Scio Township fills the vacancy on the board of trustees

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Some Scio residents gathered near township hall to protest the board filling the vacancy. photo by Lonnie Huhman

After some twists and turns, including a protest outside township hall, the Scio Township Board appointed Mark Brazeau to fill the vacancy on the Board of Trustees.

At its Sept. 13 meeting, the Scio Township board voted 4-2 to appoint Brazeau to serve the remainder of the unexpired term to which Jacqueline Courteau was elected in 2020 and from which she resigned effective August 9, 2022.

Township clerk Jessica Flintoft and board trustee Kathleen Knol voted against the appointment.

After citing how the vacancy applicants had withdrawn, including Brazeau, and saying the township supervisor made a unilateral decision to bring back Brazeau without the other board’s input, Knol said she supported turning the selection decision over to the voters for a special election.

She said Brazeau appears highly qualified, but he has no township government experience and has never been to a meeting, and also was not interviewed for the role at a public meeting where the entire board could have asked him questions.

Prior to the vote to approve the vacancy appointment, Flintoft did attempt to put forth a motion to support holding a special election. However, that motion was not put before the board.

In his cover letter expressing his interest in the role, Brazeau said:

“Dear Scio Board of Trustee’s

I’ve attached my resume for your consideration as Scio Trustee. As a long-time Scio resident of 30+ years, our family has witnessed its tremendous growth and potential. Of course, maintaining that trajectory, coupled with the well-being for all Scio residents is paramount to us.

As a professional of five successful technology and retail companies over the duration of my career, I fully understand and appreciate the need to encourage a wide array of businesses to take root here. However, that growth cannot go unbridled. It must be balanced to the residents needs/goals as well as fully support Scio’s core principles as a safe and appealing place to live, work and play.”

Prior to the meeting on Sept. 13, outside of township hall along Zeeb Road, a group of residents gathered to give voice to the path they wanted to see for the vacancy decision. This group along with others in the township put their support behind a Change.Org page titled, “Scio Township Trustee Position - Let The People Choose.”

The Change.Org page stated:

“Dear Neighbors,

Scio Township has experienced another resignation of a Trustee. The timing of this one was too late to get on the August primary so that we, the people, could choose the person who will help make our laws for the next two years. The result is that this Board is prepared to choose for us, based on an application process that was open for less than one week.

But it doesn't have to be this way! If the Board does not choose someone by September 23, the County will call a special election, so we the people will be allowed to choose our own representative next spring.

If you agree that in our democracy the people should be able to choose their own representation in the voting booth, please send this message to TownshipBoard@ScioTownship.org: LET THE PEOPLE CHOOSE THE NEXT TRUSTEE FOR SCIO TOWNSHIP!

The next Board of Trustees meeting is Tuesday, September 13.”

There were 182 people who signed on in support.

As for the perspective of township supervisor Will Hathaway, here is his recommendation report to the board to appointment Brazeau to fill the vacancy:

“The Board of Trustees approved a process for receiving applications from residents interested in serving out the remainder of the term vacated by Trustee Jacqueline Courteau's resignation. Five applicants submitted a cover letter and resume by the deadline. All five were deemed qualified based on the criteria set forth by law and the additional conditions established by the Board.

Mark Brazeau was not able to attend the August 23 Board meeting and decided to withdraw his application. The remaining four applicants attended the Board meeting on 8/23/22. One withdrew her candidacy at the meeting. The other three withdrew their applications in a joint letter dated 9/1/22.

When Mark Brazeau was informed that the Township had no remaining applicants for the vacant trustee position, he agreed to reactivate his application and again put himself forward as a candidate. This option was offered to the other four original, qualified applicants. None of them chose to join Mr. Brazeau in reactivating their applications. Members of the Board were urged to contact Mr. Brazeau and engage him in dialogue prior to the 9/13/22 regular meeting of the Board so that they would come to that meeting prepared to vote.

It is worthwhile considering the alternative to a Board decision on the appointment. Some have suggested that it would be preferable for the Board not to appoint a replacement trustee. The argument is that it would be better to let the voters decide. However, if the Board lets the 45-day deadline pass without appointing a trustee, the process is not one where the voters would choose. Instead, the political parties would choose.

If the Board fails to approve a trustee, then the County Clerk would oversee a special election process in which the two major political parties, Democrats and Republicans, would each nominate a candidate. There would be no open primary. The selection process would be up to the unelected members of the political parties who may or may not reside in Scio Township. Given that Scio has elected only Democrats since 2004, the real decision would be made by the County Democratic Party.

Once the political parties chose their respective nominees, then those two individuals would be on the ballot for a special election on May 9, 2023. If there is nothing else on the ballot, then the Township would incur the expense of the special election just to go through the motion of having a vote to approve the Democratic Party’s nominee.

If this special election process is followed, then the soonest that the new trustee could be sworn in would be 238 days from September 13. This would leave the Board with only six members during that time, fewer people to do the work of Scio Township's government and a situation with a higher likelihood of a deadlocked Board.”

For some additional background, here is the link to The Sun Times News previous story on the vacancy:

https://thesuntimesnews.com/g/dexter-mi/n/119773/vacancy-remains-scio-township-board

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