GOP head sues again to void Oakland exec appointment

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — Nearly three weeks after the death of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, the fallout continues over the events leading up to and after the naming of his replacement.

The head of Oakland County's Republican Party filed an amended lawsuit Wednesday seeking to overturn the appointment of Democrat Dave Coulter to finish Patterson's term.

Several key aides to the late county executive retired after Coulter, 59, was sworn in Monday, and a county commissioner is under criminal investigation after urging colleagues to delete emails regarding the selection of Patterson's replacement.

Andrew “Rocky" Raczkowski, chairman of the Oakland County GOP, filed a lawsuit last week against David Woodward, D-Royal Oak, chairman of the county Board of Commissioners, and the board as a whole, over what he called backroom dealing aimed at putting Woodward in the executive's post. 

Rocky Raczkowski

A judge dismissed a request for a temporary restraining order but in an amended suit filed Wednesday, Raczkowski added Coulter as a defendant and requested a preliminary injunction. A hearing is set for Aug. 28 in Oakland County Circuit Court.

The Republican leader said he refiled the suit for what he described Wednesday as “nefarious” and “illegal” actions to permit Woodward to rescind a resignation from his seat and then cast the deciding vote to name Coulter to serve out the remaining 16 months of Patterson’s elected term.

“(Woodward) and others tried some backroom deals and when they determined he wasn’t going to have the votes for the job, decided to illegally reclaim the chair,” said Raczkowksi. “We believe we will prove in court the actions were improper and convince a judge to void all the actions.”

Raczkowski rushed to Oakland County Circuit Court on Friday before Woodward resumed his board seat or any vote was taken but an attorney was unable to convince Judge Daniel P. O’Brien to issue a temporary restraining order.

“We will file additional motions this week,” said attorney Steven Haffner, who declined to discuss details.

According to the complaint filed Wednesday, Woodward was illegally seated so any actions taken by him and the Board of Commissioners since last week — including the naming of Coulter as county executive — should be declared “null and void.”

The lawsuit notes that after Woodward handed in his resignation as a commissioner, the county human resources acted to process the matter by “shutting off” his county email address, salary and benefits.

The lawsuit requests that Woodward be ordered to vacate his seat on the board, which, without him, is equally split 10-10 Democrats versus Republicans.

Coulter should also be made to vacate the county executive’s office, which could then be refilled by Poisson for the remainder of Patterson’s term or a special election is held, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit and Raczkowski both say Coulter isn’t being accused of any wrongdoing but personally profited from the outcome of the allegedly improper selection process.

Also unresolved is whether at least one county commissioner broke the law during the selection process when she flagged her colleagues that a reporter had filed a Freedom of Information request for their related communications on the subject and messaged them to “Delete, Delete, Delete” their e-mails.

Shelley Taub

A Bloomfield Township woman who lives in Taub’s district filed a formal criminal complaint with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, alleging that Taub’s actions — which she admitted to The News and others — constituted destroying of public documents, a criminal offense.

“We did receive a complaint but it has been turned over to the Michigan State Police,” Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe said Wednesday.

The sheriff’s office is in budget discussions with the Board of Commissioners.

“We did get it and detectives are taking a look at it,” said Lt. Mike Shaw, spokesman for the Michigan State Police. He did not elaborate.

In an earlier interview with The News, Taub admitted she regretted taking the action but explained she did so in an effort to avoid further public nastiness regarding Patterson and others. 

“It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Taub said.

Meanwhile, Coulter announced his first executive appointment Tuesday, choosing Hilarie Chambers as chief deputy county executive and chief of staff. Chambers, who won’t take on her duties until Aug. 29, is chief of staff for Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and worked as an aide to former U.S. Rep. Sander Levin for 25 years.

But, as expected, three deputy county executives have retired this week: Gerald Poisson, who was acting as Patterson’s replacement; Robert Daddow, considered the chief architect of the county’s highly-touted fiscal policies and Laurie VanPelt, budget director.

A fourth, Phil Bertolini, who is the county's chief information officer, has told Coulter he will stay on until the end of this month. The future of two other deputy county executives and more than a dozen department heads appointed by Patterson remains unclear.

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