Source: Sherman Publications

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Guest viewpoint
Input needed in supervisor situation

November 02, 2011

Recently Independence Township Supervisor Dave Wagner has in these pages opposed the suggestion that the Township Board would consider some way to do something about his now seven-month total absence from his responsibilities to the township ("Wagner won't go," Oct. 3).

It is unfortunate that he is suffering serious health problems. However, his health problems do not excuse his responsibility to the township and its tax payers.

This news article was the first time during his seven-month total absence from his job that Mr. Wagner has provided government officials and the public with any insight into the nature and extent of the health problems that keep him from his responsibilities.

What we have learned only now is that his doctors still do not know what is wrong with him. That is unfortunate for him, personally.

It is obvious now that the current prediction by his doctor is at best a guess and certainly not a prognosis that he will be able to return to work anytime soon. His total disability will quite likely extend beyond Dec. 31st; so he will not be returning to his township responsibilities even then, if ever.

Nowhere in the article does Mr. Wagner acknowledge that during his seven-month total absence other elected officials and staff have gone above and beyond their normal responsibilities so that the township can "get by."

During his seven-month absence from his job, he has not once inquired about the status of any aspect of township government.

Understandably, his focus has been on his health. The rest of us, the public and township officials, have been very patient. But with now that we know there is no end in sight, hasn't this has gone on long enough?

Should we elected officials do nothing? To me that would be more irresponsible than the supervisor's failure to understand the predicament for the township and do something.

We are faced with finding the money to pay someone to do this job for what will likely be the balance of his term because state law requires that we continue to pay him even though he is not working.

The solution would be for him to resign. No one reading this, if they found themselves disabled for more than seven months with no end in sight, would expect their employer to take no action in similar circumstances.

Would another elected official resign? Yes, to name one, earlier this year the Bloomfield Township supervisor resigned because of health. Vice President Dick Cheney's health problems did not cause him to miss work for seven months or more.

There are some who have said the township has run better during Mr. Wagner's seven-month absence. Perhaps, but that misses the point. There is much that could and should be accomplished with leadership.

Mr. Wagner has now made plain his motivation is to continue to collect his pay and to hold on long enough to qualify so the tax payers are forever responsible for medical insurance for him.

With this new information it seems to me there is a better solution (as called for the Clarkston News editorial) and no reason to delay.

Otherwise it is altogether possible that we could go another year with the supervisor.

It is apparent he thinks it can happen if the Township Board continues to indulge him and if the public does not clamor for a change.

The better course for everyone is to give him the retirement medical benefits now in return for his resignation. He can continue to collect disability payments. We will have shown compassion for his situation and the township can have what the Clarkston News editorial called a "fully-functioning supervisor." Should we? What do you think?

And if he refuses to resign even then, should we move the qualifications for lifetime medical out to sixteen years, just like it is for the clerk and the treasurer?

Or should we just continue to do nothing? It may be that the Township Board needs to be prodded to action by public input. So let them know what you think.

Neil Wallace is an Independence Township trustee.