City BSD director resigns, criticizing board
By David Hohendorf
Sean Kammer, the executive director of the Birmingham Shopping District (BSD), resigned on Tuesday, May 3, just shy of one year into his tenure with the city, citing problems with some members of the governing board of the business group.
Kammer had been chosen by the city in mid-May of last year from a field of over 40 applicants following the early December 2020 resignation of former BSD executive director Ingrid Tighe, who was hired as the economic development director for Oakland County.
The Birmingham BSD is funded through a special assessment on all commercial, non-residential property in areas of downtown and other business districts of Birmingham. The executive director works with merchants, business owners, retailers, landlords, and commercial real estate brokers.
Prior to taking the Birmingham position, Kammer had spent four years as the manager of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) in Royal Oak and, prior to that, as assistant city administrator and executive director of the DDA in Lathrup Village.
In his resignation letter, Kammer said he was “no longer comfortable” with “dishonesty and questionable ethics” of some members of the BSD governing board, according to Birmingham City Manager and BSD board member Tom Markus, who read from the resignation letter at the BSD board meeting on Thursday, May 5. Kammer was also frustrated with “losing support of the board,” according to Markus.
Markus addressed the charges made by Kammer in a half hour discussion at the BSD meeting, basically conceding that the “strong comments” in the resignation letter were probably accurate in most respects.
Markus conceded that there has been friction among members of the BSD and Kammer, which he attributed to the period in 2020 and early 2021 when there was no interim director named as a search for an executive director was underway. As a result, Markus speculated, various committee members, members of the board, BSD employees and the retail recruitment firm under contract with the BSD started to treat more loosely the lines of communication and management authority, which complicated the job of Kammer when he came on board as executive director.
Addressing complaints that some meetings of board and committee members in the past may have bordered on violating the state's open meeting act, Markus advised BSD board members to avoid meetings to orchestrate voting outcomes on issues in advance of future board meetings, adding that debate at open meetings is part of the process of determining the outcome on issues, even if it meant meetings became a bit more contentious.
Kammer reportedly raised some of these issues in recent months with members of the board, and Markus conceded at the BSD meeting this week that officials “did not react as quickly as we should” to the complaints, although he shared with the board that at a meeting with the business development committee on Tuesday of this week he thought that most of the problems has been addressed.
The city manager also noted that developing a relationship between the BSD board and the executive director is “a two-way street.”
In a unanimous vote to accept the Kammer resignation, the board also accepted as interim executive director Jana Ecker, who now serves as assistant city manager under Markus while a search is launched for a permanent executive director.
Meanwhile, Kammer has already been hired as the executive director of Main Street Pontiac, a private non-profit group working as part of a public/private partnership to revitalize downtown Pontiac. Main Street Pontiac has reportedly been trying to court Kammer in recent weeks for the position.