Scio Township: Legal action and the township administrator makes a big announcement

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There was no lack of big announcements at the April 12 Scio Township Board meeting as the township administrator, five months into his tenure said he’s stepping down and then the township clerk announced she’s undertaken a legal action against the township board.

It was during his report to the board that township administrator David Rowley announced he would be stepping down in May. In reading a statement to the board at the end of his report, Rowley said he wanted to apologize to those who he did not speak with about this matter before the meeting, so he said this may be a surprise or it might not be. He said it was with regret that he will leave Scio Township hall after being hired late last year into a role he said he thought he would retire from.

“After long conversations with family and friends, it is with great regret that I do provide Scio Township notice that I will terminate my employment agreement with the township,” he said of his notice that is greater than the 30 days required.

He said he was sorry, both personally and professionally, that this action was necessary, but there was no incentive for him to remain with the township.

Rowley said, “Ongoing township events have clearly demonstrated that there will never be an agreement between myself and township elected officials as to the principals of good governance regarding local government, fiscal management and certified oversight. As a professional local government manager, administrator and educator with over 30 years of day to day actual experience, I am in a greater position to opine on what is needed in local government and I’m greatly saddened by Scio’s political approach to millions of dollars of taxpayer money.”

“My reputation in local government as well as my integrity and professionalism are well known across the state and respected by my colleagues,” he said. “As a state and national education award winner in government education excellence, I chose to no longer be a part of the Scio Township model of local government.”

He called on the board of trustees to fill the vacant finance director position with an experienced individual who holds a master of business administration degree or who is a certified public accountant, and to conduct at minimum a 3-5 year internal audit to fully understand the status of the township’s finances.

He concluded his statement by thanking the township staff and employees for their dedication and professionalism, and said they are the very best of Scio. He also thanked the residents and taxpayers for their support and many kind words. He told residents to watch, observe and hold their elected officials accountable for each and every one of their actions.

After a search and hiring process by the township, Rowley started in his role on Dec. 1. At that time, township supervisor Will Hathaway told the Sun Times News (STN) the intent is that Township Administrator will help the supervisor, clerk, treasurer, trustees, and staff to work more effectively as a team so they could better serve the residents of Scio Township.

That apparently didn’t go as planned. Various issues have plagued the township, from township board meetings being long and contentious to residents expressing their concerns with the supervisor and some board members, which led to recall efforts this past year, and to the disagreements about township finances and how they are being handled.

STN reached out to Hathaway after Rowley’s announcement.

By email, Hathaway said “I was surprised by David Rowley's announcement that he was resigning as Township Administrator. I have not had a chance to talk with Mr. Rowley yet so I don't know all of the factors that weighed into his decision. Scio Township presents a challenging situation for anyone coming in as our Township Administrator. There is a high level of conflict. I am grateful to Mr. Rowley for his willingness to serve the Township and I appreciate the progress that we made together during the past five months.”

Soon after Rowley’s statement, township clerk Jessica Flinoft during her update on finance said she as the duly elected clerk on April 11 filed suit against the township board in Washtenaw County Circuit Court. She said she is seeking injunctive relief to remedy the township’s emergency and longstanding need for greater financial staff at the township and to roll back certain legal actions this board has taken over the past eight months to erode the clerk’s office statutory responsibilities related to finance.

Flintoft said, “You’ve diminished checks and balances, you’ve eroded staff to the breaking point and you’ve created an environment that is too susceptible to potential malfeasance. Our township deserves better. This must stop.”

“It was only after deep consideration that I decided to take this step,” she said. “This board left me no other choice. As you know as well, as part of it, I filed a motion with the court to seek a restraining order against this board to prevent the cancelation or modification of the emergency contract with Rehmann Robson that was signed appropriately by the treasurer and I on March 16, has a term of March 17 to June 30 to carry out our very basic accounts payable and payroll functions. That motion is scheduled with the court, Judge Connors, Thursday, April 21 at 11:30, next Thursday. That’s all.”

STN followed up with Hathaway about this announcement and he said by email:

“From what I have seen, the lawsuit is a restatement of several baseless accusations and grievances that the clerk has put forward over the past several months. There is no substance to the claims.

The clerk's lawsuit seeks to reverse multiple, legitimate actions taken by the elected Board of Trustees. These votes by the Board majority are decisions with which the clerk disagrees. She lost these votes, and now she is suing to overturn the results she doesn't like. The clerk's lawsuit is an attempt to negate the authority of the Board while increasing the unilateral power of the clerk.

It is disappointing that the clerk chose to escalate her disagreement with the Board majority in this manner. It reflects poorly on her as an elected official of the Township. Unfortunately, the clerk's decision to sue the Board of Trustees has the potential to damage the public perception of Scio Township. This lawsuit is a political tactic launched by an individual who is willing to make personal attacks and tear down the Township she was elected to serve in order to get her way.”

Also in a follow up, STN asked about a decision made at the April 12 board meeting that is related to all of this, Hathaway told STN that, “Yes. The Board voted 4-3 to terminate the payroll and accounts payable services agreement with Rehmann effective April 12. The Township will use the staff identified by the Township Administrator in his alternative plan in order to accomplish these functions.”

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