County Debates Appointments to Veterans Committee

More than 20 veterans attended the Dec. 5, 2012 meeting of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners, watching as the board debated and ultimately approved three appointments to the county’s dept. of veterans affairs committee: Gregg Weaver, Robert Fletcher and Ira Brownridge. Weaver and Fletcher are reappointments. Brownridge – who was appointed to a vacancy following the death of Ed Steele – is the first veteran from the conflict in Iraq to be appointed to the committee.

The vote on these appointments was 9-2, with dissent from Dan Smith (R-District 2) and Wes Prater (D-District 4). Prater and Smith wanted the board to respect the recommendations from the veterans posts in the county, which all supported the appointments of three different men: John Kinzinger, David “Doc” Martinez, and Elmer White – all veterans of the Vietnam war. Kinzinger, White and several other veterans spoke during public commentary, urging the board to appoint the most qualified applicants and those who have long been involved in helping veterans in this community. They also addressed what some referred to as a dysfunctional department, and felt that it needed more oversight.

Prater argued that the board wasn’t following the state statute or its own board rules and policy in making the appointments of Weaver, Fletcher and Brownridge. He criticized board chair Conan Smith, noting that Smith has previously disregarded board policy – by not issuing a request for proposals (RFP) for animal control services. Prater argued that the county clerk’s office hadn’t received the appropriate application materials for Brownridge by the stated deadline – a point that corporation counsel Curtis Hedger disputed.

Conan Smith and other commissioners stressed the importance of having representation from a younger generation of veterans on the committee, as well as the value of continuity with the two reappointed members. Smith said he hoped no one left with the impression that he was a “kingmaker.” The appointments were made by a vote of the board, he noted, and the recommendations from veterans posts need to be balanced with other factors. Smith was confident that the appointees would represent the best interests of local veterans.

Ronnie Peterson hoped the board would revisit the appointment process in the future, to find a better way of handling the process and ensuring that veterans groups could give input.

The county’s dept. of veterans affairs, located at 2155 Hogback Road, is supported by a tax of 0.0286 mills, which is levied in December. That rate is expected to raise $390,340 in revenues for use during 2013. In September of 2012, commissioners voted to raise the rate from 0.025 mills, which brought in $344,486 in 2012. The board was briefed on the department’s activities by Michael Smith, the department’s director, at its Sept. 5 meeting.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]