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From Firing to Firing Lines

May 7, 2012 - Steve Schulwitz
he Alpena Municipal Council is about to reconvene three weeks after it concluded its last meeting on April 16 with a questionable firing of a popular employee, which also set off a fire storm inside city hall and around the community.

During the last meeting the council voted to terminate City Manager Thad Taylor by a 3-1 vote. If you find it strange that only four votes were cast when there are five members on the council, it because Councilman Shawn Sexton was so upset by the termination that he let his emotions get the best of him and stormed out of the council chambers in protest.

What followed was a sea of allegation against Mayor Matt Waligora, as well as Councilmen Mike Nunneley and Dave Karschnick, claiming the three had enacted a plan set in place before the newly elected Waligora had even been sworn in. What was more damaging to the three was they said they were using a clause in Taylor's contract that allowed for the board to let him go without cause. They said they based the decision on Taylor having a different "vision" and "direction" than what Waligora, Nunneley and Karschnick share. What that vision or direction has not be explained well enough to many in the local voting public and questions still linger.

Fast forward to today's meeting. After the earlier meeting Waligora said Clerk/Treasurer Karen Hebert would handle Taylor's former duties until a replacement was found. At tonight's meeting another temporary manager will be chosen to replace Hebert for the short term and I expect a great deal of public comment on the matter.

Once again all eyes will be on Waligora to see if he chooses to vote with Nunneley and Karschnick on an appointment, or continue his crusade of damage control locally and vote for a candidate supported by councilman Sam Eiler or Sexton. Either way I anticipate the three council members will be chastised greatly during the public comment session.

There is no undisputed proof of any wrong-doing, at least not as of yet, by the two councilmen and the mayor.

Some people think because Nunneley and Karschnick have made overtures in the past to replace Taylor, Waligora was coerced or a deal struck into him becoming the being the third and decisive vote, or at the very least a violation of Michigan's Open Meeting's Act took place. Many feel Waligora is nothing more than a puppet to the other's whims.

I personally hope this is not the case for any of them. Personally I like them all and have always cooperated with the paper and myself, but as Peter Parker's Uncle once said "Along with power comes great responsibility." I hope each of them remember that tonight before selecting a new manager, who may or may not have a similar vision and direction. This is the time the council needs to come together Avenger style, instead of acting in gridlock as one has become to expect from larger units of government. We'll know in a few short, possibly fireworks filled hours.


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