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Helmuth criticized for voting on Paad's demotion



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March 02, 2011 - It appears Oxford Village Councilwoman Maureen "Moe" Helmuth will be abstaining from any further votes, should there be any, relating to the village clerk position or suspended Deputy Clerk Pat Paad.

Last week, Helmuth was criticized by members of the public for making a motion and voting at the Feb. 8 meeting to demote Paad from acting clerk back to deputy clerk and appoint Rose Bejma as acting clerk.

"I share a real concern that Moe has anything to do with this case whether it's being in closed session, making a motion (or) having any part of a discussion," said Sue Bossardet, a longtime resident and former village president. "That is a serious, in my mind, conflict of interest. If council doesn't recognize that, then shame on council."

"And trust me, I am not the only person in town who believes this," she added.

It was Helmuth who made the Jan. 25 allegation that Paad embezzled $2,000 to $3,500 from the village in 2006-07, then repaid it. Helmuth admitted to loaning Paad the money to repay the village at the time.

This allegation led to Paad's suspension without pay and an investigation by the Michigan State Police, the results of which were submitted last week to the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office for review (see story on Page 1).

"Personally, I feel that there was a conflict of interest there. Not only I, but (in) talking to several other people," said Dan Luick, the former village clerk who was terminated by council on Oct. 12, 2010.

"It upsets me that a person like that can sit on council and have a say in my future," Luick noted.

Both Bossardet and Luick felt Helmuth should have abstained from voting on Paad's demotion.

"It seems like that would have been the more appropriate thing to do," Luick said.

Helmuth admitted the thought of abstaining from the Paad vote didn't occur to her at the time.

"It never dawned on me to abstain and if any council member had felt uncomfortable with me voting on that, I would have abstained," she said. "We needed a clerk. I didn't feel it was something that could wait, so I really didn't give it a second thought. And if that's my mistake, that's my mistake."

Councilman Tom Benner indicated a short recess was taken following the Feb. 8 vote because there was an issue over Helmuth making the motion to demote Paad, then voting on it.

Benner said during the break, village President Teri Stiles called village Attorney Bob Bunting, who advised council not to discuss the issue due to the on-going investigation.

"Quite frankly, I don't care what Bob says in regards to this being a conflict of interest," Bossardet said. "There's a moral and an ethical responsibility that this council has and it's to me and to everybody else in this village.

"If you're hearing from residents that they feel this is a conflict of interest, then you better pay attention to that."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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