BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Editor
This past summer, Pat Kittle made it public he was stepping down as Independence Township supervisor, effective with the conclusion of the regular meeting of the Township Board of Trustees on September 7.
After almost nine years, Kittle said “it was time.”
He even proclaimed that longtime township resident, former township treasurer and current trustee Paul Brown should be appointed the new supervisor.
During several trustees meetings in August and September, discussion was had and motions made to select a new supervisor, including those to appoint Brown, current trustee Jose Aliaga, and former supervisor Dale Stuart, but no motions passed.
At the September 27 special meeting of the board, again no supervisor was chosen, and it was reiterated if no supervisor is chosen by October 22 (October 24 is 45 days from the day after Kittle’s last day, but October 22 is the last business day), the Oakland County clerk will step in and schedule a special election for May 3, at a cost to the taxpayers of around $40,000-$50,000 minimum, according to Independence Township Clerk Cari Neubeck.
The person elected would then run in the general election next November.
The latest meeting saw motions fail to appoint Brown and Stuart while board members and residents chimed in with commentary. With no supervisor in place, Ron Ritchie was appointed as the chair for the meeting.
One township resident, Linda Holloway, spoke in person and said township residents will not be in favor of a special election.
“Trust me, we will be furious as a community if we have to go through the cost of a special election, the inconvenience of a special election, and the time that it is going to take for our representatives to have to go out and try to contact the public,” said Holloway, who added she recommends Brown as supervisor. “I am one of the election inspectors and I know it will be a long, empty day for us because the turnout will be incredibly low. I’m just urging you… we elected you to do the business of our township and giving us an interim supervisor for a year is the business of the township.
“I feel one of the trustees should be the supervisor. We’re spoiled in Independence Township. We’re accustomed to a well-run township. I went through most of the meetings, and you are all in agreement. It was kind of a shock that you couldn’t come to an agreement on this.”
Sam Moraco, another township resident, said that “it’s not who it is, it’s how it disrupts the township.”
“I have no doubt that Paul would make a good supervisor and Jose would be a good supervisor, and I think both of them would work very hard,” Moraco said. “I think putting someone on the board creates additional problems. I think it gives an unfair advantage to the person who’s not appointed, but more importantly, you’re vacating another seat that somebody ran for and then we have to go through this again to fill the trustees’ seat.
“It seems so counter-productive.”
Kittle even called on a video call in to show support for Brown.
“He knows the township, he knows the systems, and he is able to sift through financial data like no one I’ve ever seen,” said Kittle. “He has received glowing recommendations from his past deputy and the past finance director and that speaks volumes for his ability to do his job. What I like about Paul is he is not afraid to call somebody out for not doing their job. He is not afraid to put systems in place to be able to track the whereabouts of employees so that we get eight hours of work for eight hours of pay. If that is creating a problem with morale, holding people accountable, then I don’t get it.
“As I have said before, I would trust Mr. Brown with the keys to this community. Right now, Independence is back where we were nine years ago. There are 20 township supervisors where this is must-see TV. And I tell you what after nine years of putting my heart and soul into this community, I don’t appreciate it. I don’t think the residents deserve it, and just to put somebody in there as a placeholder is the absolute wrong course of action. We need somebody who can take charge now and continue to move this township forward.”
Township trustee Terri Nallamothu said she is not in favor of an interim supervisor or a special election. She is in support of Brown, saying the move would be “a seamless transition.”
“It would just be a shame to spend $50,000 to put someone in here that could have been here in the first place,” she said.
Rachel Loughrin, township treasurer, said it’s looking like the board is at a stalemate and wanted to reopen the application process with that motion failing at the meeting.
“I think that we are charged as representatives of this township to find a way,” Loughrin said. “If nobody on this board is willing to change their mind and vote for another candidate, whether you stick behind somebody to begin with or not, then we have to do something. A vote against this idea is a vote for a special election.”
Brown believes he can handle the supervisor role with no issues.
“I think I’m the best candidate,” Brown said. “My thing has always been that our job as a board is to do what’s best for the township. I think there are personal feelings and opinions in here, and those are fine in politics. You vote for someone you like, and you don’t vote for someone you don’t like. People don’t like me for how I did things when I was here? OK. I’ve got thick skin, and I can deal with that, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t do the job right for the public.
“We need to pick the person who is most qualified for the job, just like you would pick a fire chief or the director of a department. You would not take personal feelings into it. Until this becomes an election, this is not a popularity contest. Our job is to pick the best candidate.”
Aliaga feels his nomination for supervisor has been “minimized over and over and over” by the board.
“I run a business and I am working with the White House,” said Aliaga. “Everything I show you (the board) has been minimized, like the qualifications I have and the people that have spoke for me at the last few meetings. It’s been minimized. I always put the compassion working with the community and the people because it’s not about money. It’s about how I care about the community. I have always had that passion, and I show that to the community.
“People say Paul is the most qualified, but I am the most qualified, too. I also believe Dale is qualified because he did this before. You minimize all the other people, and I disagree with that. I just want to say that because I have to say it.”
The next scheduled meeting of the board was Tuesday, October 5, after this week’s editorial deadline for The Clarkston News, followed by October 19 at 6 p.m. from Independence Township Hall, located at 6483 Waldon Center Drive. The meeting will be held in person and online with more information at indtwp.com.
“No matter what happens, we’ve got to come back and be the board we’ve been,” Brown said. “Because we can be.”