Bill Merkel will wrap up a 24-year career as a prosecuting officer for the citizens of Menominee County. He was a long-time assistant prosecutor to former prosecuting attorney Dan Hass, and was appointed prosecutor when Hass was named Menominee County Judge of Probate several years ago.

By all indications, Merkel liked working in the prosecutor’s office. He liked Menominee County. Then one day Merkel was notified by the county that there would be a change in his retirement benefits. He sued the county because he thought he was getting a raw deal. Everything seemed to go south from that point on.

The lawsuit has been pending since September 2017. He filed the lawsuit after the county attempted to change his plan, which had been in place for 22 years. He believed he would maintain his old retirement plan after transferring to the position of prosecuting attorney. He won two temporary restraining orders, one issued by Menominee County Circuit Court Judge Richard Celello, an order that was later continued by Marquette County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer A. Mazzuchi. The orders stymied Menominee County from changing Merkel’s retirement benefits while his lawsuit was pending.

The Menominee County Board of Commissioners went into executive session on Feb. 13 to settle the lawsuit. His retirement was a part of the lawsuit. Merkel’s last day on the job will be one day after the April 4 re-sentencing of Gregory Ihander in a murder case. Ihander was initially sentenced in May of 2017, but an error brought about the re-sentencing date. Merkel was the prosecuting attorney in the case. The error was a computation miscue in the sentencing guidelines. Merkel wanted the opportunity to be the prosecutor for the re-sentencing. The county board agreed to allow him to be in the position until one day after the sentencing.

Merkel is leaving the post with class and dignity. “It’s been an honor to represent the citizens of Menominee County as prosecuting attorney,” he told the EagleHerald in an interview which ran March 2. “It has been the highlight of my legal career,” he added.

He heaped praise on the entire courthouse staff for developing a pleasant work environment and for its willingness to pitch in and help others during difficult times.

We believe Merkel deserved better as a loyal employee for the county for more than two decades. Hopefully, the county will turn this shameful ending into something positive in the future. All employees, regardless of their rank and position, should not have to undergo the stress of fighting to retain their retirement benefits that were promised to them.

Fortunately, Menominee County is not losing Mr. Merkel as a private citizen. After a well-deserved rest, he intends to open up a private practice in criminal law. We thank him for his 22 years of public service and wish him well in his new endeavor.