Township board halts investigation on hostile workplace
The Raisin Township Board of Trustees voted at a regular meeting on Monday, April 14, to dismiss Lenawee County attorney Fred Lucas from his task to investigate allegations made in February regarding Township Supervisor Jay Cavanaugh fostering a hostile workplace. Cavanaugh had countered with allegations of his own regarding the work environment.
Earlier, the board took action to hire Lucas to investigate the allegations. The attorney had also suggested that hiring a superintendent/manager might improve interpersonal situations in the township, as such a position would not be subject to election cycles. It was Lucas’s own suggestion that now that the township is in the process of hiring an interim superintendent/manager, there was still little recourse from further investigation because the board cannot remove an elected official from office.
A committee consisting of Trustee Debra Brousseau, Chair, and Trustees Larry Crittenden and Dale Mitchell, met April 9 and 14 to discuss hiring details for the new position. The position is currently being advertised in local newspapers with a deadline for resumes and applications of April 21 at noon.
At Monday night’s meeting, the board also approved utilizing remaining salary dollars that had been set aside for a Deputy Supervisor of $9,000 to pay the Interim Supervisor for the remainder of the year. Cavanaugh recently released Deputy Supervisor Dale Witt from the position. There is no health insurance provided with the job, though a cell phone and mileage would be paid. The board hopes to find qualifications that include excellent communication skills, and at least two years of management and business skills. The committee is scheduled to meet April 22 at 10 a.m. to review applications and then recommend final candidates to the board for a selection.
Brousseau spoke to the cessation of the investigation, stating that after talking with other Michigan Township Association Attorneys and Lucas regarding the lack of a remedy, to go on would not be good use of taxpayer dollars, as Lucas had suggested.
“We have complaints and we’re obligated to follow complaints given by any employee,” she said. “Since we’ve agreed to go that [the superintendent] route at this point, there will be no further investigation into those complaints.”
Cavanaugh said he was unhappy with the fact that the claims would not be investigated.
“So instead of finding out whether the claims are true or not, let’s just get rid of the supervisor and his statutory duties,” he said. “I think that’s appalling, and I think there were many ways that this could have been done. This was possibly not the appropriate way to do it.” He added that he had been cleared of earlier allegations, and had welcomed an opportunity to be cleared again. He said the situation had cost him monetarily and caused his family embarrassment. “I also find it embarrassing to the residents of this township,” he said.
Several residents were present at the meeting at the Raisin Township Hall on Gady Road, with some addressing the board on the continued deterioration of township roads, encouraging the board to get back on track with a plan for repairs.
Resident Tom Mitchell said he believes it’s a matter of public safety as cars have to drive around “caverns” in the road. “I’m asking the board to figure out how to fix them because who’s going to come and live in a township with roads like this?” he said.
New resident Leon Richardson said he attended the meeting after responding to a flyer in his door, hoping to learn that there was a plan to fix the roads.
Last year, the board members held several special meetings, inviting Road Commission representatives, engineers and finance specialists trained in seeking bond funding. As late as November 20, the board was discussing how to proceed with a campaign to go after dedicated road millage for the township in the hopes that the voters would support a plan to get the work done over a several-year period.
Trustee Crittenden stated that a figure of approximately $8 million was shared with the township as an estimated price tag to get the job done right. Plans to take any further steps to getting the campaign information to the voters stalled, however. At Monday night’s meeting, the trustees discussed getting the ball rolling again.
Cavanaugh urged the board to move quickly to get the issue on the ballot.
“I think our first step is to get that information out there,” said Trustee Tom Hawkins. “There isn’t anybody in this room that doesn’t think the roads need to be repaired, we just have to find the most reasonable way to approach it including who will pay and how it will be paid.”
The board members set a special meeting/workshop for Friday, April 18, at 10 a.m. in the Township Conference Room to discuss next steps in exploring a road millage campaign. They will also be making some decisions on spending $200,000 budgeted for 2014 road repair projects. The work would be contracted with the Lenawee County Road Commission.