With over 16,000 Commerce Township residents heading to the polls during the Nov. 6 general election, two for every one cast their votes in favor of incumbent township Clerk Dan Munro, who has said in the past that he plans on stepping down from his job as the township’s top elections official if he secured the post in the general election. With that in mind, the township Board of Trustees — which is expected to be faced with a decision on who replaces Munro in the coming months — needs to do its due diligence on the possible replacements, but still act in haste in order to avoid the state calling a costly special election to fill the position, presuming Munro does indeed resign.
Over the last five months since he announced his decision, Munro, who was appointed to the clerk position following the retirement of former clerk Sandra Abrams, has been urging township residents to vote for Janet Bushey, the township’s finance and human resources director who ran as an independent candidate in the general election but garnered just 33 percent of the vote, according to unofficial tallies from the Oakland County Clerk/Register of Deeds Office.
Operating under the assumption that Munro lives up to his word that he will step down from the clerk’s position effective Jan. 1, 2013, the Board of Trustees will have 45 days from the date of his resignation to appoint a new township clerk.
The whole situation was spawned by the fact that Munro missed the deadline to remove his name from the Aug. 7 primary election ballot. His decision not to serve a full term as township clerk, he said, stems not only from a desire to focus his attention full-time on his job at Community Choice Credit Union in Farmington Hills as its chief information officer and senior vice president of information technology, but also that “the township board is less effective than it used to be” — an assertion that was met with a measure of disagreement from other members of the Board of Trustees.
Prior to filling the vacancy left by the resignation of former clerk Abrams, Munro had served for 18 years as a trustee on the township board. Upon his appointment to the clerk position, which pays $74,855 per year over the four-year term, his trustee position was filled by former state representative David Law, who earned a full four-year term on the Board of Trustees in the Nov. 6 general election.
Bushey was recruited to run for the clerk position as an independent candidate. Munro has said Bushey is well-qualified for the clerk job because she is well-versed in Commerce Township issues. Further, he said Deputy Clerk Vanessa Magner is planning to stay in her current position and would provide exceptional support to the new clerk.
According to Munro, an appointment of Bushey by the board could end up saving the township between $60,000 and $70,000 since she could fill the clerk’s position, as well as maintain her current duties as human resources and finance director.
That seemingly gives her an edge over any other possible candidates, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other qualified potential township clerks out there. That’s why the Board of Trustees needs to do its due diligence and appoint the best-qualified individual for the job.
But beyond that, the board needs to work quickly because if it doesn’t, the state will be forced, due to provisions of Michigan election law, to call for a special election in order to fill the vacancy — and it’s the township’s taxpayers that would foot the bill for that, not Lansing.
Elected officials have come and gone in recent years, therefore requiring either an appointment by a community’s governing body to fill those vacated positions, or a special election. It hasn’t come to the point recently where a purely local special election was needed, and the township board needs to be sure it stays that way.
The White Lake Township Board of Trustees, following the election of Mike Kowall as state senator, struggled significantly during the appointment process over the selection of his successor, but ultimately tapped Greg Baroni as the new township supervisor. The Oakland County Board of Commissioners appointed Angela River after former commissioner Tim Greimel was elected to the state House of Representatives in the middle of his term as county commissioner. County Clerk/Register of Deeds Bill Bullard, Jr. was appointed to that position after Ruth Johnson was elected as Michigan Secretary of State.
And, Munro himself was appointed after Abrams’ resignation.
None of those vacancies required a special election to fill a vacant post, and neither should this one, presuming it comes to pass. Municipalities everywhere are dealing with tough fiscal situations, and Commerce Township is no different.
Whether the final choice for Munro’s successor is Bushey or some other qualified candidate, the board needs to act quickly and decisively to nip in the bud any chance that the state would force Commerce to hold a special election that would cost several thousands of dollars.