Sylvan Township attorney determines no conflict of interest

By Lonnie Huhman,


After seeking counsel from its attorney, the Sylvan Township Board has decided to not move forward on a request from some of its residents.

At its July 2 meeting, the Sylvan Township Board did not take any action on the request to have planning commissioner Steve Eiseman removed from his seat on the commission. Residents requested his removal for what they viewed as a conflict of interest regarding the proposed Phinney property development.

The development is asking for a rezoning of property from agriculture to low density residential to accommodate one acre or larger parcels for residential use. The parcels are at 4351 Mushbach Road and 16450 Cavanaugh Lake Road.

Eiseman is the realtor agent for the development applicant, which is James Phinney on behalf of the Florence Phinney Trust.

Township supervisor Tom McKernan said he had received an email from the township attorney the day of the meeting stating that it was the legal team’s opinion that, in this case, the board does not have the authority to remove Eiseman from the planning commission.

McKernan said the attorney determined Eiseman did recuse himself and did not participate in the Feb. 28 public hearing for the Phinney property proposal and did not vote on the matter.

“Since he did not violate the bylaw provisions regarding conflict of interest the township does not have the authority to pursue his removal at this time,” McKernan said of the legal comments sent to him.

In the board’s meeting packet, a copy of the request form to have the removal decision put before the board was available at the meeting.

It states it was submitted by resident Cory Russell with an explanation of the agenda item as “Steve Eiseman has a clear conflict of interest regarding decisions he is making for our township. His moral compass doesn’t match the values of the township residents.”

At a previous board meeting, fellow planning commissioner Dawn Caplis voiced her support of Eiseman and said he has served for more than three years as a valuable member of the commission.  She said to her knowledge Eiseman’s has never ac ted to influence the planning commission in its decisions and deliberations. She said he has recused himself each time the Phinney project has been deliberated.

In other township news from the July 2 meeting, the township board unanimously approved the Chelsea Hillcrest 17-unit Planned Unit Condominium project, which included the amended final site plan with revised water and sewer leads. Township officials said this decision was a long time in coming.

Leave a Reply