County Board Continues Work On Appointment Policy
June 15, 2021
By Mike Kruzman & Jon King / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Livingston County Board of Commissioners is drawing closer to finalizing a new policy for how they will handle county appointments.
With some Commissioners expressing concerns over the existing nomination process for Board Committees, a second draft with the goal of establishing a uniform process was presented at Monday’s meeting. While it was rewritten and more easily digestible than last month’s initial draft, concerns still arose about it being too complicated. Commissioners voted to move it from being a resolution up for consideration to a discussion item on the agenda.
The second draft includes a mandatory listing of all committees and members online, term dates rules for notifications of upcoming vacancies, and rules for nominating candidates. For boards and committees that don’t operate under separate rules, resolutions, or State statutes, the Board Chair will select one nominee upon the advice of the County Administrator and department heads. The Board Chair may also designate one other commissioner to select a nominee, and any Commissioner may submit names for nomination to the County Administrator, the Personnel Committee, or the Board Chair before the date of posting is closed. All documentation regarding the nominee will be given to the Personnel Committee which will vet the candidate before sending the nomination to the full Board.
Commissioner Carol Sue Reader said it’s become clear to her that it needs to be even simpler than it is now. With the policy affecting over 200 people, she said she doesn’t want to rush to judgment. Reader said she thinks they have enough time based on input from the public and commissioners to make it better than what it is.
Commissioner Doug Helzerman noted that the first time something is put into words, it can be difficult to explain. He also wants to deal with the conundrum of who gets the first vote when multiple nominees are brought before the Board, so that it doesn’t just come down to whichever Commissioner makes the fastest motion to nominate.
Board Chair Wes Nakagiri said he is a big advocate for having the process written down so that everyone is “singing from the same song sheet.” He gave an example in saying that while County Administrator Nathan Burd has done a fine job, the day may come when he’s not with the county anymore. Then when the next County Administrator steps in, they have a policy in place they can point to.
The new policy was drafted in the aftermath of Nakagiri's expressed displeasure with the voting record of former Commissioner Steve Williams, who serves as the county's representative on the Huron Clinton Metropolitan Authority Board. Nakagiri torpedoed Williams' re-appointment to that position, but then failed to get his hand-picked selection appointed after questions were raised about her eligibility. Because nobody was appointed to replace him, Williams remains on the HCMA board, although it is expected that once the new appointment policy is put in place, his successor will be chosen.
Meanwhile, criticism of the current draft of the proposed policy also came from Drain Commissioner Brian Jonckheere. Jonckheere asked that it be made more simple to understand and shared insights for what the DPW looks for in nominees that might be lost if department heads have a reduced role in the process.
Livingston County Planning Director Kathleen Kline-Hudson also questioned the policy, saying that the process, including the discussion leading up to the proposed policy, had "distressed" her in that it had referred to the Planning Commission nomination and interview process as a bad example. "We’ve worked very hard to accommodate both Commissioners Helzerman and Nakagiri in our process this past time. I’ve had one commissioner who has even asked me about the process, so I take exception to that and I’ve been quiet thus far, but it’s really bothered me. And I just want to say regarding the appointment process that one of the things that has been kind of dismissed in the Planning Commission process, was how myself and my staff…narrowed down the number of nominees, and I do not see that this policy addresses that or how we are supposed to interview. I find it very confusing and that it might be more understandable if you were to divide it between the two types of groups you are addressing; the one that is under state statute, separate rules, resolution; and the committees that are not."
Helzerman said they want to keep department heads highly involved, and he hopes this isn’t pictured as trying to pull authority away from them.
Commissioner Jay Gross was the lone vote against not putting the second draft up for consideration. He said he preferred to vote on it, and if it passed, then they had the opportunity to adjust it as needed, later. Gross said the longer the wait to get something solidified, the more trouble they will have.
Mitchell Zajac said he believes they are close and that it shouldn’t be an issue to have a new draft “with all the gaps filled” ready for consideration at their next meeting.