The Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees will take applications from those interested in replacing Supervisor Dave Payne upon his retirement next month. But it only wants applications from candidates on the current board.
The decision, made during a well-attended study session Thursday morning at township hall, is essentially an endorsement for Trustee Leo Savoie to become Payne’s successor, said Treasurer Dan Devine, the only person to publicly express interest in the post.
“It smells like a done deal, and I think that stinks,” said Devine, who also alleged Savoie told him as much during a conversation on July 4.
“Someone’s already counted the votes.”
Devine, who started the day calling form a special election, said after the meeting that he was uncertain whether he’d apply for the position by the board’s July 25 deadline to reach a decision.
Payne’s retirement, announced on June 27, takes effect Aug. 1.
“I’m going to have to re-evaluate what the next step is. I don’t want to be part of a charade,” Devine said.
Savoie responded sternly to Devine’s interpretation of their conversation, and insisted he did not say the decision was final.
“What I said was that I understand the landscape and I think I know that’s going to happen.,” Savoie explained. “And I said if this happens, I’d like to work together because this is all about the township.”
Only Devine and Trustee David Buckley opposed the motion to limit applications to board members. Payne could not vote because the matter involved picking his successor.
Trustee Neal Barnett, who proposed the motion, said that he preferred a board member to become supervisor to alleviate concerns over inexperience. He also said it was the board’s duty to appoint a replacement and then let the voters decide on that candidate in 2012.
Many of the two dozen residents who addressed the board agreed, and cited concerns over the process and cost of a special election. Township Clerk Jan Roncelli estimated the cost at roughly $80,000 that is currently not in the annual budget.
“I just think it will cost a lot of money that we don’t’ need to spend,” resident Audree Higgins said.
Township Attorney Bill Hampton explained that under Michigan law, a special election would only become necessary if the board failed to appoint a new supervisor within 45 days of the resignation taking effect. He also said the process would differ greatly from a typical election because it will not be open to any candidate with enough signatures to get on the ballot.
Instead, a committee of five from each of the township’s leading political parties, would nominate two candidates to run in a special election, not likely to occur before next February.
Devine, who disagreed with Hampton’s interpretation of the statute, moved further away from the idea of a special election as more and more citizens like Jeff Palmer expressed fears of leaving the decision to unelected members of a particular political party.
“The idea that five Republicans would go into a back room and give the power of incumbency to someone rather than have elected officials do the job they’re elected to do, that ‘s not the best way to go.” Palmer said.
Devine suggested openly posting the supervisor’s position for 30 days and then selecting a candidate who would agree not to run in 2012. The board rejected that proposal.