Raisin Township Board wonders if game of chess being played after release of deputy supervisor
Raisin Township Supervisor Jay Cavanaugh opened a special meeting on Monday, March 17 with an announcement that Dale Witt would no longer be serving as Deputy Supervisor, a position he’d been appointed to late last summer. Witt had received a memo from Cavanaugh dated March 16 that noted, “effective immediately” his services would no longer be required. Witt will, however, continue his role as Planning Commission Chair and with the Board of Review.
During discussion where board members and Cavanaugh each added public views on township issues, Trustee Debra Brousseau alluded to the dismissal, among other actions by the supervisor.
“I almost think we’re playing chess now,” she said. “You make a move, we make a move like this is a game. It’s more important than a game.”
Brousseau’s comments were among others where board members expressed dismay at what’s been happening in their township. She told Cavanaugh that one of the problems was that somewhere along the way, it seemed the supervisor believed he had more power than the others on the board when their votes were supposed to be equal.
“We can’t agree on simple things anymore with all these accusations,” she said. “I guess our confidence and trust in you has been weakened.” She added that the board wants to resolve things and work together.
“This is not good for any of us and we’re not working well right now,” said Brousseau, who also brought up the fact that the board felt it was essential to investigate recent complaints brought out by Department of Public Safety (DPS) employees. “The employees aren’t happy, staff is not happy. Something drastic has to change.”
Township Clerk, Betty Holdridge said she wanted to see the issues resolved because it has bearing on everything that goes on in the office. “We want to get our work done and everything is up in the air right now,” she said.
The board’s elder statesman, Dale Mitchell, said he believed there were grudges being held.
“It sounds like somehow or other, things got all mixed up somehow and you have got to get in there and smooth it out and stop messing around!” Mitchell said. “I think everybody needs to straighten out and get over this so we can have decent meetings again that people will understand.”
Cavanaugh said he was happy to at least see some open discussion.
“The dynamics we have right now I don’t care for and never wished for,” he said, adding that he believed many of the problems started with his attempt to control a February meeting that went amok. “Whether you believe it or not, I’m not playing chess,” Cavanaugh added. “I have done my best to be professional and to keep things above board in any claims I have made to you and to the press, and I stand by them. I want to move forward as a team.”
The discussions veered into the arena of personal views while the board discussed security after DPS Director Scott Lambka’s area had been ransacked and a cabinet pried open recently. Cavanaugh reported that he had been cooperating with an investigation through the Michigan State Police.
“I was sent for interrogation, which was videotaped and my attorney joined me. I explained I was there in the capacity of the township supervisor and willing to cooperate,” Cavanaugh said. He added that he was never notified of the incident by Lambka and learned of it through an email from Witt, and was surprised to learn that he was the only person mentioned in the investigation, despite the township having more than 30 other employees.
Following discussion, the board authorized Director Lambka and Asst. Chief Kevin Grayer to take action to secure the township’s law enforcement area, and then to gather costs for a report back to the board regarding further tightening of security.
Cavanaugh was also critical of what he called “fast and furious” special meetings being held, and asked the board to either affirm his statutory responsibilities per the Michigan Township Association handbook, which include presiding at meetings, or acknowledge that the board was going to run everything. He also said the board was violating the Open Meetings Act, not properly posting dates and times and making agendas available. Meeting notices were posted on the township door as required by law, according to Trustee Tom Hawkins.
Trustee Larry Crittenden took issue with the implication and pointed to a letter Cavanaugh had sent to the board saying he would not be part of “a system of public corruption.”
“As supervisor you have to do your duties but you are one person,” said Crittenden. “But you’ve treated us as if you dictate and we rubber stamp, and I think I’m voicing what other board members are feeling. I find that offensive and the other attacks you have made on me when I haven’t done anything to be corrupt. It upsets me and I think you owe me an apology.”
Following the meeting, Hawkins said some of the supervisor’s statements had been misleading.
“We had no Open Act issues here, and he made innuendo that we tried not to let the public know what’s going on,” said Hawkins, who along with Crittenden, had called the March 17 meeting, which is allowable. He said look at the record, and Cavanaugh had called many special daytime meetings himself. “To say we’re misleading the public, there’s no call for that kind of thing.”
Like Crittenden, Hawkins said there was no call to accuse the board members of corruption, especially for Crittenden who has led the township admirably both as supervisor and a board member for years.
“It’s just sad there seems to be this battle against public safety and public safety doesn’t want it and neither does the board. I just wish we could get back to operating normally. I understand it’s hard for the public to know what to believe, but I guarantee no one on that board is trying to hide things from the public.”
The board is considering moving the meetings back to the Raisin Community Center and members say they welcome public attendance and input.
“Just so everybody knows, I’ve lived in this township for over 40 years and I love living here. People in general need to know what’s going on and they want to,” said Stan Wilson during public comment, who added that dates and times and agendas should be made more visible, including on the township’s lighted sign. “I want to get involved. I just don’t like what’s going on.”
Trustee and Treasurer Kami Johnson said that she would learn to post to the sign so the supervisor is not the only one who knows how.