Amid Controversy Over Appointees, Nakagiri Nominates Himself To AAA 1-B Board
June 11, 2021
By Jon King / email@example.com
On Monday, the Livingston County Board of Commissioners will consider several resolutions, all having to do with the issue of board appointments.
The agenda for Monday’s meeting of the full board has the official resolution to accept the resignation of former Commissioner Kate Lawrence, whose surprise announcement on Wednesday was such a surprise to fellow commissioners they failed to officially accept it. The vacancy created by Lawrence’s resignation will need to be filled by an appointee, who will serve the remainder of her term through the end of 2022. The application deadline for those seeking to represent District 1 is next Friday, June 18th.
Once that is completed, the board will then consider an appointment to the Area Agency on Aging 1-B. Lawrence is listed as a member of that agency's board, but that appears to be outdated, as Commissioner Doug Helzerman was appointed earlier this year. The resolution states that “due to a recently discovered conflict of interest” it has been recommended that Board Chairman Wes Nakagiri be appointed to complete that term through the end of this year. Nakagiri tells WHMI Commissioner Helzerman was the board's AAA 1-B representative, but because he also serves as their representative on the OLHSA Board, a new appointment was needed as he had been informed that the same Commissioner cannot serve on both boards.
When asked who made the recommendation that he be appointed, and whether that decision was made in accordance with the Open Meetings Act, Nakagiri told WHMI, "As Board Chair I am responsible for making this appointment. The Open Meeting Act does not come into play in this situation. is unknown as the issue has not come up during any public meeting of the board since Lawrence’s resignation."
The issue of appointees has been at the center of much of the board’s attention since the controversy last month over what would normally have been a routine re-appointment of former Commissioner Steve Williams to the Huron Clinton Metropolitan Authority board was torpedoed by Nakagiri in a dispute over the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policies of that organization. The ensuing debate has resulted in a proposed new vetting process for board appointees that will also be voted on Monday, but which comes immediately after the board votes on whether to approve Nakagiri to the AAA 1-B board.
That process, which was put forward by Commissioner Mitchell Zajac, would create a lengthy and involved procedure by which the County Administrator would annually “post a complete list of all committees, their members, and the year that their current term expires, together with a short description of what each committee does, when, how often, and where each committee meets.” The County Administrator would then need to provide data on each incumbent candidate seeking a new term, including their name, home address, phone number, email address, letter of interest, a copy of their application, resume, list of references, the identity of other committees the candidate served on and the duration, the year the incumbent was appointed, and attendance record. It would also allow the Board Chair, which is the position currently held by Nakagiri, to select a nominee “Upon the advice of the County Administrator and others”, although who the others are and what weight that advice would hold is unclear.
From there, the nominations would be vetted by the board’s Personnel Committee, which would then select a candidate and present it to the board. The complete wording of the proposed process is available through a link below.
When WHMI questioned why Nakagiri would not subject himself to the same process being proposed for all future appointees, he said those were different situations. "The process you are referring to applies to citizens seeking appointments to various Boards and Committees. This process is not applicable in this situation as the Board Chair is responsible for appointing Commissioners to various Boards and Committees."
Regardless, Nakagiri's proposed appointment has drawn a sharp response from Judy Daubenmier, the Chair of the Livingston County Democratic Party. She questioned why Nakagiri was nominating himself to that, saying, “Maybe Wes wants to make sure the agency isn’t engaging in any socialistic “inclusion” programs – things like Meals on Wheels or adult day care that the rest of us don’t get. I’m sure he’ll do a great job of rooting out all that special treatment that just serves to divide us as a nation. Or maybe he couldn’t find another county commissioner willing to take the job because Wes has made serving on the county commission an utterly toxic experience. The Area Agency on Aging is valuable to our county. I hope Wes doesn’t break it and keep it from doing its job the way he has basically broken our county commission.”