What should have been a routine appointment by the mayor of Caro led to a resident calling out city council members and vowing to lead recall efforts if elected officials don’t get “behind the mayor.”
Al Michel, owner of Caro’s The Pub at The Elbow Room, told Caro City Council Monday that the group needs to get on the same page for the good of the community.
“The snowball is starting to roll progressively and anyone that wants to throw an anchor into the snowball won’t be on the council,” Michel said. “Believe me…it’s not a threat. I’m telling you I had two meetings with prominent business people, they’ve been here a long time, and got deep pockets. “If this doesn’t change we’re going to file a recall,” Michel said.
Michel’s comments were in light of the reaction by some council members to Mayor Joe Greene re-appointing Mike Bauerschmidt to the Caro Downtown Development Authority until 2019.
Bauerschmidt resigned as chairman of the Caro DDA after council members — who many have said overstepped bounds — essentially ran out of town an entrepreneur who had planned to spend $1.2 million on a rum microdistillery and restaurant project in Caro’s downtown.
Bauerschmidt publicly called the council members “toxic” at the time — but that was before Greene ran as a write-in candidate at the last minute and ousted former mayor Dick Pouliot. The seat currently held by Greene remains open.
Per state law, Greene has the authority to fill DDA vacancies, though several council members objected.
“I have a bad time with that,” said Gordon Taggett, a member of the Caro City Council. “He resigned from it and when he got over his mad streak or something, he applied for it.”
Prior to the appointment by Greene, the Caro DDA had two vacancies — one seat expiring in November 2017 and another to expire in November 2019. Before Bauerschmidt resigned, his term was the one to expire in 2017.
The city placed an advertisement in The Advertiser looking for applicants. The advertisement had a deadline of Dec. 12.
However, as Greene explained to the council several times, he has the authority to appoint anyone to fill vacancies on the DDA, regardless of whether they applied to the advertisement in the newspaper, previously resigned from the DDA, or just about any other reason.
Still, several council members appeared confused and put off by the appointment.
“I don’t know how you can appoint (Bauerschmidt) when the applications aren’t even due,” Taggett said.
Caro City Council Mayor Pro Tem Mike Henry also expressed confusion.
“In the past, the council has always voted as a board to appoint to that position,” Henry said. “That’s changed now?”
Greene once again explained that the mayor has the authority to make appointments to the DDA.
“What I’m saying is our past practice has always been the council either approve or deny applications to the DDA,” Henry said.
“Well I’m making that appointment right now,” Greene said.
“So you’re changing that?” Henry said.
Taggett further challenged Greene saying he “looked all over the Internet today” to find the by-laws of the Caro DDA but had no luck.
“I looked on the www DDA Caro Michigan and I didn’t find a copy anywhere,” Taggett said. (Story continues below audio clip)
Caro City Council member Brian Rickwalt seemed to know nothing about the advertisement the city he was elected to represent put in the newspaper of record for Tuscola County.
“Is the article (sic) in the newspaper posting the vacancy clear enough that we are seeking applicants for both positions, or just one, so is there going to be confusion for the people who apply?” Rickwalt asked.
Greene said he would make the appointment regardless.
“So the DDA doesn’t get to choose their own representation or the council?” Rickwalt said. “How do we know this guy isn’t going to resign again?”
Greene tried to move the meeting onto the next agenda item, but Rickwalt interrupted and suggested the appointment be tabled until the next city council meeting.
“No, there is no tabling it,” Greene said. “I made the appointment. It’s not an item that’s going to be tabled.”
The meeting moved on. However, the next agenda item was a review of the most recent Caro DDA meeting minutes and the discussion over filling the vacancies resumed.
Henry and Rickwalt appeared to continue struggling to understand that Greene had just appointed Bauerschmidt to a vacancy on the DDA board for a term ending Nov. 2019.
Greene cut off the conversation by saying “We’re moving on.”
But Michel referred to the dispute over the DDA appointment once more during the public comment period before the meeting ended.
Michel had been vocal about former mayor Pouliot’s way of doing business, going so far as to hold a sign calling for recall of Pouliot before he was voted out of office.
Michel urged council members to support Greene as mayor.
“Couple hundred citizens helped remove the (former) mayor because they were unhappy,” Michel said.
“We should be behind the mayor, not nitpicking about his appointments,” Michel said. “It’s the same stuff that went on before and it’s not going to happen this time with the city council.
“I had two meetings with civic leaders this week and we’re going to start recalling if this don’t stop,” Michel said.
The next Caro City Council meeting is set for 7:30 p.m., Dec. 19.
Andrew Dietderich is editor of The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org