Raisin board votes to hire superintendent
Raisin Township Trustees voted 6-1 during a special meeting at the Raisin Community Center on Friday evening, March 28, to create a superintendent position. The motion to create the position was put forth by Township Clerk Betty Holdridge and seconded by Trustee Tom Hawkins.
“The superintendent position provided by the Charter Township Act provides an opportunity for continuity for township government that would transcend political influence of different election cycles,” said Hawkins during discussion of the resolution.
Trustee Debra Brousseau said she had given the matter a lot of thought, especially given the discord between members of the Raisin Township Public Safety Department and the Supervisor.
“It would give the board more leeway to work with somebody and get things done with smoother operation than we have going now. I think at this point this is the best way to go,” Brousseau said.
Township Supervisor Jay Cavanaugh was opposed to the idea for several reasons, including the fact that costs of creating the position were not yet known and that the action would take responsibilities away that he believed he currently was handling.
“I have never expressed to this board that I am incapable of doing the duties that are listed in the authorities and responsibilities of the supervisor,” Cavanaugh said, citing that in townships where there are not superintendents or managers, the day-to-day operations fall to the supervisor. “I think the reason for this is premature when the board has received allegations about me, some of which have been cleared, and an investigation has not even begun. So it seems to me like the board members wish to hang me before I even have my trial.”
Cavanaugh added, “I was elected to do a job and I strongly encourage you not to vote for this resolution and allow me to do my job as I have done over a year now and which I think I have done well.”
Trustee Larry Crittenden said, “There is nothing in this resolution that accuses you of anything or takes away your statutory duties or salary, but the board has decided to at least come up with a resolution that would put a manager in place to carry out administrative duties of this township. One of our biggest obligations to all residents is to provide public safety and our public safety department is not happy.”
At one point, Cavanaugh told Crittenden he was “off track,” to which Crittenden responded, “I have the right to speak.” Audience member and resident Stan Wilson then spoke out.
“You people have got a problem. You need to work together and work for this township and get back to work,” he said. “What you people are doing here is not right. You’re arguing among yourselves. The residents need your support to get us back on track.” Wilson then left the meeting.
Hawkins said that he saw no linkage between the township’s current interpersonal problems and the resolution.
“I see it as more operational and not punitive,” Hawkins said. “Our board problems do need to be addressed and I recommend we look at bringing in someone from outside to work this through. I think this would be good news for the township and help us get our public safety employees working together and moving on into the future.”
Trustee Dale Mitchell made a motion to postpone the decision to provide more time to review the matter, but the motion died for lack of a second and the motion to create the position was voted in.
Several members of the public took the opportunity to speak during public comment before and after the meeting. Tom Van Sickle said, “We’ve got to decide is the five employees we currently pay enough to process everything we need to do in the office or do we really need that sixth person to pay in order to get work done?” He also expressed concern about the budget being able to handle the addition.
Russell Mead suggested if the position were to be created, questions such as selection criteria, responsibilities and limits of authority would need to be discussed first.
One woman added, “What I don’t understand is why do you need a manager when we elected you to be the manager and with 7,500 people, I don’t think it’s justified.” Another said she didn’t believe the township needed to spend money to hire someone to teach board members how to get along. “You learn to work together by working together or the whole board can be replaced!” she said.
Long-time resident Richard Westgate said he was not saying whether he was for or against the idea, but pointed out that everyone knows there is a money situation. “We have all admitted we’re tight on money,” Westgate said. “I think this should have been discussed this evening, but I don’t think it should have been voted on; it should’ve been carried over. But I am a little disappointed that the elected people cannot work together,” at which point the room erupted into applause.
Trustee Debra Brousseau noted that the board would likely appoint a person to fill the position on a temporary basis while applications for the position are sought out.
At the end of the meeting, Cavanaugh said, “I want everybody to understand when the board makes a decision, it’s a decision of the board. And whether I voted for it or not, I will support that decision and I will do whatever I need to do for the benefit of the residents of this township and the benefit of this board.”