Oakland commissioner: I regret 'delete, delete, delete' texts

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — An Oakland County commissioner said Monday she regrets text messages she sent out last week urging colleagues to delete emails regarding a controversial process to name a replacement for recently deceased Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson.

Commissioner Shelley Taub said she had been advised by an unnamed county office that a Freedom of Information request had come in regarding commissioners' emails. She said she sent out texts to nine colleagues on the board’s Republican caucus to “delete, delete, delete” their emails.

Shelley Taub

“Yes, I sent that out, and I know better,” said Taub, R-Bloomfield Hills. “Except for a few years in Lansing, I have been a commissioner since 1993. I have two kids who are attorneys. I know the law.

“But what has been out there in the media doesn’t really show my intent,” Taub continued. “I was trying to avoid any more public nastiness out there — horrible nasty stuff being written about Brooks and others — over this (process).

“Now I wish it would all go away, but I also wish I had used different words,” she said.

“It’s probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.”

The controversy over Patterson’s replacement continues with the county board accepting applications through Tuesday to be considered for the job. Public interviews of applicants are scheduled for Wednesday before a bipartisan committee of Marcia Gershenson, D-Bloomfield Hills; Gwen Markham, D-Novi; and Thomas F. Middleton, R-Clarkston.

Under provisions of the statute, the board may consider appointing an individual to the position of Oakland County executive within 30 days of the creation of the vacancy. Patterson, 80, died Aug. 3.

His chief deputy county executive, Gerald Poisson, is serving as interim county executive until the board names a replacement or determines a special election is needed to fill the post for the remainder of Patterson’s term, which expires at the end of December 2020.

Among those who have shown interest in the job: former Commissioner David Woodward, D-Royal Oak, who resigned last week, presumably to be eligible for the position at a meeting that was planned for Aug 8.

That meeting, and two subsequent ones, have been canceled as several attorneys advised the board that it had skipped important steps, including accepting applications for the post. Woodward had not filed an application as of Monday afternoon.

Woodward’s sudden exit from the board ended a brief 11-10 Democratic majority, the first in decades. Woodward, who has not been replaced, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Another top Democratic contender, county Treasurer Andy Meisner, said Monday he would not seek appointment by the commissioners.

“I don’t plan to file an application and I think events of the last few days have cast considerable questions about the legitimacy of the process and the mad rush for an appointment,” he said. “I would like the decision to be made by the voters."

“There has been too much talk about backroom deals and now, with Taub’s statement about hiding emails, it makes you wonder what they are hiding,” Meisner said.

Following applicant interviews, the board may consider taking action on an appointment at 9:30 a.m. Friday in the Commissioners Auditorium.

Taub said her actions have been misunderstood, even by one of her fellow Republican commissioners who responded to her he had no intention of breaking the law.

“I never encouraged anyone to break any law,” she said.

No criminal complaints have been filed locally or with the state Attorney General's office.

But Progress Michigan, a Lansing-based citizens watchdog group, said Taub should resign after admitting “trying to hide public documents …”

“Normally, it’s takes a long time for bad actors to admit they’ve done wrong, but Commissioner Taub cut right to the chase—and she should act with the same expediency in stepping down from office,” said Progress Michigan executive director Lonnie Scott.

Six county commissioners list private email accounts on the county’s website despite having been warned by officials it is not a good policy because some are vulnerable to computer hackers. Taub doesn’t share the concern.

“It’s not like we are in Washington and dealing with anything top secret,” she told The News.

Andrew "Rocky" Raczkowski, chair of the county GOP, wrote to the Republican county commissioners Saturday urging them to resist rushing to appoint a new county executive.

“We should honor Brooks' memory, by living up to our Party's values, standing firm as a Caucus, and abstaining from this unseemly vote,” he wrote.

He alleged “behind-the-scene negotiations with the Board’s Democratic and Republican members to skirt the intent of the law, allowing a seated Member of the Commission, to step down and then be appointed likely violates the open meetings act."

Raczkowski also stated there are concerns about the expense of holding a special election rather than waiting until a primary or general election in 2020.

The board had posted applications from only five candidates Monday. Among them, Kevin Howley, a former Democratic nominee for county executive. Howley, of Huntington Woods, holds degrees from Kalamazoo College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Also expressing interest and who could be interviewed this week are: Kurt Kimmerly, a West Bloomfield Libertarian and Ford engineer with a degree in mechanical engineering from Kettering University; Shannon Kryla, a Pontiac Northern High graduate who said she “listens, tests and solves hearing issues”; Mark Stowers, a Royal Oak resident with a broadcast journalism degree who operates a creative consultant/copywriting business; and Steven White, Jr., a Milford High graduate employed in health care services.


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