Citizen Committee On County Jail Expands; Commissioners Discuss Appointee Review Process

Andrew Trzaska | February 26, 2013

Muskegon County’s citizen committee to review jail plans will expand from 9 members to at least 14, and will no longer be geographically defined, after a vote at Tuesday’s full board of commissioners meeting.

Board Chair Ken Mahoney recommended at the last full board meeting that all those who put their names forward be appointed to the committee.

Before commissioners voted through the recommendation, the committee used to be tied to the number of commissioners on the board – one committee member per county district.

The term runs from January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2013.  While the process of opening new or improving on existing jail and juvenile transition centers will not be finished by the end of this year, the terms are set to run for 1 year only and new appointments will be made for 2014.

  • Ryan Bennett
  • Jack Kennedy
  • Jeffery Patterson
  • Randall Rogoski
  • Stephanie Tanis-Cathey
  • Christin Connolly
  • Fred Klimsza
  • Mary Payne
  • Peggy Selmon
  • William Wiebenga
  • Andrew Heykoop
  • David Newsome
  • James Riley
  • Marsha Stewart

Among those appointed to the board, the membership includes a current Muskegon Heights Public Schools board member (Selmon), a local radio show host (Riley), an employee of Muskegon Public Schools (Newsome), and the son of a former state representative (Bennett).

Last year’s committee members included Gloria White Gardner, former county prosecutor candidate Marc Curtis, former road commissioner and tea party activist Eric Rothoff.

While it did not cause the appointments to be held up, District 6 Commissioner Charles Nash also presented a motion to develop a yearly review system for committee attendance during Monday’s meeting.

With some clarification after questions from other board members, Nash suggested that attendance of committee members be tracked across the span of a year. Those numbers would be reported back to the county commissioners after November 1, so commissioners could see who was participating in committees before new appointments are accepted.

“I think it might be important to do a more formal follow-up with our appointees,” said Nash. “A lot of time the committees have had a hard time functioning because appointees aren’t there.”

Nash’s move was seconded by District 3 commissioner Susie Hughes and received informal backup from board vice-chair Rillastine Wilkins, who specifically noted the issue applied to the county’s citizens review committee.

“Unless we make motions and approvals, nothing gets done.”

District 7 commissioner Jim Derezinski expressed strong apprehension about Nash’s motion even though he agreed with the principle of more accountability for appointees

“I do think [appointees] need to be accountable. I don’t want to see us creating a system which is more red tape for citizens… who are volunteering their time.”

Referencing citizen appointees to the county fair board, Derezinski believes stricter review of attendance would “scare them away”.

“They put in a lot of hours and do an excellent job.”

Derezinski expressed preference for tackling specific committee issues as they arise.

Some board members appeared blindsided by Nash’s motion. District 4 commissioner Bob Scolnik spoke strongly to Nash telling him to bring ideas like the attendance review up before the full board meeting.

Derezinski backed Scolnik up, stating that the committee system allows the board to review any policy twice, while giving the public time to comment on an agenda meeting ahead of final votes.

The motion received no vote at Monday’s meeting. Mahoney stated he would work with Nash to develop a policy to travel through committee before a final vote.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst