MARQUETTE - Marquette County officials have received an insurance policy from the Huron Mountain Club, intended to resolve the issue of potential county liability for deputized law enforcement officers who also work on the private club's security force.
"This afternoon I received a copy of the certificate of insurance," Marquette County civil counsel Stephen Adamini said Tuesday. "The county of Marquette and the sheriff's department have been put as additional insured on the Huron Mountain Club policy."
Adamini told the county board he hadn't had an opportunity to read the details of the insurance in depth.
"I will do that and report to you, but on my quick reading of it, I would expect the Huron Mountain Club would want to make sure they've got a good insurance policy and I believe it is," Adamini told the board.
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.
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, 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.
Last week, Adamini told the county board 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.
"I think it (the insurance add-on) is preferable to even what we asked for, the indemnification and hold harmless agreement," Adamini said. "Because if there's any problem, their insurance company is going to take care of it and provide the defense, et cetera, right from the get-go, rather than us perhaps litigating whether we have a loss and then making a claim under that, under indemnification."
Adamini said he hasn't had a chance to discuss the development with Lovelace yet.
"Of course, the sheriff has indicated that unless he felt he was adequately insured, he was going to withdraw the deputization," Adamini said.
Commissioner Nick Joseph clarified that if the club drops its insurance or modifies it, because the county would be an additional insured, it too would be notified.
Commissioner Michael Quayle wanted Adamini to make sure the county would be covered in instances of negligence or lack of training was involved.
"Some of those folks have not been in law enforcement for a number of years," Quayle said.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.