Jenifer “Joie” West’s fellow board members thanked her for her time on the board.

Jenifer “Joie” West’s fellow board members thanked her for her time on the board.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Trustee resignation leads to fight over vacancy

By: Dean Vaglia | C&G Newspapers | Published August 7, 2023


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — As a seat opens up, the fight to fill it begins.

Jenifer “Joie” West resigned from the Clinton Township Board of Trustees at its July 31 meeting, ending 19 years as a trustee and opening a vacancy nearly a year out from the 2024 elections. Her last day was Aug. 1.

West’s resignation letter spoke highly of her time on the board and of the various committees she’s served, though her reasons for resigning were anything but a shining endorsement of the board’s conduct.

“During my tenure, I have been witness to the evolution of the board and its dynamics,” West said. “In the early days, a sense of collaboration and camaraderie prevailed among the trustees, contributing to the effective decision making and progress. Regrettably, it appears the board’s dynamics have shifted with (a) more competitive and confrontational atmosphere emerging. This shift has troubled me deeply, and I firmly believe that our collective purpose should always be to work harmoniously in its best interests for the community.”

All of her fellow members thanked West for her time on the board. Supervisor Robert Cannon thanked her for being someone to count on when the township had to lay off over 20 public safety personnel in order to remain solvent in 2008, while Clerk Kim Meltzer lamented the loss of West’s experience in the medical field from the opioid settlement committee.

The well wishes did not last too long before the question of how to handle the appointment of an interim trustee. Arguing the township did not follow state policy regarding appointments when Lisa Cardamone resigned last year, Township Treasurer Paul Gieleghem and Trustees Mike Keys and Julie Matuzak pressed the board to pass a rule requiring the board to follow state law.

“When this vacancy came up, we said we’re taking a look specifically at the statute and making sure we have a policy in place that is thoughtful, that is drafted with the assistance of our attorneys and to actually place it in the board rules to define the process so everybody is aware of what the duties and responsibilities are,” Gieleghem said.

Though the rule passed by a party line 5-2 win for board Democrats, it faced an attempt to move the rule into the budget ways and means committee. The vote to move it failed, with Cannon claiming hypocrisy on the part of Gieleghem.

“You would not allow this to happen if you weren’t the one bringing this forward,” Cannon said. “You would want it to go to budget ways and means where you’re the chairperson.”

Meltzer criticized the move as a political play.

“There’s not enough time to vet this and you’re putting this to this board at the last minute for political opportunity,” Meltzer said. “They want to be able to have an advantage because one person leaving means it’s going to be a locked board. There’s a political reason behind this unfortunately, and if this was so important, you would have brought it forward as you have said it should’ve been taken care of a year ago.”

The new rule requires the township supervisor’s office to post notice of the board’s vacancy and an application for potential candidates within three days of the vacancy. Applicants have 14 days to return the application after the time it is posted, and the board must vote on a member within five to 14 days. If the board cannot reach a vote the Macomb County clerk will call a special election for the position.

The position is open to registered voters living in Clinton Township. The form for trustee applicants is the normal committee vacancy form modified to include party affiliation.


Elected official pay
Between West’s resignation and the vacant seat discussion, board members were given a chance to opine about their salaries for 2023. The Compensation Commission brought recommendations to have the supervisor be paid $89,288, the clerk and treasurer $85,950 and the trustees $14,690.

Keys made a motion to deny the part-time pay raise, which failed 5-2. Matuzak, who supported Keys’ motion, was displeased with the full-time officials not having their pay raised in line with the rest of the township employees. Cannon defended the raises stating the trustees deserved the increase due to the work they do and that increasing the salaries would help attract candidates come election season.