Raisin Township supervisor under pressure to resign
Members of the Raisin Township Department of Public Safety (DPS) recently submitted a letter of no confidence to the township’s Board of Directors, stating that they believe “Jay Cavanaugh, Township Supervisor, has displayed increasingly poor (even harmful) leadership and does not support Public Safety and its importance to our community.”
A copy of the letter was shared with the Tecumseh Herald, along with an eight-page narrative addressed “To Our Friends in the Media,” describing ways in which the staff felt that the supervisor had been undermining the Public Safety leadership.
Public Safety Director Scott Lambka confirmed Friday, March 7, that he had filed a complaint with the Board of Directors on behalf of himself and the command staff. “It basically says we’re having to work in a hostile work environment,” Lambka said. “Our day-to-day abilities to command are being undermined or we have been limited to the point where we can’t make the day-to-day decisions we need to make to get the job done.”
Lambka said he filed his complaint and then the firefighters also filed one through the township board. The firefighters collectively signed the letter. In their letter to the media, the group noted that they have been told their only recourse regarding the township supervisor is for gubernatorial replacement, resignation, or recall by the public. Their letter to the Board concluded that DPS members would, as a last resort, offer a “final show of solidarity” by resigning as a group, leaving the township without police, fire and EMS services.
Much of the discord stems back to Cavanaugh’s election platform promise of getting something done about Raisin Township roads, which have been in poor condition for several years with little funding available to take care of them. During the budget process, approximately $200,000 was earmarked toward roads for the coming season, pulling a portion of the funding from Public Safety’s capital improvement and equipment fund. Public Safety Director Scott Lambka said there have been other cuts to Public Safety’s $749,053 combined budget.
“We’re just trying to do what we’ve been hired to do, to provide police and fire services to the public,” Lambka said. “We support that the roads need repair but don’t want to see that impact the Public Safety department and our ability to function. We already run on a very slim budget.”
As Cavanaugh and department heads, including Lambka, have been discussing what could be done, township employees say they have “lost confidence” in Cavanaugh’s leadership, as stated in the letter to the board.
Cavanaugh maintains that he is trying to do what’s right for the township and keeping a campaign promise to the public that elected him.
“I have a track record of supporting our police and fire departments,” he said. He added that he spearheaded a merger of the fire and police department into one Public Safety Department, and created four new positions: Director of Public Safety, with a 20 percent pay increase; Assistant Police Chief, at a 20 percent pay increase; and assistant positions in the fire department. “That doesn’t sound like someone who wants to destroy public safety,” he said.
Lambka said the discord between the supervisor and Public Safety management has been going on for quite some time, but is now at a point where firefighters and law enforcement personnel have decided to step up and speak out on what they have observed.
Also on Friday, Cavanaugh wrote a statement for the board to review, stating that when he campaigned for the position of Township Supervisor, he knew the job would not be easy. “When I promised to reinvent local priorities to emphasize roads, I knew that I would not make any friends among the administration,” he wrote. “I knew difficult decisions had to be made for the good of the community. I expected to be unpopular but I never thought that these political differences would be turned into a public smear campaign.”
He also asked that the board “resist the temptation” to go to the expense of retaining investigators, which he feels would be an unnecessary expense, and also said he is at the point that he cannot work from the township offices due to accusations of “bullying” when he is there. Cavanaugh asked that the board work to “fix this broken system.”
At a special board meeting on Friday morning, township officials voted to have Township Attorney David Lacasse look into the process of obtaining separate counsel that would be qualified and available to do an investigation should the board decide to pursue the matter. Lacasse is expected to review some names of attorneys supplied by ECM Insurance, a company the township contracts with, as well as additional names to be brought to a special meeting scheduled for March 12 to discuss personnel issues. Trustee Dale Mitchell was not present for the vote, which was approved, and Cavanaugh was unable to attend due to a family emergency.
“In regards to this whole issue, it bears repeating that a complaint has been received to the board with allegations made,” said Trustee Tom Hawkins at the meeting. “The board has not drawn any conclusions. I’m just making sure everyone knows we’re not jumping to any conclusions, just doing what we feel is our duty as a board to investigate this and go from there.”
Lacasse reiterated that complaints have been brought forth “that this board wishes to have investigated to determine what actions, if any, can be taken that the board has the authority to do.” He said the action would be “solely to find out whether there is a basis for the complaints that have been made,” and “results of that investigation could include what steps this board may or may not decide to take.”
Trustee Debra Brousseau said the board just wants to be sure that anyone who is hired to investigate would be able to do so in a way that’s objective and fair to everyone involved.