Without a vote of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners, the lobbying firm representing the county’s 25-member governing body has received a two-year contract extension.
The extension, which Board of Commissioners Chairman Michael Gingell (R-Lake Orion) said was done “administratively” under a clause in the existing contract with Public Affairs Associates, is for two years with the Lansing-based lobbying firm.
Taking effect Saturday, June 30 and expiring on June 30, 2014, the extension is for the same $60,000-per-year rate Public Affairs Associates received for the three previous years.
Gingell said the lobbying firm works on “a number of things” for the county at the state level. First, the lobbyists keep the county board apprised of existing legislative concerns and issues.
“Right now, there is legislation looking to combined CMH (Community Mental Health) and health services, which we in Oakland County don’t want,” Gingell said. “We’ve been working with some of the folks in Lansing to get Woodward changed to a major route for plowing purposes and they’ve (Public Affairs Associations) been taking the ball on that one.”
In addition, Public Affairs Associates was working on representing the county’s funding interests during state budget negotiations.
Some have said the fact that the contract extension was done without a vote of the county commissioners marks a precedent.
The lobbyist issue has long been a thorn in the side of Commissioner John Scott (R-Waterford, West Bloomfield).
He said he’s “always been opposed to paying extra for the lobbyist” since the county belongs to the Michigan Association of Counties, which does lobbying work for Oakland County. In addition, the county Executive’s Office and county Water Resources Commissioner’s Office contracts for lobbyists, Scott said.
In addition, some have argued in the past that, because the county commission has members who are former state legislators — Commissioners David Woodward (D-Royal Oak), Tom Middleton (R-Waterford), Robert Gosselin (R-Troy), Shelley Taub (R-Orchard Lake), and Nancy Quarles (D-Southfield) — and many former commissioners are now lawmakers serving in Lansing, having a lobbyist specifically for the county’s governing body provides no added benefits.