Editorial: End the scheming in Oakland County
The Shakespearean scheming underway in Oakland County to replace recently deceased County Executive L. Brooks Patterson must end. The County Commission should assure that all candidates for the job start from an equal footing.
Republican Patterson died last Saturday of pancreatic cancer at age 80 and will be buried Thursday.
Barely had the last breaths escaped him when the shenanigans began by Democrats hoping to become the first Democratic county chief in the county's history.
County Commission Chair David Woodward wants the job, as does county Treasurer Andy Meisner, who announced his candidacy in March.
Under the county charter, the commission can either appoint a replacement to serve out Patterson's term, or hold a special election to fill the spot.
Since Democrats controlled the commission 11 votes to 10 for Republicans, the assumption was the interim county executive would be a Democrat. But the appointee can't, under law, be a member of the commission.
So Woodward resigned from the body last week and began cobbling together enough votes to be the pick. With the board now evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, he has to pick up support from at least one GOP commissioner.
Conveniently, the commission originally scheduled the replacement vote for a day last week when one Republican member would not be in attendance. Protests about that obvious maneuvering derailed the plot.
Now, the vote will be held after Patterson's funeral, in deference to his family.
Meisner, certain the commission is in the bag for its former chairman, Woodward, is asking for a special election. Since he's been on the campaign trail for months already, a hurry-up election this would seemingly give him an edge.
That's no more fair than what Woodward is attempting to do. And the cost of a special election so close to next year's regular balloting can't be justified.
County residents would be best served if the commission names an interim county executive to serve until after the 2020 election is decided.
It must be someone who pledges to not seek the job himself or herself, and to not offer assistance to anyone who is running for the post.
Immediately after Patterson's death, his top deputy, Jerry Poisson, was sworn in as acting county executive.
Poisson served ably at Patterson's side for many years, and is fully capable of continuing the county on a stable path until a new executive is elected. He says he will not run for the office.
Leaving Poisson in place while the Republicans and Democrats seeking to succeed Patterson mount election campaigns would give voters confidence that the replacement process is not rigged. None of the candidates would be running with the advantages of incumbency.
As for Woodward, he'd be out of a political job for the time being, unless the commission chooses to appoint him as his own replacement.
But that's a fair price for trying to do an end-around what should be an completely transparent and above-board process.