Royal Oak City Commission accepting applicants to fill Gibbs’ seat

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published September 22, 2020

 Gibbs

Gibbs

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ROYAL OAK — On Sept. 14, the Royal Oak City Commission voted unanimously to accept applications to fill the seat left vacant by the sudden death of Commissioner Kim Gibbs.

The application is a modified version of the application the city uses for appointments to boards, committees and task forces. It is available on the city’s website, romi.gov, and the deadline to apply is Thursday, Sept. 24.

Applicants must be registered voters and residents of the city of Royal Oak for at least one year at the time their applications are filed with the city clerk. For more information about submitting an application through email or physically, email cityclerk@romi.gov or call (248) 246-3050.

At the top of the virtual Sept. 14 meeting, Royal Oak Mayor Michael Fournier and other commissioners shared memories, thoughts and tributes to Gibbs. Members of the public also left recorded voice messages expressing condolences.

Mayor Pro Tem Patricia Paruch requested the topic be added to the Sept. 14 agenda and suggested that the city solicit applications as a way for the commission to identify interested parties and review applications before its next meeting, set for Oct. 5.

The plan is to make the appointment at the Oct. 5 meeting.

“Despite the fact that we’re all saddened by the death of Commissioner Gibbs, we can’t avoid our responsibility under the charter, and that is to appoint a replacement to proceed,” Paruch said. “Whoever is appointed to fill her seat would have to stand for reelection next year in the municipal election in 2021.”

Gibbs’ term was set to expire in 2021. Whomever is elected to the position next year will serve a full four-year term.

The city of Royal Oak’s charter does not identify a specific process to fill an unexpected vacancy on the City Commission.

“(Cities like Royal Oak) are left to their own devices to determine how they go about appointing someone,” Paruch said. “Royal Oak over the years has done a number of different things.”

She said she felt the application process would be the fairest and most transparent way to fill the empty seat.

Commissioner Kyle DuBuc said this will be the fourth time the commission has filled a seat during his time at the table and the process has been “a little bit different.”

“We know a lot of folks that want to serve, and I think there’s value in looking at someone who aspires to sit at the table and then be held accountable by voters,” DuBuc said. “I think this is a good path to go down. I’m definitely interested in someone who is able to hit the ground running.”

Commissioner Sharlan Douglas added two questions to the application: “What are Royal Oak’s greatest challenges in the coming one to five years?” and “What three things are most important for the long-term benefit of our residents?”

Applicants will also have the option to include up to a page, at the suggestion of Commissioner Melanie Macey, to answer the question, “Why do you want to be appointed to the City Commission?”

“I think the first question will elicit responses from people who follow what the city is doing and are aware of budgetary issues or any other issues we’re facing, and the second question, I think, lets us hear what people’s vision is for the city and to see how compatible that is with what we as individuals or a group think is the proper direction for the city,” Douglas said.

Fournier said he felt the application process was the “right way to go” to identify residents looking for the opportunity to make “meaningful change.”

Paruch addressed the grassroots campaign of Pamela Lindell, a former candidate for City Commission and current candidate for the Oakland County Board of Commissioners, to be appointed to Gibbs’ seat Sept. 14. Several callers left voice messages for the public comment portion of the meeting to lobby for Lindell’s appointment.

“It started out with just a lot of Facebook comments saying she was the top vote getter and then it morphed into a more aggressive campaign,” Paruch said. “Ms. Lindell ran last year. She did not win. The voters did not pick her. She came in fourth out of six — not a huge vote of confidence.”

Lindell finished behind Commissioner Randy LeVasseur, who was reelected.

Paruch continued that she felt Lindell should focus on her existing campaign to run for the Oakland County Board of Commissioners. Both Lindell and Gibbs filed to run as Republican candidates against incumbent Democrat David Woodward in the 18th District race.

“I find that whole scenario ethically really, really, really troublesome,” Paruch said. “I, for one, will not seriously consider her because she’s running for the County Commission, and if that’s what she’s chosen to do, that’s what she should do.”

According to a press release on behalf of Lindell, Lindell asked city leaders to “put aside politics and appoint her to the vacant seat of her long-time friend Commissioner Kim Gibbs.”

“Kim never really recovered from the series of political attacks, personal threats and negative treatment by Mayor Fournier and the commission majority,” Lindell said in the release. “I never imagined running for the Royal Oak commission before 2019, but the continued shenanigans at city hall prompted me to run and Kim also encouraged me.”

LeVasseur was quoted in the release as saying, “While I and many others are devastated by Kim’s passing, I can’t think of anyone better than Pamela to step in and serve the city.”

Gibbs died Aug. 20 at Beaumont Hospital after approximately two weeks of being in the intensive care unit. She was 48 years old.

She reportedly suffered a seizure, according to LeVasseur, after being involved in a hit-and-run crash that totaled her vehicle Aug. 1.

After loved ones grew increasingly concerned when Gibbs failed to return text messages and calls to her cellphone went straight to voicemail, her mother found Gibbs unconscious in her Royal Oak home, where she lived alone, and called paramedics Aug. 5. Gibbs never regained consciousness.

The Royal Oak City Commission voted to censure, or formally condemn, Gibbs after she attended “Operation Gridlock,” a protest against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s lockdown orders in Lansing April 15.

The subsequent national media attention and backlash from Gibbs’ appearance at “Operation Gridlock” reportedly led to constant distress, anxiety, depression and the inability to sleep, according to former Royal Oak City Attorney Charles Semchena.

In May, Royal Oak police issued Gibbs a citation for retail fraud after she did not pay for all of her groceries at a self-checkout at Meijer. In a statement, Gibbs apologized and said the economic impact of the lockdown impacted her financially. Gibbs was an attorney and had Type 1 diabetes.

“Recently, I had to choose between insulin and food, and I chose the insulin, which helps me stay alive; however, that left extraordinarily little money for food after paying for medical insurance and insulin,” she wrote. “I have realized, as I have been told by friends, that I need, and am seeking help.”

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