Former Commissioner Alleges County Board Violating Laws
June 7, 2021
By Jessica Mathews & Jon King / firstname.lastname@example.org
A former Livingston County Commissioner is alleging the current board has violated various laws in the process that resulted in their failure to reappoint him to the Huron-Clinton Metroparks Authority Board.
Steve Williams issued a letter to the board on Friday stating that after consulting with attorneys and doing his own research, he’s concluded that the Livingston County Board of Commissioners, led by Chair Wes Nakagiri, has committed at least three violations of Michigan and federal law against him during the ongoing Huron Clinton Metroparks Commissioner appointment process.
Williams alleges the board has ignored Michigan’s Preference in Employment Act 205 and has violated employment protection laws by discriminating against him as a United States military veteran. Of the over 500 votes he cast as Livingston County’s HCMA Commissioner, Williams alleges the board attacked him for only three votes - all having to do with the fair and equal treatment of Michigan residents. "The Army Values were ingrained in me during my 28 years of U.S. Army service and now you are denying me continued employment because I am practicing those values. This by itself demonstrates a clear anti-veteran bias." He says this is further demonstrated by the fact that the only veteran on the board, Commissioner Doug Helzerman, is one of his "strongest supports" and that the other three commissioners who voted in support of his reappointment; Carol Griffith, Kate Lawrence, and Carol Sue Reader, were all married to Vietnam War-era veterans, concluding that, "This pattern establishes a clear anti-veteran voting bias on the part of the other five commissioners who do not have the same close connection with military service."
Williams further alleges the board has repeatedly violated the Michigan Open Meetings Act by conducting deliberations outside of posted, recorded meetings open to the public. He said that contention is reinforced by the board’s efforts to change the existing process for filling appointed vacancies after the opening had been publicly posted and given preferential treatment to a candidate who was recruited by Nakagiri and applied after the deadline had passed. That candidate, Tami Carlone, is a CPA who only recently moved to Livingston County and admitted she has no experience in parks and recreation. Nakagiri recruited her primarily because of her opposition to the HCMA's Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) plan, which he has called "racial propaganda" that is “anti-white.” He believes Carlone would be “more in tune with the values of our county.”
Williams told WHMI based on his education and experience, which include five years on the Metroparks Board and 12 years as a County Commissioner, he is by far the most qualified candidate. He said Livingston County residents deserve the absolute best-qualified candidates for all of the different boards. "This is not some kind of political patronage system. We don't live in a third-world country, or Chicago. We deserve to have people's appointments based on their merit, not on political connections or some kind of ideology. I think Livingston County residents understand this. I think there’s a vocal minority that’s making a big fuss and trying to create some kind of controversy, but that overall most residents want the people that are spending their tax dollars to do the best job possible."
Williams noted that despite Nakagiri’s assertions, the Metroparks are in excellent financial condition and received exceptional praise in a recently released audit.
Williams said he’s consulted with attorneys but has not retained an attorney for the purpose of suing Livingston County to remedy the violations – adding he prefers to avoid formal legal action.
Livingston County Administrator Nathan Burd told WHMI the County has received the complaint and the information Williams provided is currently under review. It is attached for viewing.
While the board failed to reappoint Williams to a new term, they also did not approve a replacement, that as the incumbent Williams will continue to serve on the Metroparks Board until one is named.