New GB Twp. board discusses re-hiring Liimatta

GRAND BLANC TWP. — With six freshman members, the Grand Blanc Township Board of Trustees has set the wheels in motion to potentially reverse two unpopular decisions of the previous administration, including the dismissal of Superintendent Dennis Liimatta.

After being sworn in Friday, Nov. 20, board members opened discussion on Liimatta’s possible re-employment. The board also enacted a moratorium on the amendments to the water ordinance (see related story).

Several elected officials were poised to re-hire Liimatta, whom the previous board fired June 23 without explanation beyond saying they wanted to take the township in a different direction.

The primary stumbling block to re-hiring Liimatta is the $750,000 he filed against the township in July.

Liimatta claims violations of the Whistleblower Protection Act and breach of contract. He is seeking damages for loss of wages and benefits, loss of earning capacity, emotional distress and mental anguish, extreme embarrassment and humiliation and stress that he says caused him to suffer a heart attack.

Some board members want more information before making a decision.

“I don’t know Mr. Liimatta,” said rookie Trustee Joel Feick. “I don’t know much about him. I don’t understand why the previous board relieved him of his duties. But I believe we need to examine this and find out more about him and his management style, and whether that’s best for our township moving forward.”

Supervisor Scott Bennett and Trustee Jude Rariden argued that Liimatta already was interviewed and vetted when he was hired.

“I don’t think there’s a question about his qualifications,” said Bennett.

Rariden, who served on the board that hired Liimatta, said township personnel “appreciate” Liimatta’s management style.

“I don’t think the issue was with Mr. Liimatta,” Rariden said. “I think it was with some members on the previous board.”

Clerk David Robertson also expressed support for Liimatta.

“I think we need to move with all deliberate speed to re-engage Mr. Liimatta,” Robertson said. “It is a rare thing when a community makes as forceful of a decision as the people of Grand Blanc Township did in August and November. It was a referendum on the decision to dismiss Mr. Liimatta. It’s a very telling thing, who is on the board now, and who isn’t. The people of Grand Blanc Township spoke forcefully.”

Trustee Paul White said he wants some direction from the attorney representing the township’s insurance provider.

“If (the lawsuit) continues, what are the odds we’d win on summary judgment, or does it have to be a trial that will go on for years?” he asked. “I’m not taking a position either way, but I would like to know what our legal counsel is saying.”

Treasurer Mark Kilmer said he, too, wants more information.

“I’ve heard some very good things (about Liimatta), and some disturbing things,” Kilmer said. “I believe the crux of the problem before was Mr. Liimatta did not acknowledge that he worked for the board. I hope, if we do something with regard to the situation, we would do so with a better understanding than in the past.”