GRAND BLANC TWP. — Looking for answers, about 80 Grand Blanc Township residents showed up for a special Board of Trustees meeting July 1.
Many wanted an explanation for the recent dismissal of township Superintendent Dennis Liimatta. Although they didn’t get the answers they sought, they did have the chance to express their thoughts, and they’re not happy.
On June 23, amid routine discussion of township finances, Trustee Al Mansour introduced a motion to “immediately exercise the termination clause of (Liimatta’s) employment agreement.”
Five board members – Mansour, Clerk Cathy Lane, and Trustees Ken Thomas, Joe Massey and Lonnie Adkins – voted in favor of the motion.
Supervisor Scott Bennett called the special meeting – held at Bicentennial Park – to discuss township management in the absence of a superintendent. A formal meeting, however, could not take place due to lack of quorum. The only board members to show up were Bennett and Mansour.
Lane said she, and perhaps other board members, would have attended electronically had they had that option.
“I couldn’t be there (in person) and endanger this (Aug. 4 primary) election by having myself or my staff quarantined,” she said.
Bennett did allow comments from the crowd, but he said the township’s labor attorney has advised against commenting on the reasons for Liimatta’s dismissal.
The residents who spoke admonished the board for firing Liimatta, for the way in which it unfolded, and for unrelated prior actions including approval of a $4,000 bonus for board members last December, and denial of certain police funding requests.
Emotions often ran high, with some commenters calling the absent board members “cowards,” and urging their fellow citizens to let their disapproval be known in the August primary and November general elections.
Jet Kilmer, president of the Grand Blanc Chamber of Commerce, described Liimatta as a “visionary” who attracted new business to the township and helped grow the economy.
“His drive to fight for the Tech Village put us on the map … in the IT world,” Kilmer said.
She also asked for more transparency in the board’s decision-making, “so we’re not caught off guard.”
Larry Anderson, a member of the Board of Trustees that hired Liimatta four years ago, said Liimatta “rose to the top.”
“He was totally qualified for the job,” Anderson said.
He added, “Any time three board members get together and discuss (township business) before a meeting,” they violate the Open Meetings Act.
Karrie Baldwin asked whether a new board could reinstate Liimatta with a new contract.
Commenting later in the meeting, Bennett said, “I would like to bring Mr. Liimatta back. And I want to make sure the only meeting happening is the official meeting.”
Shari Bennett also commented, saying she was “appalled and sickened” by the board’s actions, which she called “petty and vindictive.”