Nov 25, 2009

Selection of Hamburg clerk does not pass the smell test

Long-time Speaker of the U.S. House Tip O'Neill coined the phrase “All politics is local,” and it has been my experience as a former community journalist that the more local the office, the more petty and quarrelsome it can be. Hamburg Township is a perfect example.

The most populace township in Livingston County has been a target rich environment for the reporter assigned to that beat, and the latest controversy is that the all-Republican board just appointed the Republican candidate for township clerk as the interim clerk, thereby making him the incumbent. Incumbents usually have a leg up in any election because people will often choose the status quo when they are unsure of the candidates.

Clearly the fix is in, and it’s not hard to understand why there is so much strife and controversy surrounding this board.

But to understand this situation you have to go back to the 2008 election. In township government there are three officers – the clerk, the supervisor and treated and four trustees. All of the incumbent officers were unseated in the August primary. Apparently, long-time clerk Joanna Hardesty was simply not going to accept that decision by voters, and she launched an unsuccessful write in campaign for the November General election.

New Clerk Matt Skiba had just taken office when a recall was launched against him by the very people running Hardesty’s campaign. It seems like he was not given much of a chance, and they even refused to allow him to appoint his own deputy and when he did the township board refused to pay him a salary.

After gaining enough signatures to get it on the ballot, voters recalled Skiba in the election earlier this month. An attempted recall of the new treasurer failed to get enough signatures to get on the ballot.

The township board then voted to hire retired auto executive Allen Carlson as the interim clerk on Nov. 6. Carlson said he had no desire to run for the clerk position when the special election is held on Feb. 23 to fill the remaining almost three years of Skiba’s term. Why not let him serve the less than three months before the election?

At the same time, because this is a special election because of a recall, there is no primary election to fill the partisan office, and the two political parties came up with their candidate in their own way before the Nov. 19 deadline. Independents had until today to file to run. The Democrats chose long-time resident Annette Koeble and the Republicans chose Jim Neilson, who is – get this – the treasurer of the campaign to recall Skiba.

However, on Nov. 20 at a special meeting held in the daytime, the board interviewed Koeble, Neilson and Patricia Hughes. The all Republican board then unanimously chose Neilson, the Republican nominee. It actually appears the GOP nomination came after the township board chose him.

But today brought more news. Neilson chose Hughes, also a Republican, as his deputy clerk, and she has already been sworn in.

This situation simply does not pass the smell test. Koeble is clearly more qualified.

Koeble has been attending township board members for the last couple of years, and she is very familiar with the issues. She served as a member of the Hamburg Township 2009 Focus group which put together the successful police and recreation millage proposals approved by voters in November.

"Throughout my career, I have tried to focus on being a member of a team. I consider myself to be a good listener, someone who is able to trouble shoot problems, and most importantly, to get the job done in a timely manner. I possess excellent organizational skills and I know how to prioritize and manage multiple tasks," she said on the Livingston County Democratic Party’s blog, Living Blue.

Koeble has been office administrator with Turner Electric Service Inc. of Dexter since 1985, where she has been responsible for accounting, payroll, personnel files, billing, liaison with banks and bonding companies, insurance matters and financial analysis.

From 1976 to 1985, Koeble held positions as office manager, estimator, and billing clerk for companies in the construction field. She also taught secondary school in the Jackson area from 1972-1974.

Koeble has a Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Michigan University. She has been married to her husband, Bob Koeble, for 24 years and has lived in Hamburg Township since 1982.

But here’s the qualification that apparently disqualified Koeble despite her excellent record: She has served as treasurer of the Livingston County Democratic Party since 2007.


Republican Michigander said...

So did the senate appointees by the democrats not pass the "smell test?" Colorado, New York, both had appointments filled by democrats.

"It actually appears the GOP nomination came after the township board chose him."

Neilson was appointed interim clerk before he became the GOP nominee. That I know for a fact.

Communications guru said...