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Consultant calls to quit

But agrees to finish his assignment first

September 22, 2010 - Budget consultant John Lamerato called township Clerk Shelagh VanderVeen, Sept. 14, to say he would "no longer be providing further services to the township."

A few days later, he was back on the job.

"It wasn't really that difficult – it's not that big of a victory," said Trustee David Lohmeier, who called Lamerato to ask him to finish the job he started. "I can't figure out how we got screwed up, to be honest with you."

Lamerato, assistant city manager for City of Troy, was hired as a consultant for Independence Township, Aug. 10.

Lohmeier said he sent eight scenarios to the clerk for Lamerato's consideration.

"Simple stuff, like what if we got rid of all our wireless phones, except for the emergency ones. Nothing that's too complicated," Lohemeier said. "On the phone yesterday he confirmed 'yeah I can do that.' I said 'why not finish the assignment, there is just simply any reason not too' and he agreed."

VanderVeen said at the Sept. 14 budget meeting Lamerato "felt untenable situation here, professionally" and there was concern of a possible conflict of interest between Lamerato and township Finance Director Susan Hendricks.

In a later interview, Supervisor Dave Wagner said it wasn't a conflict, but the "appearance of him going behind our finance director's back." He said Hendricks and Lamerato belonged to the same organizations because they're both CPAs.

"Susan is the past president, and John is the (current) president and he felt as if it would kind of look bad. Here you are with all your counterparts in a room together and you are checking your counterpart's backs," Wagner said. "He just thought that was not the appropriate thing to do."

Trustee Neil Wallace suggested Lamerato had quit due to "sabotage" because members of the board "were in disagreement about the scope of his work."

"The night we made the motion to hire him, it was quite clear he would do an initial review and recommendation, would come to the board and make a presentation, then the board would give him further direction," Wallace said.

"Somehow, I believe he was led to believe he was going to be asked to do things that would usurp what the current finance director is doing."

Wagner said sabotage was a "terrible word."

"I had no idea what Mr. Wallace meant by it," he said. "There was no sabotage."

Wagner said the problem was board members thought direction was supposed to come through the board. Instead, it was to come through him, clerk and treasurer. He said it caused "confustion" and Lamerato wasn't sure who his contact person was to be.

"It's good to be informed, there is no problem about that, but the day-to-day operations have to be left to the three full-time officials," he said. "You can't have trustees' micromanaging the day-to-day operations."

Lamerato was set to give his analysis at last night's meeting. Whether he continues or not depends on what comes out of the meeting, according to Lohmeier.

"It's getting it (the budget) to the point where we're 95 percent of the way there," Lohmeier said. "I'd like to hear what he has to say; go through what he thinks are some of the more significant decision points and see if we need him to do another spin, or say 'hey we can take it from here.'"

Wagner doesn't foresee needing Lamerato anymore.

"We have a balanced budget," he said. "It's a good budget."

"I'm pleased to see he's coming back in," said Trustee Mark Petterson. "It's always nice to have an outside opinion of something. That's real important."

Wagner agreed.

"I would rather him come and give his report because it's going to be very positive for me," he said. "It's all the things I've been echoing for the last two years that has fallen on deaf ears."

However, Treasurer Curt Carson, said he could no longer support the relationship between Lamerato and the township because it's beyond the scope of what was planned.

"I understand the supervisor has a balanced budget for 2011," Carson said. "The whole concept was to have the supervisor working with him, and the clerk and me being involved."

Carson had voted to hire Lamerato.

"There is no reason for him to be coming to the board at this time to report, because we haven't gotten to the point where we're ready for him to do anything," he said. "The taxpayers hired us. We're not in a grave situation at this point."

Lamerato did not return calls or e-mail seeking comment.

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.
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