By Rosemary K. Otzman
Bryce Kelley, the former Van Buren Township Planning and Economic Development Director who resigned from the position in 2008 after Paul White was elected supervisor, was the topic of discussion at the Dec. 15 VBT work/study session.
His name was placed on the work/study agenda for discussion by Trustee Regina Miller, along with two other items she wanted to talk about.
Kelley had been appointed to VBT’s Local Development Finance Authority by Wayne County to fill a position that needed to be filled by a county representative. He had attended one regular LDFA meeting and a long closed-door LDFA meeting on the Visteon problem before his name was given to the township board for approval.
“What was his role in Visteon?” Trustee Miller began. “Did he bring in Visteon?”
Supervisor Linda Combs said the township supervisor [which was Cindy King at the time] “and this board brought in Visteon.”
Supervisor Combs said Kelley worked on the Visteon project and, “Who better to have on the board to bring about a solution?”
There was a disturbance in the audience as residents Barbara Miller and John Delaney called out their disagreement.
“We have to have a Wayne County appointment and they appointed someone else, but Kelley’s the only one available now to come,” Combs said, noting he works for the county EDGE.
Trustee Jeff Jahr said it was not correct to suggest Bryce Kelley didn’t know anything about the Visteon project. Trustee Jahr said Kelley boasted about Visteon and it was “a feather in his cap.”
“I question if Bryce is too involved to be objective,” Jahr said.
“He was very involved in it and others were, too, up to the state level and the governor,” Supervisor Combs said.
“We can say no,” Miller said, adding, “Bryce attended a closed session of the LDFA before being approved by the board.”
“We don’t appoint,” Combs said. “We accept or not accept. When they called people for that special meeting, they called everyone on the list. It was a mistake.”
She said she’s sure Kelley wouldn’t do anything inappropriate with the information, but some weren’t so sure.
“He cost us millions,” Delaney said, adding comments about “that debacle with Dave Frankling” on Harmony Lane. He said he called Frankling to come to the meeting the next day.
Delaney started in on the details of the way the township’s bond money was used to build inappropriate parts of Visteon Village.
“OK, you object to Bryce Kelley,” Combs said. “We’ll take it off the agenda and we’ll call the county and tell them to send somebody else.”
“He was in a closed session. It was wrong,” Miller said, agreeing that she was against Kelley for that appointment.
Trustee Phil Hart said Kelley’s appointment was too controversial.
Trustee Jeff Jahr agreed.
Combs asked about Robert Carlesso, financial director of the Van Buren Public Schools, who was the other LDFA appointment up for approval the next day.
“He didn’t want to do it,” Combs said. “His boss forced him to do it.”
Board members asked if they should appoint him if he didn’t want to do it.
Combs said he did come to both LDFA meetings held since his appointment by the school district.
By Rosemary K. Otzman