Outgoing trustees criticized for ‘long-term’ decision-making

GRAND BLANC TWP. — Frustration, bickering, accusations – it all made for a long and tense meeting of the Grand Blanc Township Board of Trustees last week.

Much of the discord at the Aug. 25 meeting harkened back to the previous meeting when Trustee Al Mansour introduced a motion to initiate a search for new labor attorneys.

The current attorneys, at Bodman PLC, are in the midst of negotiations with the patrol officers’ union. Two other contracts are coming up for the office workers, represented by AFSCME.

Mansour’s motion included provisions for allowing the Bodman firm to complete the police contract, a for the search for new labor counselors to specifically include the Williams Firm PC, a local agency.

The motion, introduced just as the board had returned from an executive session, failed in a tie with Mansour and Trustees Joe Massey and Lonnie Adkins voting in support, and Supervisor Scott Bennett, Treasurer Earl Guzak and Clerk Cathy Lane opposing.

The move did not sit well with some residents and elected officers. Bennett said he felt the motion was “payback” for a written opinion the Bodman firm submitted, at Bennett’s request, advising the board not to get involved in the hiring of a parks director.

Residents who spoke up at the Aug. 25 meeting scolded the outgoing board members for attempting to make major changes that will have enduring effects just three months before their terms expire.

Lane, Mansour, Adkins and Trustee Ken Thomas failed to advance in the August primary and will vacate their positions at the end of November.

Resident Maria Hobson accused the trustees of trying to advance their personal agendas and “sabotage” the township.

Mike Yancho Sr. agreed, saying “lame duck” board members should not attempt to take action on any issue with long-term consequences.

David Robertson, who defeated Lane in the August primary, said the election results were “a referendum on this board’s decision to fire (former Superintendent) Dennis Liimatta.”

“It’s a very rare thing when a community speaks as forcefully as this community did,” Robertson said of the election results.

Liimatta was dismissed suddenly in June and has since filed a $750,000 lawsuit against the township. Mansour introduced the motion to fire Liimatta, and he, Adkins, Lane, Massey and Thomas voted in favor of it.

In a letter to the board, trustee candidate Jude Rariden commented on Liimatta’s dismissal, saying he will vote to re-hire Liimatta if elected. He also said he will vote to reverse any long-term decisions the current board makes in the weeks leading up to November.

Bennett later indicated that he, too, intends to vote to bring Liimatta back.

“I’m not in favor of this board starting the hiring process (for a new superintendent),” Bennett said. “If this board insists on moving forward in this direction, I need to warn you, I won’t be in favor of this process. I’ll let it be known right now that any candidates … I will let them know … these decisions will be reversed on Nov. 24. So, any candidates should be prepared to not work past that date.”

In addition to Rariden, a Democrat, trustee candidates in the November election include Democrats Sarah Hugo, Paul J. White and Massey, and Republicans Joel Feick, Ryan Thompson, Christopher Estes and Jay Johnson. Four trustee seats are available.