Judge upholds Oakland County executive appointment

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — An Oakland County judge dismissed a lawsuit Wednesday over the appointment of a new county executive in August.

Former Ferndale Mayor David Coulter was named to the county’s top elected post Aug. 16 by the county Board of Commissioners after the death of longtime county executive L. Brooks Patterson and a series of controversial moves involving commissioner David Woodward, D-Royal Oak.

Dave Coulter

Woodward resigned his board seat to be considered for the executive's job, then suddenly rescinded his application and resumed his post as board chairman, restoring the Democrats' 11-10 majority on the board. Republicans argued that Woodward could not rescind his resignation and then cast the decisive vote to appoint Coulter, and sued in an effort to overturn the changes.

But Judge Daniel P. O’Brien dismissed the complaint Wednesday in Oakland County Circuit Court, agreeing with attorneys for Coulter and Woodward that there was nothing improper about the selection process.

“We are pleased with the outcome of today’s circuit court ruling, a case which never deterred my administration from moving Oakland County forward,” Coulter said in a news release. “We will continue to focus on building on Oakland County’s strengths through balanced fiscal policies and renewed economic development that celebrates the diversity of our residents and creates economic opportunity in all parts of our county.”

Woodward was ecstatic at the news.

David Woodward

“Now we can get on with the business of Oakland County and moving the county forward,” he said.

Not so happy was Commissioner Robert Hoffman, R-Highland, one of the plaintiffs named in the complaint.

“I respectfully disagree with the ruling and can’t understand how you can resign from a position and when things don’t go your way, you can rescind that resignation,” he said. “But that’s what this seems to say.”

Hoffman said his disagreement was not political.

“I have no argument with Dave Woodward, I like him,” he said. “And I have no problem with Dave Coulter either. This has to do with the facts.”

Andrew “Rocky” Raczkowski, chairman of the Oakland County Republican Party, filed the original complaint for what he described as “nefarious” and “illegal” actions that permitted Woodward to rescind his board resignation and cast the deciding vote to name Coulter to serve out the remaining 16 months of Patterson’s elected term.

Coulter’s attorney, Christopher Trebilcock, said O’Brien agreed with his three legal arguments in the defense motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

“We stated the plantiffs lacked standing in that there there was no remedy for a diluted vote,” Trebilcock said. “There are 120 years of common law precedent which state that a public officer’s resignation can be rescinded any time before a formal action is taken or it is accepted by a body — which is the case with the Board of Commissioners.

“And finally, even if Woodward’s rescinding his resignation was in question, Coulter’s appointment to office was proper and unaffected.”

Hoffman said he knew of no plans to appeal O'Brien's ruling.

Coulter, meanwhile, has announced plans to run for a full term as executive next year, as has Democratic county Treasurer Andy Meisner.


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