By Jon King /

The woman who leads local Democrats is calling a vote earlier this week by the all-Republican County Board of Commissioners, “a small, petty decision” when they declined to appoint a Democrat to the bipartisan county jury commission, and instead left the position vacant.

Judy Daubenmier, who chairs the Livingston County Democratic Party, issued a press release (posted below) following Monday’s meeting of the county board in which they approved incumbent Nancy Sauvage, a Democrat, and former commissioner Bill Green, a Republican, to the county jury commission, omitting the name of Democrat Dane Morris, despite the fact that all three had been nominated to the panel by Chief Judge Michael Hatty.

Daubenmier says the jury commission meets once a year for half an hour to approve the procedures that the 44th Circuit Court has in place for picking jurors. She called it “basically a computerized system” that pays $25 a year. The decision to leave out Morris followed a meeting of the county’s Personnel Committee, which is chaired by Commissioner Doug Helzerman. At the April 21st meeting of the committee, Commission Chair Wes Nakagiri weighed in on the appointments, saying it seemed wrong to him that the committee would have two Democrats and only one Republican in a majority Republican county.

Helzerman then tabled the appointments and according to Daubenmier, used the interval to call Morris and ask about his political affiliation. He also did an internet search on Morris and found out he once ran as a Democrat for county commissioner.

When the Personnel Committee met again Monday afternoon, Helzerman presented those findings to the committee. An hour later, the full commission added the appointments to its agenda without advance notice to the public and separated out Morris’s appointment. It approved nominating Sauvage and Green, but no motions were made to approve Morris.

Daubenmier said the decision “proved once again” that the county board of commissioners “are small, petty people obsessed with maintaining total control. No issue is too minor for them to turn into a partisan power grab.”

When asked for a comment, Nakagiri sent a statement to WHMI that indicated his antipathy toward Democrats went beyond mere apportionment and leaned toward a visceral hostility. “With today’s Democrat Party standing for policies allowing boys to compete in girls’ athletics, allowing men to enter womens’ locker rooms, indoctrinating children with hate-filled systemic racist ideology, denying our children a full education by locking down our schools, defunding the police, opening our southern border to a free flow of cheap labor, and denying Livingston Seniors fair access to COVID health care, it is difficult to envision a card-carrying Democrat officer being appointed to any committee in our county.”

Daubenmier spared no animosity in her response, calling Nakagiri's statement "a wildly exaggerated caricature of the DEMOCRATIC Party. It wasn't our members who undermined the validity of the election results, fomented an insurrection in order to overturn the results, threatened to spank the governor and wanted to challenge her to a fistfight on the Capitol lawn, and right now is withholding Covid relief from Michigan residents. It was his party. In any event, none of the issues he wants to talk about have much to do with the jury commission or other county panels. Democrats pay taxes here, too. We deserve representation."

Daubenmier added that there is a “silver lining in Nakagiri’s reasoning” in that he “apparently espouses the principle that Democratic representation on county boards and commissions should reflect our party’s strength. Fine with us. We’ll take three county commission seats and 38 percent of the planning commission, the solid waste commission, the parks and open spaces advisory commission, and every other body that exists at the county level. It's only fair,” she said.

Meanwhile, the man at the center of all this, Dane Morris, told WHMI that he was "honored that Judge Hatty and the 44th Circuit Judges chose to nominate me for this Commission. I thought that my confirmation would proceed without any delay." He said Commissioner Helzerman did call him prior to the meeting to inquire if he was a Democrat, and he confirmed that he was. "I can only assume that because I am a Democrat, I am not able to serve in Livingston County."