The bi-monthly board of trustees meetings in Bloomfield Township have become a sideshow of personal animosity, pandering to special interests, mixed with questions of fitness for office, wrapped around the necessary business of the township.
But before you cast aspersions at all seven trustees, understand that the efforts to short circuit the meetings, to place superfluous and time-consuming items on the agenda that can best be described as pandering while casting aspersions upon others within the government, can only be laid at the feet of one individual: township treasurer Dan Devine.
A prime example occurred at the March 14 township board meeting, with an attempt by Devine to force the township's professional service contracts to be bid out every five years and prevent political contributors to bid on contracts. On the surface, it sounds not only reasonable, but an ethical and appropriate choice. Except Devine's resolution was really a smokescreen attempt to prevent those who had contributed the legal amount at a recent fundraiser to supervisor Leo Savoie's re-election campaign from doing work in the township. And it hid the reality that the township has had a solid purchasing policy since 2005 – one which the board of trustees of that time, Devine included, unanimously approved.
This time, his resolution failed to receive support, with most board members tiring of his personal vitriol, questionable financial management and erratic behavior.
At the March 14 meeting, Devine asserted he had brought the resolution to amend the township's purchasing and project approval polices to the board “in an attempt to go into the best practices realm, to give the best price to taxpayers, and to have no conflict of interests.”
Devine has long-simmering anger towards Savoie, who he faults for ascending to the township's top spot in 2011 when former supervisor Dave Payne retired, instead of himself. His erratic behavior includes his suggestion last May that Savoie may have “kidnapped” his daughter when she was working and not answering his calls, and then a whistleblower lawsuit against Savoie and the township, a suit he lost but has appealed. Devine apparently also harbors animosity towards well-respected engineering firm Hubbell, Roth & Clark (HRC) and municipal law firm Secrest Ward, who both provide professional services to the township, but whose services do not go out to bid.
Devine's attempt to tie the township's utilization of HRC and attorney Bill Hampton of Secrest Ward as having been “bought” through donations to Savoie's fundraiser – all within the framework of campaign contribution law – are not only inappropriate, but disingenuous, considering he has had a history of receiving thousands of dollars to his re-election campaigns from vendors doing business with the township.
Whether pandering to seniors, throwing department heads under the bus at board meetings, or being revealed for having made chronically poor financial decisions for the taxpayers of Bloomfield Township, the problem in the township isn't a matter of dysfunction or lack of sound policies – it's the treasurer.