Three years ago, Montcalm Township voters elected the “Team for Change” to repair fractured relationships on the township board and end years of discord. The “Team for Change” has proved to be anything but.
The township’s squabbling has continued nearly unabated over the past three years, mostly surrounding problems with Treasurer Phyllis Shilling’s work and former Supervisor Jim Heimbecker’s actions toward her.
Heimbecker commissioned the Hungerford Report two years ago, which called into question many of Shilling’s practices and accounting abilities. Shilling refutes the report’s findings.
Heimbecker continued pressuring Shilling and voters recalled him a year ago. The squabbling has persisted. This time, voters need to cast a yes vote to remove Shilling from office.
Shilling was at the center of a lawsuit involving the township and Chemical Bank. The case ultimately cost the township nearly $200,000 in legal fees, including nearly $65,000 to reimburse Shilling for her attorney fees.
As part of settling the case, 8th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Suzanne Hoseth Kreeger appointed special master Craig Rolfe at the township’s expense to mediate the squabbling between Shilling the rest of the township board over who gets to set money management policies. Rolfe’s fees cost the township about $50,000.
Last month, we learned the Michigan Treasury Department came to audit the township’s finances after money in its tax account could not be reconciled, among other issues uncovered in the township’s annual audit. The tax account is carrying a balance of money that should have been dispersed to taxpayer supported agencies. The state’s audit could cost the township another $7,500.
We’ll leave it to the voters to decide whether Shilling is at fault for the financial problems and squabbling in the township. Evidence suggests Shilling is responsible for mismanaging money – nothing criminal, just poor accounting – but she insists there is no problem. She points out no criminal charges have been filed against her. Shilling has dozens of supporters to back her claims of innocence.
This election is more about removing the source of conflict. Right or wrong, Shilling has been at the center of much of the township’s squabbling for the past couple years. She has declined to step aside on her own during that time.
Now is the time for voters to approve the recall and move on without her in the best interest of the township. We’re confident the township will operate more smoothly without the constant finger pointing, blaming, accusations and vitriol Shilling has attracted.
Editorial opinions are a consensus of The Daily News editorial board.