant of the county, is sued as a result of any action they take as a member of the Huron Mountain security force, if they have been deputized by the sheriff," Adamini said.
Eight weeks into the trout season, Adamini told the county board Tuesday that rather than agree to the hold harmless agreement, the club has proposed including the sheriff and those deputized as additional insureds on the club's insurance policy.
"They feel better protected if it's in their policy," Adamini said, saying the hold harmless agreement is more of an "unknown factor" for the club.
Adamini has been expecting a copy of the club's insurance policy to review. Other county officials, including the county administrator and Lovelace have agreed in principal with the idea, pending a review to make sure there is no fine print that would adversely affect the county and that the insurance limits are sufficient, Adamini said.
Some county board members had previously suggested that perhaps the board should determine - as part of its policies and to avoid potential liability - that if the sheriff is deputizing anyone for security work at any entity, an indemnification agreement be required.
Guards have previously been deputized to work for other private entities including Cliffs Natural Resources and the Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co.
No mention of this wider treatment of the issue was made Tuesday at the county board meeting, where Adamini briefed the board on the latest update, prompted by an inquiry from Commissioner Gerald Corkin.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.