Residents site lack of information on failed millage

 

Craig Horton

IMLAY CITY — Tuesday night’s Imlay City Commission meeting was the first since the proposed public safety millage was soundly defeated and dozens of residents came to the meeting to share opinions.

Around 25 people, mostly residents, filled the meeting room.

During the first public comment section, Imlay City resident, and Lapeer County Sheriff Deputy, Jesse Rhodes addressed the commission and other city officials.

Rhodes said he felt the citizens do not support wasting tax dollars and thought the city had failed to inform the taxpayers on what the funds would have been used for exactly.

His words became sharp and pointed at City Manager Craig Horton and Police Chief Brett Selby.

Looking at Horton, Rhodes said, “you sir, tried to get me fired from my job. I don’t know you. We’ve never had a conversation about anything, and yet you tried to get action taken against me. You don’t get to sit there and bully taxpayers.”

Rhodes, who opposed the millage despite working in law enforcement, was apparently responding to an alleged exchange on social media.

He also told Chief Selby, “I don’t feel you did your job. You should have done a better job explaining where each dollar was going with that millage.”

City officials had previously held several meetings where the proposed millage was discussed and public input was sought, but only a few came to those meetings.

The city had also mailed an informational flier to all residents, highlighted with bullet points of information on how the money would be spent.

Later in the meeting, Mayor Joi Kempf told the crowd, “First of all, thank you for coming out. We need to hear from residents beforehand, in cases like this. Where were all of you before that was put on the ballot? We put a lot of work in to that. But, thank you for coming out and sharing your thoughts.”

The commission also heard from former city employee Denise Kovacik who previously was the police department administrative assistant.

“I just wanted to make you aware of the fact that, despite leaving employment here, I am one of the ones that has applied for that open position.”

Kovacik said she had taken a position with the Lapeer County Prosecutor’s Office but told the commission, “it’s not always as it seems when you take a new job. If I was able to interview for my old job, it just would be a better situation for my family and for me. I would be happy to come back to my old position, if you so choose.”

Chief Selby told the commission that Kovacik was a valued employee who did a great job and called her “an asset to the department, no question.”

He said, it takes a special person and we make a significant investment in that position for training. The officers all worked well with her and trusted her. You can’t just take someone off the street and fill the position. It has to be a good fit for everyone.”

Kovacik left the city for the Prosecutor’s Office, stating the opportunity to make higher wages. It had been pointed out that she was underpaid in Imlay City, based on a wage study of departments of similar size.

The city is currently in negotiations with a bargaining group of clerical workers of which the police administrative assistant would be a member, therefore could not discuss the matter in good faith.

City officials say at least three people have applied for the position, but no date has been set for interviews, pending the outcome of ongoing negotiations.

In the meantime, Sgt. Sean Leathers has been handling the administrative assistant duties.