November 23, 2011 - Twenty four hours after the appointment of a new deputy supervisor, Independence Township Board appointed a superintendent.
Independence Township Clerk Barbara Pallotta swears in Bart Clark as the new township superintendent. Photo by Trevor Keiser (click for larger version)
Despite accusations, Trustee David Lohmeier said his proposal and the board's appointment of Bart Clark as township superintendent is not in reaction to Supervisor Dave Wagner's appointment of Mike Clark as deputy supervisor.
"This proposal was in place in October, long before Mr. Mike Clark's appointment," Lohmeier said. "If Mike Clark wasn't selected by the supervisor, we'd be doing this. It was a plan to go forward."
Prior to his appointment, Bart, no relation to Mike, said he recognized the township was "in somewhat turbulent and difficult circumstances that no one foresaw coming."
"I think my experiences and background would allow me to contribute to the position of superintendent," he said. "If you appoint me, I give you my word, I will do my very best to fulfill the obligations and responsibilities of Independence Township superintendent."
The board appointed Bart on a 5-1 vote at the Nov. 16 special meeting. Trustee Mark Petterson voted "no."
"I'd feel more comfortable that we ask for resumes and go through the proper process," Petterson said. "I think it's maybe too quick to appoint anybody, until we have a lot of other candidates to look at."
Trustee Neil Wallace disagreed.
"I think it (the appointment of Mike) was a blatant political act and meant we needed to move promptly to reject it," Wallace said.
Petterson also noted he wanted someone who had nothing to do with any of the current board members. Bart had run for trustee in 2008 as part of the seven person slate, along with Lohmeier and Wallace.
"I personally have some reservations of appointing anybody that's had anything to do with our political lives in this situation," he said. "I want somebody clean of influence."
The board officially created the superintendent position at the Nov. 15 regular board meeting at 20 hours a week and $3,000 per month with no additional benefits.
The position will be paid by savings of Wagner's salary due to disability. The superintendent is empowered with all the duties and authorities of the supervisor, except those designated to Human Resource Director Carol Gabris, and new Budget Analyst Rick Yeager.
According to township attorney Steve Joppich, state statute MCL 42.10 indicates the transfer of supervisor duties to the superintendent leaves both the supervisor and deputy supervisor powerless.
"If the board appoints a superintendent to take on all or some of those duties, then those duties are no longer duties of the township supervisor, but instead become duties of the township superintendent," Joppich said. "Consequently, the township supervisor would no longer have those duties. Neither would the deputy supervisor."
The board also posted the position for superintendent and will accept resumes until Dec. 15.
"I understand that I serve at the pleasure of the board and would have no hard feelings if you found a more experienced, more suitable candidate than me," Bart said. "But I'll give it my best while I'm there."
Bart came at recommendation of Treasurer Curt Carson at the Nov. 15 meeting.
Department of Public Works Director Linda Richardson said she worked with Bart while he served on the Operations Review Task Force and said he was a "very detailed oriented person."
"I don't know Mr. Clark personally. Just working with him on the task force, I found rather positive," she said.
Resident and former township Clerk Joan McCrary said she likes Bart and believes he will do a good job, but she still disagreed with the superintendent position.
"If Wagner returns as he says he will, what will be his responsibilities? It sounds like none, if we're turning over to the superintendent," McCrary said. "That's not the will of the people, they elected him. Even if you don't like his deputy or he's been sick, it's still was the will of the people."
Wagner said the appointment is "pathetic."
"It has nothing to do with the good of the township," Wagner said. "For anybody to say that it does, they have not been paying attention."
"We have a responsibility to manage this township the best way we can," Lohmeier said. "I put forth a proposal after thoughtful consideration of a strategy I think will assist us in doing that."
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.