Commissioners fail to invalidate contract


Former chairman says newcomers to commission seek to fire administrator Kim Murphy.

An attempt to invalidate the contract of Lenawee County Administrator Kim Murphy fell flat after corporate legal counsel for the county found that her contract, which was confirmed in April 2022 and ratified in September, was valid.

County Commission Chair Jim Van Doren had made a rule-breaking motion, seconded by Commissioner Kevon Martis, at the January 10 Personnel/Ways & Means (PWM) Committee meeting to “invalidate the employment contract between the County Administrator and the Board of Commissioners due to a lack of conformity under PA156 and to send it back to PWM to negotiate a new contract,” according to the meeting minutes.

“The actual motion in January was to have the legal counsel take a look at the contract and get back with the commission in March,” Van Doren told The Herald on Tuesday. However, his original motion did not mention legal counsel, only the act of invalidating Murphy’s contract and negotiating a new one with the PWM. Only after discussion and failure of the first motion did an amended motion to have legal counsel look at the contract pass 5-4.  

Commissioner David Stimpson, who represents District 1 that encompasses the City of Tecumseh and Tecumseh Township, said he believes that Van Doren and commissioners Martis and Dustin Krasny were out to fire Murphy, which would have been made easier if her contract was invalidated. He maintains that Van Doren and Martis ran their election campaign on a platform that included taking action to fire the administrator, to “restore this county to its glory,” Stimpson said, quoting campaign wording.

He referred to a campaign message sent out by Martis, who stated he was joining forces with Van Doren, that said, “We’ve found we have a common interest in righting the current dysfunctional administration in county government.” He also noted that Van Doren and Martis ran on a platform promoting transparency.

“The first thing that they did was at the January 10 Personnel/Ways & Means meeting, they brought up items that were not on the agenda, in violation of our rules, which say you have to have items on the agenda in order to address them,” said Stimpson. “And they tried to invalidate it (Murphy’s contract). And I said, ‘You don’t want to do that, because you’re inviting a lawsuit.’”

To make the public aware of topics the commission will address at meetings, rule #4.52 of the commission’s rules and regulations reads, “Upcoming agenda items shall be reported to the Administrator at least seven (7) days prior to the meeting. All backup materials must be provided to the Administrator for consideration at a minimum of seven (7) days prior to any board or committee meeting.” That rule was updated as of the March 7 Rules & Appointments Committee meeting to change the length of time to 10 days prior to the meeting.

“The motion was to rescind her contract so that they could then terminate her,” said Stimpson of the first January 10 motion by Van Doren. He said he and commissioners KZ Bolton, Dawn Bales, and Ralph Tillotson all spoke against the motion. Legal counsel at the meeting advised the board that the motion had the potential to cause civil action against the Board of Commissioners if it was approved. “They capitulated to at least go have it reviewed by counsel. It had already been reviewed by counsel twice,” Stimpson said of Murphy’s contract.  

On Tuesday Murphy confirmed that the item regarding her contract was not on the January 10 agenda, nor was it added to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting. The motion was made as the commissioners were discussing items to be placed on the consent agenda. During discussion, Van Doren made a motion to move the question in order to limit debate and ask for a vote. The motion was defeated with Krasny, Martis, Van Doren, and Commissioner Nancy Jenkins-Arno voting yes and Stimpson, Tillotson, Bales, Bolton, and commissioner Terry Collins voting no. The motion was then amended to seek counsel’s opinion and to be postponed to the March 14 PWM meeting, with Jenkins-Arno, Martis, Van Doren, Collins, and Krasny voting yes, and Stimpson, Tillotson, Bales, and Bolton voting no.

At the PWM meeting of March 7 and as a result of the legal findings, Van Doren made a motion, seconded by Martis, to rescind the motion to rescind the employment contract between the county administrator and the board of commissioners, and the motion carried. Stimpson requested that Murphy investigate the total cost to the county for the legal review related to the issue.

Murphy said she was aware that there were some concerns regarding the term of her contract as it related to PA 156 and that it may come up in a meeting. “Prior to this meeting, there was a request from a commissioner for a legal opinion from counsel regarding these concerns. A confidential written opinion by Attorney Randolph Barker was provided as a result of that request,” she said.

“The reason the original motion was there was because a number of commissioners didn’t believe that it conformed with Public Act 156, which basically says that in even-numbered years you cannot sign a contract obligating the county board of commissioners into another board of commissioners for more than one year, and they signed the contract for three years,” Van Doren said. He did not specify the section of the act, and a search of PA 156 at did not reveal those specifics.

“The fact was never that we had a problem with the administrator. That wasn’t the point. The point was that we didn’t feel that it was in conformance with Public Act 156,” Van Doren said, noting that only the fact that the contract was for three years brought about the motion to invalidate it.

“I am pleased that the Board of Commissioners has received clarification on the validity of my employment contract from our corporate counsel and that they are satisfied with said clarification,” said Murphy. “I am looking forward to continuing to serve Lenawee County employees, elected officials, and residents into the future as planned. I believe in our community, our potential to grow, and our shared vision for success.”


Tecumseh Herald


110 E. Logan St.
P.O. Box 218
Tecumseh, MI 49286

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