Raisin Board votes to hire attorney for investigation
Trustees on the Raisin Township Board voted to hire local attorney Fred Lucas to conduct an investigation into allegations against Township Supervisor Jay Cavanaugh during a special meeting on Wednesday, March 12, at 10 a.m. Cavanaugh and Trustee Dale Mitchell were not in attendance. Trustee Larry Crittenden presided at the meeting at the request of the board members.
Township Attorney David Lacasse shared names of two attorneys he’d spoken with through the township’s insurance company. Those attorneys would have charged $200 and $300 per hour. Township Clerk Betty Holdridge had followed through on a suggestion to speak with Lucas, who will charge $150 per hour, and learned of his experience in investigations involving municipalities.
Crittenden noted that there is no presumption against Cavanaugh “until allegations are substantiated and I think we owe that to him as well as an investigation for those who brought up the allegations,” in supporting hiring Lucas.
Trustee Debra Brousseau questioned what recourse the board might have if the investigation turned up negative findings. Lacasse pointed out that one avenue is that a charter township can appoint a superintendent, who would act much like a city manager, and delegate administrative duties to that person while the supervisor continues to perform statutory duties as an elected official, including chairing board meetings. The superintendent would not have any voting rights.
Discussion included the possibility of looking at the future option of a superintendent in any case, as it could lighten the workload of the township supervisor and allow concentration in other areas.
During an earlier special meeting held on Friday, March 7, the Raisin Township Board of Trustees requested that Lacasse gather names of qualified potential attorneys that would help investigate whether complaints against the Township Supervisor had merit. Lacasse was asked to present his findings at the March 12 meeting.
The board has been considering an investigation following complaints of a hostile work environment filed by Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Scott Lambka, members of the DPS firefighter and law enforcement staff, and a letter to the board from Cavanaugh, who also claims a hostile work environment. Cavanaugh, who is paid approximately $30,000 per year for the elected post, said he has been forced to conduct business “from a distance” until the situation is remedied.
At the March 7 meeting, Trustee Debra Brousseau posed the idea of appointing a Public Safety Commissioner whereby a board member would serve as a liaison between the board and the Department of Public Safety.
“They would be responsible for discussing problems and grievances and make recommendations to the board,” said Brousseau.
She added that it could possibly avoid the necessity of all board members to become fully knowledgeable in all matters affecting the department. “I just thought it might be a temporary way to deal with things and get them back the way we’d like them to be so we can communicate and work together to make this the best township like we have had,” she said. It might be one of the way we can help resolve some of those issues.”
Trustee Tom Hawkins said while it sounded good in theory, he had reservations. “It sounds like an opportunity for more bureaucracy and I’m just afraid it could clog up things and make them more complicated than easier,” he said.
Township Clerk Betty Holdridge said she agreed, adding that currently, anyone who wants to talk to the public safety staff could now do so. “I just think the contact we have with them right now is good, and I think they feel they can talk to us,” she said.
Trustee Larry Crittenden, who chaired the meeting, said that he felt the board should wait before making a decision on the issue. “I just feel we should wait until after we get our report from whoever we choose to do an investigation to see if this type of position is needed,” Crittenden said.
Following the discussion, Brousseau agreed and supported Trustee Kami Johnson’s motion to table the matter.
Hawkins suggested that the board consider holding strategic planning sessions to help set township goals for the next 10, 20 or 30 years. “It’s something I have been trying to engage the board to do,” he said, adding that he would bring the matter up again.
Also at the March 7 meeting, the trustees made a language change to clear up some confusion about the assistant chief positions in the Department of Public Safety. Lambka said that the department has already been operating with the positions being equal, and the amendment would clear up the matter.