Trustee Mike Keys sits in the Clinton Township Board of Trustees chambers on Aug. 28. The meeting Keys planned to attend was the second board meeting to not reach a quorum.

Trustee Mike Keys sits in the Clinton Township Board of Trustees chambers on Aug. 28. The meeting Keys planned to attend was the second board meeting to not reach a quorum.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Clinton Township Board of Trustees fail to gather for meetings amid vacant seat

By: Dean Vaglia | Fraser-Clinton Chronicle | Published September 6, 2023


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Legislative business in Clinton Township has come to a standstill as two consecutive Board of Trustees meetings, a special meeting on Aug. 21 and a regular meeting on Aug. 28, have failed to reach a quorum.

The meetings come as 16 residents have applied for the seat former Trustee Joie West left vacant upon her resignation on Aug. 1. In the meeting West resigned, a new board rule requiring the board to appoint a new member from a list of applicants was passed with the appoint-by-date set for Tuesday, Sept. 15. The rule passed 5-2 after a prior vote to postpone the rule until the Budget Ways & Means Committee could review it failed 4-3. Those supporting postponement included both board Republicans — Supervisor Robert Cannon and Clerk Kim Meltzer — along with Trustee Tammy Patton, the latter joining fellow board Democrats in passing the rule change.

Down a member, remaining board Democrats — Trustees Mike Keys and Julie Matuzak along with Township Treasurer Paul Gieleghem — lack a prior party-line advantage given Patton’s occasional alignment with Republicans Cannon and Meltzer. Only one board meeting has been held since party control of the board has been in limbo. The origins of the missed meetings stem from the lead-up to a special Aug. 21 meeting, after Mount Clemens officials approached township officials with interest in building a water storage facility in the township.

“This was a reaction to some talk in the Mount Clemens community and their need to put in some water infrastructure,” Keys said. “And so, in an effort to make sure Clinton Township residents — if a water tower or something were to go up — have the most amount of say in the design and the ultimate location for something like that, the township board will want to make sure that … we put a moratorium requiring … the City of Mount Clemens to work with us and our standards of zoning and planning.”

Clinton Township Deputy Supervisor Dan O’Leary said Jack Dolan, the township’s attorney, brought up the idea of holding a special meeting. As the meeting date approached, new information indicating the board may not need to meet led to Keys, Matuzak and Gieleghem arguing the special meeting was unnecessary, but additional items were added to the meeting and trustee applicants were invited to introduce themselves to the board.

“We’ve already scheduled the meeting,” O’Leary said. “The meeting has been called. The agenda has been issued. And all of a sudden, because one of the controlling team’s members wasn’t able to be there, the other two started to try to get the meeting canceled. Well sorry, you don’t get to unilaterally cancel a meeting. You might not think it’s urgent, but we’ve been informed that it was, so we’re going to go ahead with the meeting.”

O’Leary argued the introduction session combined with the possibility of not every aligned-Democrat on the board making the meeting led to Keys, Matuzak and Gieleghem not attending.

On the evening of Aug. 21, cameras rolled as Cannon, Meltzer and Patton expressed their disappointment at their fellow trustees for not attending before hosting an informal applicant introduction session for about an hour.

The opposite scene occurred on Aug. 28 as Keys, Matuzak and Gieleghem were the only trustees in the room at the regular meeting. O’Leary said Cannon was out of the county and Meltzer was sick. Patton’s reason for missing the meeting is unknown and she could not be reached for comment.

While Keys, Matuzak and Gieleghem took time to express concerns over the meeting not occurring before hosting an informal public town hall session for nearly an hour, it was discovered during the meeting that the microphones and cameras used to document and stream meetings were not set up.

Matuzak expressed disappointment in the lack of video and audio equipment at the scheduled Aug. 28 meeting.

“I am most, frankly, upset that for a regularly scheduled meeting the video department was not in the building,” Matuzak said. “There was no opportunity for citizens to participate in our interactive video system. The meeting was not streamed. There is not a decision about there being no quorum until after the meeting starts and has a roll call, so somebody made that decision to send the video department home before the meeting even started, and I am very upset about that. I think that is not how we engage the public in decision making.”

O’Leary said he was the one to make the decision to send the video department home.

“I personally called up the media department and said, ‘There’s not going to be a meeting tonight. There’s not going to be a quorum. You might as well go home,’” O’Leary said. “And so they didn’t show up because there was no meeting.”

As things stand following the Aug. 28 meeting, the fate of the vacant seat remains in limbo. With the board’s next regular meeting scheduled for Monday, Sept. 18, it remains uncertain how the vacant trustee seat will be filled. The board’s new rule requires the seat to be filled within 14 days of the applicant deadline closing, which is set for Sept. 15, at either a regular meeting or “at a special meeting if necessary to fulfill the deadlines herein and to have the ability to fill the vacancy by the Board of Trustees in accordance with MCL 168.370.”

Supporters of the rule argue the appointment process is more democratic than the alternative of having the local Democratic and Republican parties select internal candidates for a special election.

“There are hard decisions to be made, but I think the appointment is in some ways more fair,” said Matuzak, who joined the board as a party-appointed candidate in 2022. “And the burden falls on the current members of the committee to have to make hard decisions, but we were elected to make hard decisions.”

It is uncertain whether a special meeting will be called in time to appoint an applicant.

“I am absolutely willing to meet, and I know that the other two board members expressed that (on Aug. 28),” Keys said. “If there is a way to arrange a special meeting to be able to perform this important duty and the business of the township, we will certainly take that opportunity.”

O’Leary has a similar outlook on the matter.

“If (the trustees) can get all six members there and agree to act like the professionals they’re paid to be and wait for all six members, I think they could have a hearty discussion,” O’Leary said.

No meetings had been called or scheduled at press time.