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Fletcher: What goes on behind closed doors

May 1, 2012
Stephen Fletcher , The Alpena News

I read in a newsletter about sail racing, the following: "I have never found, in long experience, that criticism is ever inhibited by ignorance."

A number of Alpena folks want to know all the particulars surrounding the circumstance of Thad Taylor's recent dismissal.

I doubt they ever will.

Michigan's Open Meetings Act states public bodies may go into closed session "to consider the dismissal, suspension, or disciplining of, or to hear complaints or charges brought against, or to consider a periodic personnel evaluation of, a public officer, employee, staff member, or individual agent, if the named person requests a closed hearing"or " To consider material exempt from discussion or disclosure by state or federal statute."

In my nearly five years of service as either mayor or councilman for the City of Alpena, we always went into closed session for the discussion of personnel matters, primarily because not doing so would place the city in a position of legal liability. Government and business don't discuss human resource matters in a public forum.

It is appropriate that we don't know all of the nitty-gritty about Taylor's termination. That is something between an employer and an employee.

Public servants who attend such sessions rarely comment on the discussions because of legalities. Don't worry, no one who was in attendance at Taylor's termination spilled the beans to me either. If they did, they would place the city in a potentially hazardous legal situation.

All of that being said, I believe that we can ascertain what the disagreement was about. First, you could ask Thad who probably doesn't wish to discuss the matter, as is his right. Second, you could start paying attention to what the city initiatives are toward other units of government.

I don't believe it is by chance that the city now has opened a dialogue with the county and vice versa. Gov. Rick Snyder has stated that government consolidations should be examined at every level. I wouldn't be surprised to see these discussions include Alpena Township.

If you are a frequent reader of this column, then you will know that for almost three years I have been pounding the idea of merging units of government to save money - your tax money. I am a little surprised that the Guv would steal my idea for streamlining government, or maybe it's just such an obvious concept that he shared it all along as well.

Remember the city manager is the person through whom the policies of the mayor and city council are carried out. He or she executes the plan approved by the mayor and council. There can be input and disagreement during the formation of the policy, but once it is put in place by the council, the city manager must carry it out.

It is no coincidence that in the April 25 edition of this newspaper there was a Notice of Public Hearing on the city's 2012-13 budget. I'm thinking that therein lies a part of the answer.

We probably will never know the details surrounding the termination. This doesn't mean we will be ignorant of what is going on if we pay attention to city actions. Listen politely to the discourse, but watch council's actions to learn the truth of the matter.

I'll miss Thad and Theresa also. They have been great neighbors.

Stephen Fletcher was graduated decades ago from Cornell University with an A.B. in Economics and from Michigan State University with an M.B.A. He has lived and worked in the decades from graduation until now in the Alpena area. He thinks economics is fun and interesting.



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