Editor’s Note: This editorial was written by Dave DeGroot.
On March 12th, 2017, Village of Mt. Pleasant President, Jerry Garski, placed an opinion letter on the ‘Racine County Eye’ website. Several of Mr. Garski’s comments in the piece are what I believe to be exaggerations and falsehoods. I would like to provide some counterpoint to several of Mr. Garski’s claims:
Garski Point: The Village was at a ‘crossroads’ when he came into his Village Presidency in April 2015.
DeGroot Counter Point: Mr. Garski is correct in that view. The Village had been making positive progress leading up to the April 2015 election and was at a crossroads to decide whether to continue that progress or take several steps backwards by changing leadership.
The most productive period of time for the Village of Mt. Pleasant Board was during the 2013-15 time frame. Jerry Garski had lost his Trustee election in early 2014 and didn’t return until April 2015. Without Mr. Garski on the Board and with a majority of rational leaders focused on sound governance, the Village Board cleaned up shaky finances, hired competent Staff and spurred positive development.
Garski Point: The Village Board is conducting official business in a manner that is ‘unfair and conducted in secret’.
DeGroot Counter Point: The Village Board is required in some matters to convene in closed session. Mr. Garski is supported by some partisan constituents who object loudly to ANY need for closed session as if closed sessions are some sort of government conspiracy. I fully support open and transparent government. But Mr. Garski should also realize that there are some matters, typically for legal liability reasons, that require sessions to be only attended by the Board as representatives of the public good. Interestingly enough, he has called more than his share of closed sessions. Where is the outrage? SMH.
Garski Point: ‘Policies and governance has not been updated in for years and odd provisions have been added like repealing the nepotism rule in the Personnel Handbook.’
DeGroot Counter Point: The most significant recent changes to the Village codes was executed in 2014 when Mr. Garski was not on the Board. Changes that have been made to policies regarding matters like nepotism have been instigated by the Village’s Legal Counsel and/or Insurer to help shield the Village from liability. I believe Mr. Garski’s inordinate focus on these matters is solely meant to foment discord and fire up the radical base of constituents he panders to.
Garski Point: ‘…the Board passed a shocking measure to give department heads a six month severance package…in addition to a fantastic golden parachute deal…several employees were given ‘contracts’…with no ending date…basically guaranteed employment forever.’
DeGroot Counter Point: Mr. Garski and his followers have a massive ax to grind with some prior leadership of the Board and seem hell bent on dismissing anyone who works for the Village that they deem having been associated with them. They have published “hit lists” on social media, including RCE. Their obsession is misguided and incredibly unproductive for the Village. We have much bigger challenges and opportunities to be focusing time and energy on.
Regarding the severance packages for department heads, basically the packages provide six months pay and COBRA benefits if they are fired without ‘just cause’. It will be very difficult to recruit talent to the Village administration if every recruit has to worry about being dismissed at the whim of a politically motivated Board. Mt. Pleasant has fired (or they quit) multiple Finance Directors, Clerk/Treasurers and Village Administrators in just the last half decade. There are several studies done recently to highlight the difficulty of recruiting qualified, talented people into the public sector. The Village is an over $20 Million operation and needs stable, functioning administration to ensure your tax dollars are managed well. Garski led the crusade to fire administrator Curt Wahlen, against legal counsel’s advise to set up a succession plan. We have suffered ever since with certain Trustees micromanaging what should be Administrator functions. This is by Garski’s design. He wants chaos.
Garski Point: ‘Asking residents to hope for the best in assessing improvements isn’t good government – that was never more clear than out on Hwy V.’
DeGroot Counter Point: Mr. Garski again wants to curry favor with his followers by demonizing the work of the prior Board around Hwy V assessments. Determining assessments in complex public works projects is never easy and requires courageous leadership and making difficult decisions. It also requires engaging in transparent and open dialogue with all the affected parties. The debate and dialogue around Hwy V assessments has been going on since 2013. The compromise the Board reached in March of 2015 allowed the Hwy V residents to defer assessments for 20 years. The improvements will substantially increase property values along the highway. But the ‘not in my back yard’ crowd that opposed the project from the beginning has been responsible for the political fortunes of many current Board members including Mr. Garski. So you won’t find it surprising to know who is going to pay the improvements along Hwy V…not the folks who will see their property values immediately increased…but rather the entire Village of Mt. Pleasant taxpayer base. That is patently unfair to all residents who have already paid for their own water and/or sewer assessments. Thank you for supporting me Tuesday, April 4th for both positions of President and Trustee, along with re-electing Trustees John Hewitt and Sonny Havn.