Tuesday, March 20, 2012

E-mails show Oakland County Republicans plotting path to maintain board control

By Kathleen Gray/Detroit Free Press

A day before the state Supreme Court was scheduled to hear arguments on a law allowing Oakland County to redraw its district map for county commissioners, e-mails revealed that county Executive L. Brooks Patterson, along with county Clerk Bill Bullard and several Republican lawmakers, led a push to get the state law passed.

E-mails obtained by the Oakland County Democratic Party under the Freedom of Information Act show Patterson had county lobbyists pushing to ensure enough votes for the bill and got state Reps. Eileen Kowall, R-White Lake and Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy, to shepherd the bills through the Legislature.

The bill ostensibly was a means to save $250,000 a year by cutting the number of commissioners from 25 to 21 and allowing the Republican controlled county commission to redraw the maps.

But in one e-mail, Kowall said, “I guess it would also help to have a legitimate explanation as to why we waited until now, after redistricting plans have been submitted, to take these bills up. I’m thinking that we claim we were having trouble agreeing on how many seats the BOC would ultimately have.”

In the same e-mail, she noted the importance of keeping Republicans in charge. “We have plenty of examples of what the Dems have tried to do and would do if they gain power,” she wrote. “They would ruin (Oakland County) and destroy what decades of exemplary leadership took to build.”

The bills passed, despite concerns that it would run into constitutional problems because it applied only to Oakland County.

“I’m not sure the LSB (legislative services bureau) can constitutionally write language that will solely effect Oakland County without getting us into too much trouble,” wrote Mike Compagnori, an aide to state Rep. Brad Jacobsen, R-Oxford, who sponsored the legislation.

Republicans passed the bills in December after a five-member reapportionment commission, which had a 3-2 majority of Democrats, approved redistricting maps for county commission districts last August.

Democrats challenged the law and the Circuit Court and Court of Appeals have ruled in their favor, saying the law affects only one unit of government, which requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.

Deputy County Executive Gerald Poisson lashed out at Democrats today, saying the reapportionment commission is made up partially of unelected, partisans who are unaccountable to the public.

The reapportionment commissions, which have been in place in Oakland County since 1968, are made up of the county prosecutor, treasurer and clerk and the heads of the county Democratic and Republican parties.

“Oakland County Democrats should cheer the transparency and sunshine Act 280 brings,” Poisson said.

But state Rep. Vicki Barnett, D-Farmington Hills, said, "We expected certain members of the Republican caucus were conspiring to undermine the redistricting process… and these emails definitively prove that.”
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