“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” — Sir Edmund Burke
This famous quote applies to members of the Watson Township Board.
During the past two meetings, Supervisor Kevin Travis has been allowed free reign to appoint a new township attorney and hire a grant writer for a project he champions. I don’t have a quarrel with the reasons for these moves, but I have serious reservations about the process.
Travis in the August board meeting introduced board members to a man and his son who then were approved as Watson’s attorneys because Treasurer Sue Jones had complained about the legal firm of Baucham and Sparks of Kalamazoo charging for every little thing it does. I agree a move needed to be made, but the process was irregular at best.
Hiring a new attorney should be a process that includes all board members and bids should be submitted first and considered by all five. It seemed as though the firm that won the job did so almost by default.
Now comes this month Travis’ announcement of hiring a grant writer for the possibility of funding the extension of sanitary sewer to a commercial site near the corner of M-222 and 12th Street that used to be a gravel pit. Once again, the move is interesting and even welcome for economic reasons, but where was the involvement of the other four members of the board? Were they asleep at the switch?
I don’t believe the grant writer will work for free, and even if she does a terrific job, her hire should be the result of a consensus of a majority of the board members.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The grant writer has indicated she volunteered her services for free, something of which I was unaware. The editor apologizes for the misunderstanding.)
This reminds me too much of the time when Bruce Patrick left the Wayland City Council, was appointed to the Planning Commission and immediately moved to have Ron Kobish appointed chairman to replace the longtime chair, J.D. Gonzales. I was astonished that the members of the Planning Commission, without much comment, went along with the proposal and even moments later had the temerity to appoint Gonzales vice chairman.
I did an unscientific poll of the commissioners afterward to ask if anyone was unhappy with Gonzales’ leadership and was told there was none. So I asked why commissioners permitted him to be removed. I received no answer. It was like they all had been caught asleep at the wheel.
Making matters worse, Patrick a very short time later resigned from the commission and Kobish left the city to take another job.
Furthermore, I have ruffled more than a few feathers in the past when I excoriated Dorr Township Trustee John Tuinstra for unilaterally halting the demolition of the buildings on the Graczyk property because he wanted to save it for a potential farming zoo. He ignored the previous board’s decision that the buildings should be razed to make way for the Dorr Parks and Rec Commission’s plans to expand the current park.
Then-Supervisor Tammy VanHaitsma excoriated Tuinstra at a public meeting, but shortly afterward resigned. Trustees Dan Weber and Josh Otto picked up the mantle to make certain the original plans would move forward, but there was a cost in terms of time and money.
Travis is new to township government, having been elected just last November, so perhaps he can be excused for not understanding proper process in good local government. But there is no excuse for the other Township Board members who haven’t stood up to insist proper procedures be followed.
It’s past time for them to wake up and smell the coffee and accept their responsibility for serving the public.