Outgoing Saugatuck Township Supervisor Reveals Board's "Secret" Plan To Replace Him
Without any previous public discussion about it, amid growing public concern and against the recommendation of recently resigned board member and Saugatuck Township Supervisor Jon Phillips, the Saugatuck Township Board has set its sights on nominating colleague Township Trustee Douglas Lane to replace Phillips as supervisor.
Lane is one of four township board members facing possible removal from office through a recall effort in the November 8 general election. The other three current township board officials - Clerk Brad Rudich, Lori Babinski and Roy McIlwaine - also face possible recall in November.
Phillips found about the board’s “scheme” only because Lane told him about it during a chance encounter at the locally popular Corner Bar, Phillips told The Local Observer on Monday.
Phillips, who unlike current board members is the only one that was not targeted for recall, is moving out of the township and recently announced his resignation because he can no longer legally hold office in the township.
After the bar conversation, Lane pressured Phillips to take his political Facebook and Facebook posts down following Phillips’ recent message recommending deputy supervisor Chris Roerig—not Lane— to replace him as township supervisor.
The supervisor role currently pays $17,000-plus a year, which for some critics is a lot of compensation for what they say is a position that demands little administrative work.
Phillips said Roerig— who previously served three terms on the township board beginning in 2000—is the best replacement because he offers a lot of experience, has demonstrated to be “a voice of reason” and will be “impartial” in his conduct, a much needed quality amid a very tense atmosphere in the township and with numerous issues to address.
Phillips is urging the public to attend the April 4 township board meeting—or write their township representatives— to speak in support of Roerig’s election.
Citing the public’s right to know and the right to express an opinion without being censored, Phillips said he will not be deleting his Facebook account nor any of his posts. Lane’s move is meant to keep information about township business concealed from the public, particularly unfavorable commentary, says Phillips and other township board critics.
Since being elected as a trustee in November 2016, Lane’s disposition has been that of someone that has offered little to no contributions to public discussions during board meetings and of someone that has rejected all opportunities to join township special committees or commissions, i.e., the township fire board.
Phillips said he could not tell whether Lane was inebriated or not when Lane confessed to him the board’s plan.
But, in either case, after the Corner Bar encounter, Lane sent Phillips a phone text meant to obfuscate any possible strategic move on the part of Lane and Lane’s fellow board members.
Phillips showed a reporter the following text messages between him and Lane:
Lane said, “What I meant (from our conversation at the bar) was, I am going to apply for your old job.”
Lane then followed that text with another, saying,”Maybe that Facebook page should come down? Since you don’t work there (in the township) anymore?”
To which Phillips responded with, “Maybe you (Lane) should worry about what the people want.”
The board’s plans to appoint Lane does not raise legal issues for Phillips, but it does strike him as dishonorable and unscrupulous and only adds to the already tarnished image many local residents have of their township representatives.
Among the numerous thorny issues the township is currently facing includes a deep chasm and endless skirmishes between firefighters and township officials over the township’s decision to amend the International Fire Code a few months back as well as mounting tensions over the recall process.
The pressure has apparently affected the township representatives, as the last township meeting demonstrated when board members conceded they were calling the electorate to ask them why they signed the recall petition (Phillips and others later informed the newspaper that the board went as far as harassing the general public).
Township representatives also launched an angry outburst against fire department personnel, recall petitioners and signature collectors, and the local media over several issues.
In his latest Facebook post, March 9, following his encounter with Lane at the Corner Bar, Phillips writes: “It has come to my attention that the existing board has a plan to put Doug Lane in as (Saugatuck Township) Supervisor. I feel very strongly that Chris Roerig should be in this position for balance and equal representation for Township residents.
“I urge you to send the clerk correspondence or attend the meeting April 4th to let the board know that an impartial and experienced person is imperative for the Township at this time.”
Lane and the other township board members did not respond to an email request from The Local Observer for comment on this issue.