By Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
PEOPLE’S CHOICE COMMITTEE SPOKESPERSON Barb Clatterbaugh addressed the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners during the Wednesday, April 13 Committee of the Whole meeting in defense of Commissioner Les Schneider. She spoke of political corruption, and said that the board has singled out Commissioner Schneider for missing recent meetings because of a heart issue he is currently dealing with.
“Our county government has experienced a slow erosion of ethics. We have seen corruption, greed, and self interest become the new norm over the last 12 years or so,” Clatterbaugh said during the opening public comment section of the meeting. “You have no legal authority to remove Les from this board; you know it and I know it. It is a campaign ploy and publicity stunt, but more importantly you are fervently trying to get him off the board, you (Commissioners Jeff Bartz, John Plowman, John Horvath, and Hartmann Aue) have made a concerted effort to get Les off this board and have, perhaps, exacerbated his health problems, or worse yet, maybe even caused him to have a heart attack.” (Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)
Shiawassee County Commissioner John Plowman called for Commissioner Les Schneider to resign his seat on the board during the Wednesday, April 13 Committee of the Whole meeting. Plowman cited a letter that Schneider had published in the local newspapers accusing the Shiawassee County Veterans Affairs and Services (VA) office of lacking accountability, and Director Jerilyn Strein of not cooperating with the request for accountability as the primary reason for his suggestion, though several commissioners have questioned Schneider’s attendance over the past months.
“You need to resign from this board if you cannot tell the truth,” Plowman said. “She is hired by the Board of Commissioners, so if we had any one of the commissioner body that found fault and had proof to back it up, that would be fine, but that is not the case here. She runs an excellent department.”
The two attempted to have a back-and-forth discussion on the matter, but Chairman Jeff Batrz gaveled them before the discussion turned into an argument. He instead gave each commissioner his own time to speak on the issue. None of the other five commissioners stated explicitly that Schneider should resign, but Hartmann Aue did join Plowman in refuting the claim of impropriety. He acknowledged that the board has no power to remove Schneider. He also pointed out that he has asked the county’s auditors to investigate Schneider’s fraud charges during each of the last two audit cycles, and no issues were found.
Commissioner Jeff Bartz also pointed to the county’s annual audits as proof that Schneider’s claims are unfounded, and he added that too much time has been spent over the years discussing Schneider’s issues with the VA.
“We come in here and spend many, many minutes and hours arguing over Les’ problems, when we should be spending that time trying to make the community better,” Bartz said. “Whether it is that he is not getting the information he wants, but he never has any proof.”
At this point Schneider dropped his briefcase on the bench in an effort to display his “proof.” He offered his alleged evidence for perusal to anyone wanting to take a look. Bartz had to use his gavel several times to quell the rising emotions in the room before forcefully ending the debate by saying, “This discussion is over!”
Plowman also pointed out that Schneider has voted against most VA fund appropriation issues over the last two years. Schneider has stated numerous times over the past year or so that he will not vote to approve funding for a department he feels is not transparent and is not held accountable by the board.