By BETH ALTENA
The Plainfield Township Board voted to appoint Ruth Ann Karnes to fill the position of resigned Clerk Scott Harvey after discussion during their regular meeting on Monday, July 15. The seat for Harvey was empty during the proceedings as Harvey, after agreeing to continue in the position two more weeks, took the second week as vacation.
Karnes stood after several citizens made critical comments about the board’s process in filling the position, and stated that she did not urge anyone to speak at the evening’s meeting. “No one speaks for me. I have no idea who is going to come to these meetings or what they are going to say.”
Supervisor Jay Spencer said the board faced a “unique opportunity” to make an appointment to the position, and said the board had four candidates, all of whom could adequately do the job. He said the public usually decides who will serve in such a position.
Jon Rathbun pointed out that of the four candidates, only one was in attendance as the board considered their options for Clerk. Dale Pomeroy made the same observation. “It really bothers me, I don’t understand why. If you go into this and want to do this, why not be here?”
Trustee Vic Matthews said he has given a lot of thought to all four candidates and said all four agreed to put in the time needed to do the job and none of them mentioned compensation. He said this fact reaffirms the board’s recent decisions regarding compensation of elected officials. An Elected Official’s Compensation Committee recommended this year to pay the position of Clerk, Treasurer and Supervisor a lower figure than those proposed by Clerk Harvey and Treasurer Bill Brinkman.
Matthews said two of the candidates had extremely good applications with diverse backgrounds and similarities in leadership and other abilities. “Both would be valuable assets and do a very good job. Unfortunately we cannot appoint both.”
Matthews said given comparable skill sets, he looked to township involvement to make a decision and said that during the interview one candidate said he was aware of issues within the township but did not take the time to familiarize himself with them.
“With Mrs. Karnes, she talked about a strong desire to serve the township, conduct herself with integrity and honesty. She also said she has the intention to become a certified Michigan clerk. Clearly she demonstrated a long-term dedication to the township.”
Matthews said if you look back at pictures of past nine boards you will see women on all, and in some cases women represent a majority. “If we have a chance to appoint a man or a woman candidate and fail to appoint a woman we risk sending the wrong message to our residents,” he said.
Bill Brinkman said he developed a point system in rating the candidates and the scores were very close. He identified two other candidates as his first and second choice.
Jon Rathbun said that during the interview process, only one candidate expressed “real passion” for the position, and expressed the belief that this was a position of service, not a job to generate income. “The only one with passion was Ruth Ann.”
Supervisor Jay Spencer said the key in his opinion is not the qualifications or experience of the individual, but the ability to work with the current board. “To me knowing the clerk job is a lower priority, you can learn to be clerk.”
He said in his point system of rating three of the candidates were within one point of each other. He stated that any of the four could do the job. “In hindsight I think we should have spent more time with them. Only spending one half an hour isn’t enough time. In one interview you can only see one side of a candidate.”
Bill Brinkman made a motion to appoint one of the candidates to the position, but no one seconded his motion. Rathbun moved that Ruth Ann Karnes be appointed to fill the clerk position, seconded by Matthews. The roll call vote passed five to one with Brinkman as the only no vote.
“It will be good to have someone back in the clerk’s office who views the office as a position, not a part time pastime,” commented Matthews.
Karnes thanked the board. “I am very grateful that five of the six people on this board that I respect voted for me,” she said. “I hope to be a clerk and board member that the people of Plainfield Township will be proud of. I will serve with integrity and honesty.”