West Bloomfield trustee moves to find assessor replacement
West Bloomfield — A financial "crisis" has been averted here, according to one of the township's trustees, but the measure also took the form of further political wrangling between officials.
Earlier this week, Township Supervisor Michele Economou Ureste issued a press release describing the retirement of the township assessor, Lisa Hobart, as a potential crisis which could conceivably cost the township hundreds of thousand of dollars because the tax roll might be taken over by the state Treasury Department.
Ureste said Hobart had been harassed by several board members to the point she could no longer work for the township.
Trustee Howard Rosenberg advised others at township hall Wednesday steps were being taken to correct any concerns.
In a statement distributed to the township personnel committee, Rosenberg said, in part: " ... we are without a level four master assessor and therefore we are currently unable to certify our tax rolls. I have contacted a private assessing company owned by a level four master assessor employing level four master assessors for the purpose of the board contracting with them to certify the tax rolls for the summer taxes 2015."
Ureste called Rosenberg's comments and actions "a bunch of smoke and mirrors."
"I don't think Trustee Rosenberg is aware of the complexities involved nor state law and what might happen next ... I suspect the state will be taking over the tax roll because we don't have an assessor to do the job," she said.
"Losing Lisa Hobart was like getting rid of Tom Brady by a football team, you don't do it."
Rosenberg stressed the measure was done to protect the township from having to outsource assessing functions.
"I am making the statement because of the lies made by Supervisor Ureste and Trustee (Steven) Kaplan against myself, Trustee (Diane) Swimmer, Trustee (Lawrence) Brown and Clerk (Catherine) Shaughnessy," Rosenberg wrote. "I have acted to protect the township as a result of the Supervisor's failure to do so. Supervisor Ureste and Trustee Kaplan are more interested in smearing our reputations rather than protecting the Township."
Ureste said she also resented remarks made by Shaughnessy that Ureste may have violated pension law with a proposed contractual arrangement with Hobart after her retirement where she would return to work through 2016.
"Those are very serious charges to make," Ureste said. "Political fight here? I'm standing up to an unethical board majority. That's what this is all about."
The township is known for an especially contentious relationships between rival factions on the board which often spills over to personal attacks between elected officials and recall petition efforts.