The Park Township Board of Trustees has authorized a lawsuit against a man who is claiming to own the township-owned land at 152nd Avenue and Ottawa Beach Road, where the Park Township Airport is located.
Township officials reported James Norbert Napier, a Holland Township resident, has put up signs claiming the property is under new ownership and has been telling visitors to the airport that it is his property and asking them to leave.
Napier also sent an “invoice” to the township for $68 million in charges for employees “trespassing” on his property.
Napier claims to have “expatriated” himself from U.S. citizenship as a “self-governing free man.” In 2016, Napier lost a court battle claiming his Holland Township home wasn’t subject to property taxes because of his “expatriated” status.
This spring, he sent a packet of documents to the Park Township offices claiming, among other things, that the Park Township government is actually a private corporation, that the township doesn’t have the right to own the airport land, that COVID-19 is a ruse and that the U.S. is insolvent and being liquidated.
Township officials also suspect Napier may have some kind of surveillance system watching the property.
The township authorized a letter from their attorney to Napier in June warning that the township would take legal action if he continued to publicly claim to own the airport or if he recorded a claim to the property with the Ottawa County Register of Deeds.
Thursday, the township’s attorney Dan Martin reported that Napier had recorded a claim for transfer of title with the county register of deeds, and the township board voted unanimously to file a suit for defamation of title against Napier.
“If somebody were to do a title search for the township airport property, one of the things that should come up is one of these bizarre transfer of title claims by Mr. Napier, and so that then throws a cloud if you will on the title, and that needs to be cleaned up or addressed,” Martin explained. “It’s what is referred to as defaming the title of the property.”
The township board will also ask a judge for a restraining order barring him from the airport property and the township offices.
“I think it sends him a message that we’re not messing around anymore,” said township trustee Jim Gerard. “I think when it first came up it was funny and odd — now it’s just inappropriate.”
Township Supervisor Jerry Hunsburger noted that Napier’s presence at the airport has made some township employees “uneasy.”
“Enough’s enough,” Hunsburger said. “Where do you draw the line? I think it’s important that he and the people that we represent understand that we don’t think this is funny. It’s a distraction and it’s a waste of time and public resources.”
“It is, and it keeps legitimate people off of the property if he is there,” Gerard added.
Township Manager Howard Fink said he would lock up or shut down the airport’s computer system in case Napier has been using it for some kind of surveillance.