On a 4-2 vote at the end of its May 16 meeting, the Van Buren Township Board of Trustees censured Trustee Sherry Frazier and removed her from her board liaison position on the Water and Sewer Commission.
Voting for the censure were Trustee Reggie Miller, Treasurer Sharry Budd, Clerk Leon Wright, and Supervisor Kevin McNamara. Voting no were Trustees Kevin Martin and Paul White. Frazier was not allowed to vote.
Earlier in the meeting, Trustee White tried to get the censure resolution removed from the agenda, but he had no support.
“She is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law,” White said, adding Frazier has been treated badly by the board and harsh words have been used against her. He said he talked with the Director of Water and Sewer James Taylor and he said Frazier was doing an excellent job on the commission. This would be a loss for the township to remove her, White said.
When the item came up for a vote at the end of the agenda, White said Trustee Frazier speaks out and speaks her mind and that’s why the board doesn’t like her. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to censure him for the same reason.
White said that the previous evening at 9 p.m., he received Draft #8 of the proposed Meeting Conduct Policy from Supervisor McNamara’s assistant Dan Selman.
“It’s not correct to have him working like that,” White said, noting that was 9 p.m. and Selman had to be back at work at 7:30 a.m. If he was in a union they wouldn’t let him work like that, White said.
“Seems like we’re always in a hurry and I’m a little bit upset about this,” White said, referring to both the meeting policy and the censure.
“This is exactly how we rush things to get them done,” White said.
“I did everything I was supposed to,” Frazier said of her New Year’s Eve shoplifting charge. “I apologized.” She said, adding the board has been vindictive and petty.
“It’s difficult to sit next to Ms. Miller and Treasurer Budd,” Frazier said. “Miss Miller could not stand to sit next to me at the last meeting.”
She said the board dragged her through the mud for three hours at that meeting and she believes the community has not had an overwhelming concern.
“I’m a Christian. I believe God has forgiven me,” she said. “I’m going to rise above this… It is not going to define my life.
“I’m sorry for the turmoil,” Frazier continued, adding that she didn’t attend the recent Michigan Township Association convention because she didn’t want Supervisor McNamara to be embarrassed.
“I will continue to be here unless I’m recalled,” Frazier said.
Trustee Miller said she asked to have her seat moved at the last meeting because she didn’t wish to get in the way of Frazier’s arms when she gestured.
“When you get worked up, you raise your voice,” Miller said, noting she is having ear trouble which makes it difficult to hear. She said sitting across the table she could see Frazier directly and “read your face.”
“You said ‘I don’t want to sit next to you,'” Frazier said.
“I didn’t say that,” Miller replied.
Miller said Frazier did not shove Clerk Wright [as he claimed], but the other charges are not OK and the only thing the board can do is remove her from the Water and Sewer Commission. Miller said Frazier could still attend those meetings, but couldn’t sit on the commission.
Trustee Martin said he is not in favor of her removal from the Water and Sewer Commission and so he will vote no.
“I think she has been humiliated enough and I hope we can go forward and become a better board,” Martin said.
Clerk Wright said it is his job to dismiss an employee for what they’ve done and so they can’t condone this on the board. He said the board has to lead by example. He said they just terminated an employee for making a false statement and a month ago terminated a police officer for making a false statement. He said they can’t just ignore Frazier’s situation.
Treasurer Budd said this is one of the most hurtful things to do, to censure a fellow board member, but, “We didn’t tell her to do what she did. I hope we can learn to trust her again.”
Supervisor McNamara said Frazier didn’t take personal responsibility and dragged the community through the mud for four weeks and then finally, “Did it.”
“You were abysmal,” McNamara said to Frazier. “It’s like you liked the attention and that’s really made me worry.”
White said Frazier has endured a whole lot of public embarrassment, but he will reserve judgment until after her day in court.
Miller said she reached out to Frazier to take a leave of absence to get her affairs in order, but she didn’t.
Frazier said when she saw Miller in court she thanked Miller for her support and Miller replied, “I’m just doing my job.”
The vote to censure Frazier passed 4-2, with Martin and White voting no.
The three reasons for the censure were that she was in violation of the Township Ethics Policy by engaging in conduct on Dec. 31 that led to her being charged with retail fraud in the City of Taylor, failing to notify the supervisor about what happened, and “repeatedly and dishonestly” taking credit at the March 6 board meeting for the creation and placement of an article in a Michigan Township Association magazine, which she later said was a “bad joke.”
After the vote there was turmoil around the board table, with Wright and White clashing over Wright’s use of the township credit card and whether it was a two-year felony, the reason for a surplus in last year’s budget, and other items.
Budd made a motion to adjourn in the middle of the arguing, saying, “We’ve had enough,” and the meeting adjourned.
In other business at the May 16 meeting, the board:
• Heard Supervisor McNamara announce that May was Honor and Remember month. He introduced Leroy Paige of Sumpter who explained VBT joins Sumpter Township and the City of Perry in naming May as Honor and Remember month. After Paige explained the organization, members of the board read names of deceased tri-community residents who had served in the military;
• Approved an amended Board of Trustees Meeting Conduct Policy on a 6-1 vote, with Trustee Paul White voting no. The policy will go into force at the next meeting;
• Approved the second and final reading of an amendment to a zoning ordinance to modify certain accessory building regulations;
• Approved purchase of Avaya IP Office Server Edition VOIP Phone System from Suntel Services at a cost of $97,602.44, plus 6% ($5,856) for unexpected cost or labor. Suntel was the lowest of three bids;
• Approved the Bus Transportation Agreement between VBT and Van Buren Public Schools for the summer camp program. Next year the agreement will be changed to say either side can pull out with 30 days notice, instead of the 10 days now specified;
• Approved the contract with Zambelli Fire Works for the 2018 fireworks show at a cost of $10,000. The fireworks are set for dusk on June 30 at Beck Ball Fields with a rain date of July 1. Supervisor McNamara said he will be seeking donations from corporate businesses for overtime wages for police and fire personnel. At the work/study session McNamara said he hadn’t started soliciting yet because he was “embarrassed” because the usual corporate sponsors are Waste Management, which the township got a lot of money from this year; L&W, which just got sold; and US Ecology, which may furnish money for the lake house he is planning on the DNR property. Later, he told the Independent that he will get the extra money;
• Approved purchase of the Dell R440 Servers and Storage Rack to replace the current six-year-old service at a cost of $19,043.36;
• Approved appointment of Gerald McKelvey to the Water and Sewer Commission with a term to expire June 1, 2019. He is filling the unexpired term of Dr. Gerald Graf, who retired from the commission after many years of service;
• Approved the appointment of Amos Grissett as a full member of the Board of Zoning Appeals with a term to expire Dec. 1, 2020;
• Approved the Police Officers Labor Council (POLC) Patrol and Dispatch contract. When Trustee Frazier asked for the provisions, McNamara said they will be getting 2% raise per year for four years, a total of 8%. He said they will no longer have to wear ties, but have to wear their hats and new jackets that offer more support; and
• At the request of Trustee White, received a report from Matthew Best, on the results of last year’s algae bloom study of Belleville Lake put on by about six universities — staff and students — with the help of local volunteers. Best said Belleville Lake was well below levels set by the World Health Organization and federal government for the dangerous algae. “Our lake is a normal healthy lake that sometimes gets an algae bloom,” Best said. He said anyone who wants to volunteer to help with this year’s study, may call the Developmental Services Department at (734) 699-8913.