A Phenomenological First-Person Case Study of Employee Turnover in a Local Municipal Government

A Phenomenological First-Person Case Study of Employee Turnover in a Local Municipal Government by Jeffrey Alexander Martin

University of London
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
Centre for Financial and Management Studies

This dissertation is submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of MSc Public Policy and Management of the University of London, September 2023.

Word count excluding bibliography and appendix: 9,618

Total word count: 26,838

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Research Questions

Chapter 3: Review of the Literature
Review Introduction
Context and Other
Review Summary and Conclusion

Chapter 4: Procedure and Methods
Methodology Introduction
Case Studies
Possible Objections to Methodology Addressed
History of Organizational Research
Change Agent as Researcher
Other Methods Compared

Chapter 5: Data

Chapter 6: Analysis
Thematic Analysis
Conceptual Framework Comparisons

Chapter 7: Conclusion


Phenomenological Narrative by Supervisor B of Turnover Incidents
Board of Trustees (BoT), Treasurer, Clerk, Trustees, Administrative Assistants, Deputies, Zoning            Administrator, Enforcement Officer
Transfer Station Attendant
Maintenance and Grounds
Crossing Guard
Building, Trades, Construction Board of Appeals
Wastewater Management Committee, Water Policy Board, Berry Junction Trail Commission
Muskegon Area District Library (MADL) Board
Cemetery Coordinator
Board of Review (BoR)
Planning Commission (PC) and Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA)


Many incidents of employee turnover are looked at within a single local municipal organization over a three year period from the perspective of a participating change agent leading a political reform movement. Literature concerning the causation, consequences, and context of employee turnover is reviewed. The phenomenological and case study methodologies are assessed in being applied to this case. The primary data is a first-person narrative of employee turnover incidents. Thematic analysis is used in finding emergent patterns from the incidents. Four primary contributing factors are noticed and potential practical adjustments are considered. Conceptual frameworks from the literature review are compared to the case to ascertain the applicability to this set of incidents. It’s noticeable that many of the conceptual frameworks correlate with the turnover incidents leading to the possible conclusion that much of what contributes to employee turnover is known and that the field lacks in two aspects: first, an agreed upon evaluative framework; and second, popular dissemination and application in field.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Turnover is a significant factor in the operations of organizations. Employee or personnel turnover may benefit or hinder an organization. Being a complex issue the subject should be studied from a variety of perspectives and this paper seeks to add to that growing research.

This paper is focused on employee turnover in local government. The turnover rate in Dalton Township since late 2020 has been high, enough so that it’s been a hindrance to operations. There are many academic studies and papers looking at issues with turnover in private and public organizations. Many of them take a statistical approach and look at other correlations that may be effects or causative, and how these relate to other aspects of the organization or society. Some take a qualitative approach with interviews conducted by the researchers. The current paper, in taking a different qualitative approach, fills a unique place in the academic research that would rarely present itself as available. A number of different frameworks have been used in the history of organizational theory to explain personnel turnover, and these will be compared to the specific case in looking for explanation, however the field has not finalized in theoretical development and an evaluation of this case may be able to generate leads into the expansion of useful future frameworks.

In this dissertation I’m seeking to make a meaningful use of my unique position as the head elected official in a local municipality which allows unusual access to a range of discussions, experiences, decisions, and information not otherwise easily attainable, if at all, through a comparable outside research study. The study is to be narrow and focused while conducted in critical depth. It fills a knowledge gap in the academic literature while being grounded in the academic literature both in subject content and in methodology. Conceptual frameworks in the subject area will play a particular role for theory exploration covered in the analysis section.

People management may be the most important part of organizational management, and in Dalton Township we’ve had an unusual amount of turnover over the last two and a half years through a variety of incidents. Employee turnover in this specific context is a narrow and focused subject that can be looked at in critical depth, and by limiting the study to a single organizational case and perspective we’ll be able to cover a number of incidents that can be used to look for emergent patterns and compare these with explanations from existing frameworks from the research literature. Employee turnover is a heavily researched area with over 1,500 studies already done (Morrell et al, 2004), yet there are knowledge gaps apparent in the field as will be noted in several points in the literature review such as the use of proxies, initial turnover ideational events unexplored, and a wide set of variables, (Morrell et al, 2004; Callier, 2011) part of which also support the use of the methodology herein.

Chapter 2: Research Questions

Employee turnover has been shown in the literature review section below to be a large and complex field of research that hasn’t been able to consolidate a generally accepted view, conceptual framework, or model. Because of this, as covered in the methodology section, it’s good to connect with a phenomenological case study. This can help to shed light on a cloudy subject that’s overwhelmed with data and potential explanations divorced from in-depth case review and comparison.

The overriding academic research question is: What lessons can be learned concerning people management from the Dalton Township Supervisor’s experience with personnel turnover during the local political reform movement of the elected term from November 2020 through November 2024, and can these be usefully applied to other organizations?

To support this I will look at different departments within the governmental organization being studied.

These descriptions will then be used for thematic analysis and comparison to conceptual models from the literature review.

Chapter 3: Review of the Literature

Review Introduction

The literature review is divided into three sections. In the first we look at causative factors for employee turnover. In the second we look at some consequences of such turnover. In the third we cover factors that are associated with the overall context. Information pertinent to this study will involve the local political reform context because that’s the given situation of the organization in view, and employee hiring, firing, appointing, resigning, dismissal, etc. because those are part of employee turnover itself, and things that have a bearing on those activities like employee engagement, job satisfaction, etc., because those are correlated, causative, or explanatory concepts associated with employee turnover.

The issue we’re looking at is personnel turnover. Administrative systems can be stable or instable across different dimensions including: structural stability, mission stability, production or technology stability, procedural stability, and personnel stability. As personnel have a large influence over the other factors such as structure, mission, production, technology, and procedure, personnel is a key issue. The hypothesis that “…personnel stability of both top-level managers and front-line workers can assist in delivering program outputs.” has been supported. (O’Toole and Meier, 2003, pg 45-47) One surprising finding is that there is a low correlation between top-level manager stability and front-line worker stability in educational systems. (Ibid, pg 50) It should be kept in mind that managerial quality and managerial networking were accounted for as separate variables in this study, so that the positive correlation of stability on organizational performance does not negate the need for personnel quality. (Ibid, pg 58) In comparison to other variables staff quality, personnel stability, and planning show the strongest positive effects on performance. (Walker and Andrews, 2013, pg 124)


Employee engagement theory contends that employees invest their energies and therefore themselves in their work and the organization. To be engaged they need meaning, resources, and a feeling of security. (Grant, 2019, pg 15) Four activity groups can support employee work engagement: the leader-employee relationship; internal communication and feedback; compensation, awards, benefits, and incentives; and training and development. This used an employee engagement conceptual framework and a thematic analysis. (Ibid, pg 110-111) Employee engagement is highly inversely correlated with employee turnover intention among nurses in the Kingdom of Bahrain. (Opinion et al, 2021) Such workplace engagement may require organizational alignment. (Alagaraja and Shuck, 2015) This is a dynamic link between the individual’s skills, knowledge, and attributes; the job’s specifications, procedures, and criteria; and the organization’s systems, practices, and routines. (Ibid, pg 28) Research has been done connecting person-organization fit, seen as value and goal congruence, with turnover intent with mixed results in correlation. It may be that employee engagement plays a mediating role to explain this. This is proposed as a theoretical model in that value and goal congruence between the employee and the organization will lead to employee engagement, and that this will lower turnover intention. (Memon et al, 2014) Job satisfaction has been proposed as a mediating factor between employee engagement and turnover intent. (Berry and Morris, 2008) Human resource development activities that engage employees cognitively, emotionally, and behaviorally have been shown to reduce employee turnover intention. (Shuck et al, 2014) Employee retention can be increased by including training and development. (Bhakuni and Saxena, 2023) There is at least one set of studies showing that turnover doesn’t significantly effect employee engagement, nor does employee engagement significantly impact voluntary turnover. (van Mil, 2018, pg 32-33) Engagement may be able to be connected with other conceptual frameworks such as Self-Determination Theory. This opens up a whole range of concepts and research to connect to the subject and provides frameworks like motivation originating in competence, autonomy, and relatedness; autonomous regulation including intrinsic motivation, identification, and integration; controlled regulation including external regulation and introjection; etc. (Meyer and Gagne, 2008)

Key personnel positions are important in all organizations, including all levels of public administration. It has been shown that at the national level in the United States turnover of key administrative positions increases during a presidential election year if the expectation is that the party will change, and turnover continues if the office does change parties, given that the labor market is favorable. (Doherty, Lewis, and Limbocker, 2019) It’s noteworthy that in the national government there appears to be a difference in the change of elected officials influence on levels of non-elected administration. The turnover is more effected in some agencies than others, but in general elected official change effects turnover to a more substantial degree at the higher levels of management and has a lesser effect lower in organizations. Studies in the UK, Sweden, Denmark, and Brazil align with findings from data in the US. Key executive and key policy change together are associated with higher turnover and therefore lower potential performance during the desired period of policy change. (Bolton et al, 2021) Another way of looking at this data could be that there is a tendency for greater turnover as you get closer to the key executive position change, and in areas of focus by the key executive.

Motivation of employees is of paramount importance in organizational performance and turnover. The way in which the manager contributes to the employee’s motivation is not necessarily direct though, it’s rather through the creation of circumstances and an environment where the right people are able to motivate themselves. (Halachmi and van der Krogt, 2005) Participation in decision making, mission contribution, and a fair reward system have been shown to be insignificant to employee turnover intentions, while job satisfaction and high performance were shown to decrease turnover intentions. (Caillier, 2011)

Pushing for increased efficiency in local government has been shown to increase turnover intention in employees. This can be mitigated if they are able to voice their concerns and are able to help creatively respond to changes in work processes. Also, it appears that this emphasis on efficiency has a tendency to increase turnover in the lower performing employees, which isn’t necessarily bad. (Campbell et al, 2014) Self-sacrificing employees having a higher tendency to leave public service may be a reason for government failure. Burnout through emotional exhaustion and depersonalization contribute to employee turnover intention. Intrinsic motivation through the aspirations of the employees is a more important emotional support than external emotional support. (Kim, 2015) Work exhaustion increases employee turnover intention, while participatory management and possibilities for advancement reduce it. (Kim, 2005)

Red tape, or “…the extent to which respondents felt constrained by organizational rules and management practices.” (Giauque et al, 2012, pg 10), is the most important factor in people lowering their aspirations in public service organizations. Research has been done to show “…the ‘commitment to public interest/civic duty’ as well as, to a lesser extent, the ‘attraction to policy-making’ PSM dimensions do not induce resignation, whereas the ‘compassion’ and ‘self-sacrifice’ dimensions of PSM can be seen as factors of resignation.” (Giauque et al, 2012, pg 14) Lowering of public service motivation can be because of a bad fit between the person and the organization. Psychological contract theory says that when a violation of expectations in the person-organization relationship occurs that the person reduces their contribution, and equity theory says that a person who does not feel that the benefit they are receiving from the organization is fair they will reduce their contribution to match. (Giauque et al, 2012)

Recruitment and selection are important functions in public and private organizations. However, there are some different concerns in the two sectors. Private businesses often recruit and recommend recruiting based on suggestions from current personnel which often brings in family and friends. Public administration usually has a more open process where all positions are posted, and the potentiality of nepotism going poorly in the public sector is higher as there are not market correcting mechanisms for the organization. Selection methods are often similar such as: unassembled examinations, where education and experience are reviewed; interviews; performance tests; assessment centers; and computerized adaptive testing. (Hays and Sowa, 2005) In the modern workforce frequent and ongoing training and development is becoming more important. There are six categories of instructional methods and techniques: lecture, discussion, print, practice and feedback, behavior-shaping, and technology-shaped. There are five advanced forms of learning: sharing which is effective emotionally and helps with other types of learning, comparing such as the “systematic examination of past experience”, systems thinking which balances out overspecialization, competing which fosters innovation and creativity, and suspending disbelief which allows us to examine things afresh. (Van Wart, 2005) There are different types of conflict in the workplace: data-based conflicts where employees have important information that they fail to share, structural conflicts where mandates or technology or work sites or procedures change, relational conflicts because of emotional issues with high interaction, interest conflicts because of competition over different needs, and value conflicts because of incompatible belief systems. (Herrman, 2005) “Conflict signals incompatibility where the normal actions of one person or group prevent others from doing what they want to do.” (Ibid, pg 328) Four options for dealing with workplace conflict are: unions and management working together (this involves negotiation between union representatives and organization management), limited management and employee interventions (such as counselors and mediation), extending conflict resolution skills and knowledge beyond HR (such as understanding the role and process of HR, the influence of culture, mediation, sources of conflict, negotiation, etc.), and developing a comprehensive conflict resolution system (this incorporates all of the other elements and can be done in house or hired out). (Herrman, 2005)

Four key pieces of public management theory were studied in 66 cities and counties in the United States: measurements that show accountability for outcomes, goal clarity and strategic planning, “devolved decision authority with centralized oversight, and incentives and sanctions tied to performance results.” (Ammons and Roenigk, 2015, pg 516) Measurements should be actionable, and geared toward the focus of what is wanted to be monitored or changed. Strategic planning is often the first step in performance management. Important decisive items are retained at the top of the organization, but much decision making authority is distributed lower in the organization. Incentives and sanctions to reward or punish performance are persistent but controversial actions. (Ibid, pg 516-521) “Cities and counties having reputations for performance management were more likely than others to collect extensive sets of measures that included not only output measures but also measures of quality, efficiency, and outcomes.” (Ibid, pg 534) Strategic planning, “decentralized decision authority and executive engagement in performance monitoring,” and incentives and sanctions were found to be somewhat associated but not necessarily significant. (Ibid, pg 534-535) Performance accountability management by itself does not correlate with organizational performance without other moderating factors, managerial authority being key. Managerial authority (as use of negotiating pay, hiring and firing ability, resource allocation control, task autonomy, and deciding academic requirements) is highly correlated with increasing organizational performance when combined with performance accountability management. This is shown in two key areas, pay negotiation and hiring/firing. Managerial authority over financial management and task autonomy were insignificant. And, decentralized authority over goal-setting leading to goal ambiguity was negatively associated with performance accountability management and organizational performance. (Nielsen, 2014) Human resource management may be different in both countries and organizations that are institutionally focused and structured versus competitive and market driven. (Boselie et al, 2007)

Reducing employee turnover is contingent upon the given context. Things that may reduce employee turnover and increase employee continuity are: employee engagement, knowledge accessibility, workforce optimization, job involvement, organizational commitment, and employee empowerment. (Ongori, 2007) Employee turnover has been associated with age, tenure, overall satisfaction, job content, intentions to remain on the job, and commitment, each of these factors being consistent and negatively associated with turnover. The remaining variance in motivational reasoning can be partially explained with present satisfaction, future expected utility for the current role, and future possible utility in alternative roles. (Mobley et al, 1979) However, there is research that indicates alternative employment opportunities based on the perception of the respondent as a general question do not effect turnover intention or turnover. Perceived task characteristics and perceived consideration by the supervisor have been shown to lead to commitment, and both of those along with confirmed expectancies have been shown to lead to job satisfaction. (Michaels and Spector, 1982) Many other variables also relate to turnover, in a meta-analysis 26 were shown to have an effect. (Cotton and Tuttle, 1986) This supports the notion that the overall and specific context is key and that organizational people management of turnover is a complex issue requiring the full range of research study from phenomenological case studies, to statistical analysis, to laboratory and in field experimental applications.


Employee turnover has significant costs. There is potential unemployment, the recruiting process, time for interviews, onboarding, training, and mistakes during the learning curve. There’s also a significant correlation pointing to higher employee turnover rates leading to lower customer satisfaction in the banking industry. (Woods, 2015) High employee turnover leading to high customer turnover is significant for business and will show in revenue and profit numbers. In public management it’s not obvious that this would occur in a significant way in the short term, but high citizen dissatisfaction should result in lower development leading to lower property tax revenue over time.

Turnover of local government officials can negatively effect businesses because the owners and managers must invest more time in interaction with government officials to accomplish things, meaning the opportunity cost is time investment in economically beneficial activity. (Dong et al, 2022)

By improving employee selection the government can increase its performance. Oddly enough, this can be a detriment to the economy. By pulling higher performing individuals from the market the gross domestic product of the society falls. This is relevant because performance of the organization is relevant to turnover, and the overall economy is as well because employment opportunities outside of the current role are relevant. Thus, merit based hiring in government can improve government while harming the society overall. (Geromichalos and Kospentaris, 2022)

Context and Other

The period under question takes place during a political reform movement, and it’s therefore relevant to include some references to political reform. Political reform movements are most likely to be successful when they are comprehensive enough to develop co-supportive mechanisms such as technical policy knowledge, bureaucratic capacity, and enforcement ability at the same time. (Huber and McCarty, 2004) Successful reform is done incrementally. (Huntington, 1988) As the society has become more complex with increasing technology and population governmental control has restructured in such a way to emphasize state and federal control in the United States. (Zimmerman, 1970) Policy conflict exists for a number of reasons. The belief in the importance of the policy is correlated with the amount of conflict. Thus, the more important the issue is perceived to be, the bigger the conflict. (Heidbreder et al, 2011) As the size of municipalities increase, the sense of internal political efficacy by citizens goes down. (Lassen and Serritzlew, 2011)

Mature democracies are experiencing growing politicization, which partially merges the roles of politicians and bureaucrats, which potentially reduces accountability. In the traditionally Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, and Scandinavian political systems there has been a growing number of political appointments since the 1970s, while in the traditionally Napoleonic political systems the appointments have stayed consistently high. (Dahlstrom, 2009) It’s important for governments to both be stable and be able to change, to have political responsiveness and organizational continuity, to find a balance. There is evidence to support that executive level and subordinate level positions in government agencies should be selected through different processes and mechanisms. (Krause et al, 2006)

        Review Summary and Conclusion

A wide range of factors play a role in employee turnover decisions, context being key and specifics being important. Causation is associated with a number of factors including such things as employee engagement, employee motivation, person-organization fit, and many other studied factors. Within this complex realm no model, framework, or theory has established itself as dominant for explanatory power, and therefore the field calls for more research to seek better questions and answers.

Chapter 4: Procedures and Methods

Methodology Introduction

This paper will take a retrospective look at a case of people management in a municipality undergoing political reform from the phenomenological first-person perspective of the highest elected official in the organization, who is also the change agent. “The discipline of phenomenology may be defined initially as the study of structures of experience, or consciousness. Literally, phenomenology is the study of “phenomena”: appearances of things, or things as they appear in our experience, or the ways we experience things, thus the meanings things have in our experience. Phenomenology studies conscious experience as experienced from the subjective or first person point of view.” (Smith, 2018) Advantages and disadvantages of this approach compared to other possible approaches will be considered. To support this methodological approach I will use references on case studies and phenomenological research. These references ground the methodology in a strong academic foundation.


In qualitative research it has been debated what is and what is not a phenomenological approach. Such research is grounded in the philosophical phenomenology of Edmond Husserl based in lived experience of what a thing is like, moving from specific experience to generalized formations, from description of experience to analysis. Husserl in his work from 1900 to his death in 1938 (Beyer, 2022) emphasized the descriptive aspect to demonstrate that conceptual theories are and must be grounded in experience for them to be true, and going back to descriptive experience as a base to build from corrects for conceptual formulations that have become removed from such foundations. This corrective ability, and the possibility for laying the foundation for better conceptual frameworks, is a major advantage of the phenomenological approach. A disadvantage is the possibility for the perspective to be too far afield in its uniqueness. An idiosyncratic experience may not correlate with other’s experience, and in that case would not be useful for conceptual framework correction nor grounding for new conceptual frameworks. Ideally, phenomenological research helps the growth of research by beginning with singular subjective descriptions that moves into generalized objective analysis, but the movement cannot be in one direction only, there must be a periodic return to the roots of experience as a check against conceptualization being divorced from lived reality. (Williams, 2021, pg 376)

Phenomenological case studies are often used in dissertations when researchers are attempting to find a pattern across time such as career development. (Kobler, 2019; Milius, 2019; Little, 2019) This is true of this paper as well in the patterns that are being looked for in people management and turnover in Dalton Township during the current political term from November of 2020 through November of 2024. Deliberate reflection on the observed phenomena over this period through a number of incidents dealing with the subject matter of people management focused on turnover in hiring, firing, appointments, and resignations, along with the observation of differing employee feedback mechanisms including one-on-one meetings and group meetings is expected to generate some patterns that can be recognized. Board meeting information packets and meeting minutes are documentation that can support hirings, appointments, and resignations.

Case Studies

A case being a specific instance, "We define a case study to be a method of obtaining a "case" or a number of "cases" through an empirical examination of a real-world phenomenon within its naturally occurring context, without directly manipulating either the phenomenon or the context." (Kaarbo and Beasley, 1999, pg 372) From this definition it’s noticeable that the case study and phenomenological methodology approaches are in natural alignment. This definition separates case studies from participatory action research where the phenomenon is being specifically manipulated within the natural context for research purposes, and from experimental approaches in lab or artificial environments where the context is being manipulated.

Case studies can be categorized into five different types according to the goals of the researcher, previous research done, and how the data is going to be used: case description, theory exploration, theory development, theory refinement, and theory testing. For a case study focused on description the idea is to seek understanding of the totality of the phenomenon of the case. Pre-conceived notions are largely and purposively left out, sometimes called epoche or reduction in phenomenology. For a case study focused on theory exploration an interpretative framework is used, with the emphasis still being on the case, although depending on the findings the theoretical framework may be applied to the study subject in a prescriptive manner afterward. For a case study focused on theory development the emphasis is on the generation of theory from specific instances rather than the emphasis being on the case. Whereas in description and exploration there is a need for a holistic and Gestalt consideration of the totality, in theory development fewer variables are often considered. A theory is generated so that it can later be tested. For a case study focused on theory refinement what’s often being done is a smaller study to determine whether it’s worth doing a larger study or not based on the theory in question. For a case study focused on theory testing the specific instance is being used in an attempt to either validate or invalidate a theory. On this end of the spectrum of different types of case studies it’s possible that more quantitative analysis may be used, whereas description at the opposite end of the spectrum is almost purely qualitative. (Kaarbo and Beasley, 1999, pg 373-376) Different terms can be used for these types of case studies. For instance, case description has been referred to as atheoretical or configurative-idiographic, theory exploration has been referred to as interpretive or disciplined-configurative, theory development has been referred to as heuristic or hypothesis-generating, theory refinement has been referred to as a plausibility probe, and theory testing may be referred to as confirming or informing or as an investigation of a crucial case. (Eckstein, 1975; Lipjhart, 1971) Alternatively, case studies can be categorized and labeled as: explanatory, exploratory, descriptive, multiple-case studies, intrinsic, instrumental, or collective. (Baxter and Jack, 2008)

Case studies are particularly applicable when it’s difficult to distinguish specific phenomena from the given context. (Yin, 2003) Therefore, the methodology particularly lends itself to complex phenomena in a multi-variable field. All of life can be viewed as a problem solving activity. (Popper, 1999) Things like people management in an organization and research about the subject are both subsets of problems. The researcher’s problem is to generate informative and useful information in the subject area. Problem solving has a significant difference in a classroom or experimental setting than when embedded in real-world context. In the artificial settings, performance is often compared to ideal solutions, whereas a case set in context may have an unknown ideal or best solution. In these situations, solutions to problems can often come as given data to the actor in context. (Roth, 2012, pg 190) For instance, in the case under examination to begin employee relations with one-on-one meetings came from inspiration from Andrew Grove, the former CEO of Intel, with the intention of understanding the supervisor role and each person in the organization; using sentence stem completion in such meetings came from ideas by the psychologist Nathaniel Branden with the intention of eliciting more information; group meetings came from ideas from Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater, with the intention of resolving various interpersonal misunderstandings and miscommunications between employees; to alternate staff meetings with executive meetings was a suggestion from staff with the intention of limiting the number of early morning meetings they needed to attend. It’s unlikely that third-person interviews would be able to uncover all of these data points. But, a first-person phenomenological approach can uncover these data points.

Possible Objections to Methodology Addressed

A potential disadvantage of the case study methodology is that the case could be unusual and therefore less likely to correlate with and represent common elements and patterns for other cases, this aligns with the potential weakness in the phenomenological approach. However, deviant cases can also be useful in that attempted solutions can expand the scope of current theoretical frameworks to attempt the incorporation and explanation of edge cases and statistically less common phenomena. (Lipjhart, 1971)

Another potential disadvantage of the case study and phenomenological approach, especially when dealing with case description, theory exploration, and theory development, is that the scope may expand beyond what is practical or feasible to complete as part of the study. When doing theory refinement or testing the scope is easier to limit. A way to adjust for this potential difficulty is to bind the case with certain limitations like time, place, activity, and context. Setting such boundaries for qualitative study is similar to selecting the sample size in quantitative studies through inclusion and exclusion criteria. (Baxter and Jack, 2008, pg 546-547) Indeed, organizational research in general has seen a widening of boundaries since its inception in the 1950s and 1960s. (Buchanan and Bryman, 2009) Therefore, having established such boundaries is important for the completion of the work. In this paper the organizational sample size is one, the phenomenological perspective sample size is one, and the incidents concerning the subject are numerous. There are reasons for each of these. Before a comparative analysis could be made between the organization in question and another organization, an adequate amount of information must exist and be found for each organization. The organization in question doesn’t have this information with the massive amount of contextual factors that bear importance on the incidents other than within the knowledge of the primary change agent. This is one reason to limit the phenomenological perspective to a purposeful sample size of one, it’s the most complete perspective available from a single individual. Another reason is that to include additional perspectives to an adequate degree would require multiple other people considering all potential participants were involved in only a fraction of the incidents under consideration, and that this addition would easily grow beyond the scope of this paper. The reason to include the numerous incidents from the current term in office is the temporal factor in that such information not being stored externally it will be lost in the near future unless the research is done now. Also, it’s possible that such description and analysis may reveal useful patterns both within the organization case and potentially in future comparative cases.

An objection to the first-person case study methodology can be the subjectivity of the first-person, and this is a fair point. Using the third-person perspective on the single case encounters the same issue. Only by expanding into a larger sample size can that issue be addressed. But, with that expansion comes a growing complexity of the work that may not be viable within a single study, and if so done would lose depth on the single case in question which lowers the potential use of the in-depth study of a case.  By limiting the organization and perspective to one sample each we’re able to expand the sample size of the incidents, which is desirable because "...without a sustained examination we actually do not produce phenomenal descriptions that are rich and subtly interconnected enough in comparison to third-person accounts." (Varela and Shear, 1999, pg 2) Across studies first-person studies should be linked to as well as examined for comparison in third-person studies. (Varela and Shear, 1999, pg 2-3) The philosophical tradition in phenomenology has an emphasis on the first-person reflective perspective. When circumstances are such to preclude this perspective a phenomenological approach can still be taken that uses a third-person observational perspective with certain parameters to limit the scope, the combination providing for a “bounded openness” that may give access to research not previously possible. (Klinke and Fernandez, 2023) Further developments and advancements in methodology are being made. For instance, increasing the reliability of first-person reporting in micro-phenomenological self-inquiry is moving forward. (Sparby et al, 2020; Sparby et al, 2021; Sparby et al, 2023) Also, new theories exploring the nature of the privileged information in the first-person point of view and how this transforms when communicated are being generated and investigated. (Thomasson, 2005)

There are multiple known problems with typical methodology in the research of employee turnover. One being that proxies are often used as measurements of turnover rather than turnover itself. Another being that the statistical methods and measurements don’t normally try to account for acute jarring events that trigger turnover intention ideation. (Morrell et al, 2004) The wide number of variables that are studied in association with employee turnover while still struggling with a high variability in explanatory power suggests that it may be useful for researchers to have a higher interaction with employees in future studies to better develop questions and measurements. “Future studies should therefore employ approaches that will allow researchers to interact more closely with employees, which will assist in developing questionnaires and measures.” (Callier, 2011, pg 119)

History of Organizational Research

The history of organizational research can be used to make a strong case that grounding in phenomenological case studies is important for the field moving forward. At first in the classical or scientific-rational approach to organizational theory there were three common propositions: “organizations are rational entities, the design of organizations is a science, people are economic beings.” (Burns, 1992, pg 33-34) In the next phase utilizing the human relations approach three other points were made: “people are emotional rather than economic-rational beings; organizations are cooperative, social systems rather than mechanical ones; organizations are composed of informal structures, rules and norms as well as formal practices and procedures.” (Burns, 1992, pg 56) Then the contingency theory approach was adopted with three primary beliefs being: “organizations are open systems; structure, and therefore performance, is dependent upon the particular circumstances, situational variables, faced by each organization; there is no ‘one best way’ for all organizations.” (Burns, 1992, pg 78) After that you have the development of the culture-excellence approach and the Japanese approach, along with the postmodern, realist, and complexity perspectives. These perspectives are disparate and even in direct disagreement. (Burns, 1992) As can be seen throughout this history, and developing along with it, it’s natural for a separation to occur between theoretical conceptions and formulations in comparison to the actual experience of the phenomena. Therefore, phenomenological case studies to ground theory in such experience are needed. What else is needed is more such singular case study data points that can be triangulated to find patterns and correlations for further research in exploration, theory generation, refinement, testing, etc.

Research and study on employee turnover has strong documentation over the last 100 years, beginning with the first empirical study in the Journal of Applied Psychology in 1917 and growing with hundreds of studies published on turnover in a sample of just three journals. (Hom et al, 2017, pg 2) Through this time period there have been significant changes in the focus of different periods; beginning with practical methods to reduce turnover, then theory development and testing by academics at employers (Steel, 2002), to attention on employee retention and advanced indicators of future turnover. (Hom et al, 2017) It’s a dynamic and changing field with a plethora of different types of data and yet lacking a consensus and certainly unable to explain all of the variables. Therefore, research of many types is needed to contribute to advancement. In case studies this includes case description, theory exploration, theory development, theory refinement, and theory testing.

Change Agent as Researcher

The case study approach has been applied to change agents in organizations with a focus on the lived experience. (Buchanan and Badham, 1999) But, because of the complexity of the total situational factors that have bearing on the actions and reactions of the people involved it is desirable to have an active participant’s phenomenological first-person perspective in the description of the situations. This situation will present rarely because you need either a researcher in the field to become a change agent politician in a government office, or for a change agent in a government office to become a researcher in the field (as in the present paper), and in either case for them to want to and successfully carry out both activities simultaneously. Though rare, such an occurrence can be valuable in providing unique grounding for further research to develop from.

Other Methods Compared

Other methods that could be used in an attempt to answer the same or similar research questions could be survey or interview based data collection. One advantage is that these are widely known and accepted in academic research. Another is that the data is easy to show, and that when using the same questions with multiple respondents statistical data can be generated which is popularly associated with research. However, conventional surveys and interviews leave knowledge gaps that are not easily filled by such methods. Innovative methodological approaches have an opportunity for generative research that may be useful to fill such knowledge gaps. (Buchanan, 2018) It’s also unlikely that all relevant participants in the events will be open to be survey or interview respondents, therefore the selection bias in such a methodology becomes important, and without the possibility of a corrective mechanism considering that such actions must be self-selected, significant factors in the events may be missed. Even if a high level of participation is achieved, where conflict and disagreement has occurred, and where self-image and public-image are of concern, then it’s difficult for an accurate representation of the situation to be painted, especially considering the immense array of complex contextual factors. Thus, similar bias issues arise in each approach.

Chapter 5: Data

The primary data for this study is a phenomenological first-person narrative by Supervisor B which is included as an appendix.

Chapter 6: Analysis

Thematic Analysis

The turnover incident narrative is over 14 thousand words of data. While writing this it’s noticeable that there’s a pattern of people leaving for health reasons, for other jobs, for interpersonal reasons, and that some people pick up multiple roles. It seems that it would be useful to begin by looking at themes in the reasons for leaving. These will be listed.

Supervisor A – Lost election
Treasurer A – Lost election
Clerk A – Resigned to take a more desired government job with county
Trustee A1 – Lost election
Trustee A2 – Lost election
Trustee A3 – Lost election
Trustee A4 – Lost election

Supervisor B – Still in office
Treasurer B – Resigned because of stress of interpersonal disagreements
Trustee B1 – Still in office
Trustee B2 – Still in office
Trustee B3 – Resigned to move for a private job
Trustee B4 – Resigned to move with husband for a private job

Treasurer C – Resigned because of stress of interpersonal disagreements

Treasurer D – Still in office

Clerk B – Still in office

Trustee C1 – Still in office
Trustee C2 – Still in office

Zoning Administrator A – Resigned to retire and work less
Zoning Administrator B – Still employed

Deputy Clerk A – Resigned to move for more desired private job
Deputy Clerk B – Quit because of interpersonal problems to take another government job
Deputy Clerk C – Still employed

Deputy Treasurer A – Resigned to take a more desired government job with county
Deputy Treasurer B – Resigned to take a more desired government job with same township
Deputy Treasurer C – Fired for interpersonal disagreements and work difficulties
Deputy Treasurer D – Still employed

Maintenance A – Fired for interpersonal disagreements and work difficulties
Maintenance B – Fired because of no transportation
Maintenance C – Found a different job because of interpersonal disagreements
Maintenance D – Found a different job because of interpersonal disagreements
Maintenance E – Still employed
Maintenance F – Not hired back because of interpersonal disagreements
Maintenance G – Still employed
Maintenance H – Fired because of bad work
Maintenance I – Still employed
Maintenance J – Quit for personal reasons

Transfer Station Attendant A – Quit to take a better private job
Transfer Station Attendant B – Left because of missing shifts from health issues
Transfer Station Attendant C – Quit for personal reasons
Transfer Station Attendant D – Still Employed

BoR A – Still in office
BoR B – Still in office, leaving soon because of being tired of role
BoR C – Resigned because of health issues
BoR D – Still in office
BoR E – Still in office

PC A – Lost election
PC B – Still in office
PC C – Not reappointed at end of term, was tired of it
PC D – Still in office
PC E – Not reappointed at end of term, interpersonal disagreement
PC F – Left because of health issues
PC G – Still in office
PC H – Resigned because of schedule conflicts with personal life, moved to ZBA
PC I – Resigned because of schedule conflicts with personal life
PC J – Resigned because he didn’t want to come to meetings
PC K – Still in office
PC L – Still in office
PC M – Still in office
PC N – Still in office

ZBA A – Lost election
ZBA B – Still in office
ZBA C – Still in office
ZBA D – Not reappointed at end of term, tired of it
ZBA E – Still in office
ZBA F – Resigned because of disagreements with township policy and direction
ZBA G – Still in office
ZBA H – Never showed up to be sworn in
ZBA I – Still in office
ZBA J – Still in office
ZBA K – Resigned because of health issues

Assessor A – Moved to another location
Assessor B – Quit because of management and took a job with the state
Assessor C – Still employed

These can be condensed because of similarities to:

Lost election
Resigned for a better job
Still in office or still employed
Resigned because of stress and to work less
Fired or not hired back because of interpersonal disagreements, no transportation, bad work
Resigned because of interpersonal disagreements to find a different job
Resigned or left because of health issues
Not reappointed and didn’t want to be
Not reappointed and wanted to be
Resigned because of schedule conflicts or didn’t want to show up
Resigned because of disagreements with policy and direction

Just considering leaving positions we can ignore those still in office or employed for now. Six people lost the election. Eight people left because they found a better job, of that three were also moving. Four people left to find less stressful jobs. Five people left because they wanted to do less. Two people were fired for not doing work. Three people left because of health issues. Two people left because of political policy disagreement. Three people left because it was too low of a priority. Others left directly from interpersonal disagreement. In the attempt at coding and categorizing the reasons for the turnover the emphasis on interpersonal disagreement and stress is being lost.

The reason there was turnover in the election was because it was a highly contested election because of controversy over interpersonal disagreements about ordinances showing a difference in values between various sets of voters and candidates. The reason people were looking for other jobs was because of the uncertainty in the election, the stress of the various controversies, and the inability to move up in the small organization. These four reasons could account for at least 14 of the turnover incidents.

Some things that may be able to reduce turnover from what appears to be these causative factors are to reduce election turnover, decrease interpersonal disagreements, not hire people with potential health issues, and to have room for advancement in the organization. Let’s consider the desirability and feasibility of these four options.

Election turnover could be reduced by having the same people run for office and win repeatedly. There are several factors that are influential in that. One, you have to have people that want to do that. Some of the primary reasons that may want to do that are for decent pay, because they can’t be fired, and for easy work. All of these may be bad motivations for having someone that does well at fulfilling the role. Also, with someone holding the position for an extended period you could have a consolidation of power and creeping corruption. The feedback mechanisms in the distorted societal interactions from holding the position could also influence and change the person’s perspective over time in ways that may make it desirable for the person in the role to change. In our case the election turnover was purposeful to avoid moving further into a bad direction.

Decreasing interpersonal disagreements seems to be the most desirable. However, to implement this you need a clear mission with alignment of the people in an organizational structure that can resolve conflict. Governments are often purposefully structured to limit tyranny and this is done by a separation of powers and checks and balances. This by definition is an organizational structure that generates conflict rather than resolves it. This also allows for continued misalignment and diverse missions and therefore fundamental disagreement. In our case this is clear to see in both the good and bad aspects.

Not hiring people with health issues is possible to achieve. There are laws that limit what you can exclude people for. But, you can also often do physical testing, along with sending people for medical checks. This has been done in our case off and on, but often the people having physical issues have been in roles that weren’t particularly physical. It’s therefore important to have health and fitness as a prerequisite for all roles.

In a small organization it’s difficult to have room for advancement. In a small company it may be possible as the company grows. A small government like the township may also grow, but very slow in comparison. The organization could support ongoing training and development. This could allow people to use the organization as a stepping stone to a larger organization. However, this is also turnover. Therefore it may be important to find people that don’t want to advance in their career, or at least want to stay in the organization for a number of years.

Conceptual Framework Comparisons

It will be useful to explore possible explanatory concepts from the research literature review.

Have the employees had meaning, resources, and a feeling of security? (Grant, 2019, pg 15) The author has had attempts at blackmail, bribery, and death threats while being involved politically. Treasurer B had threatened people. As far as the author can tell there has never been a feeling of security at the township. Steps have been taken over the last couple of years to work on that including adding security cameras, alarm buttons, a remodel separating the back office, with a small effect. Supervisor B has tried to work with everyone to get them the resources they need to succeed. This was a significant change from the past administration. Using maintenance as an example, under Supervisor A the maintenance manager wasn’t allowed to buy a bolt that he needed and was hesitant to buy new gloves. When Supervisor B took over he told him that for those small things he can just get them without asking, only on larger things did he need to ask. In addition, a large amount of equipment was purchased including a truck, mowers, etc. Also, the township roof that was in bad shape was fixed, along with the air conditioning. Adding these resources seemed to engage the employees somewhat. With the organization being structured in such a way that there is a tendency toward almost continual power struggles with movements back and forth on policy and stalemates, along with a public that’s heavily divided and at odds on most subjects, it often seems that a high amount of effort is wasted in the organization. Many people think it’s important to have a well functioning township and that’s a part of why they take such a role, but the frustration also makes them often question if it makes any difference and therefore if it has meaning. A lack of meaning, resources, and a feeling of security is contributing to higher turnover.

Have the employees had a good: leader-employee relationship; internal communication and feedback; compensation, awards, benefits, and incentives; and training and development? (Grant, 2019, pg 110-111) The structure of the township having a seven person elected board as the highest authority, with three of the members being full-time, means that there’s always a conflict of leadership. The Supervisor is the top elected office, yet doesn’t have authority over the other six board members, and can’t exercise control over the duties assigned by state law to the Clerk and Treasurer. Considering the entire board as the leader means that the leader-employee relationship is never good. Supervisor B has taken steps and made many adjustments to improve internal communication and feedback. However, each time an elected official disagrees with something they usually limit communication, and this pattern cycles with every small power struggle. The employee benefits are on top of pay and therefore pretty good. The compensation seems average for the area and the roles, however over the last few years wages have inflated a large amount with lockdowns, bailouts, and stimulus packages. Overall, the total compensation package is medium. Supervisor B has emphasized that if people want to do training and development then they are welcome to and it can be budgeted for. The author required the Zoning Administrator to get three certifications and sign up for a public speaking course, all of which has gone well. Deputies and office holders on the Board of Trustees, Planning Commission, and Zoning Board of Appeals have been offered various training opportunities and have taken some of them. The Board of Review does not like their state mandated training. Overall, training opportunity is high. The leader-employee relationship and internal communication and feedback are contributing to higher turnover, while compensation, awards, benefits, incentives, and training and development are probably not.

Has there been value and goal congruence between the employees and the organization? (Memon et al, 2014) Supervisor B had taken the time at multiple points to discuss with employees individually that they fill a role for the organization and the organization should fill a role in their life, thus inquiring into what their goals are and if the organization or the Supervisor can be useful to them. Some employees have had goals, many have not other than to just keep going and living. The organization itself has a disparate array of values and goals because of the disconnected activities it carries out because of state law and township history, as well as the changing leadership team meaning that values are also often shifting in the organization. Value and goal incongruence between the employees and the organization is contributing to higher turnover.

Have employees been given an environment where they can be competent, autonomous, and related? (Meyer and Gagne, 2008) Supervisor B has attempted to make an environment where employees could be competent, autonomous, and related. This has fluctuated at times, but in general he has had limited success. The elected officials have generally been low in competence, which increases the workload and worry for other staff members. The elected officials have a large amount of autonomy, but the rest of the staff have little. This occurs even if many of the people in the organization are attempting to allow others autonomy while some are not. For instance, at one point Clerk B locked Deputy Clerk B out of the computer programs that she needs to pay bills and do other parts of her job. These types of antics and power struggles mean that even though some employees have tried to increase relatedness with Christmas parties, collecting toys for charity, and raising money by selling soup at lunch for charities, all with the support and approval of Supervisor B, the relatedness level continually gets dropped. An environment sometimes lacking in competence, autonomy, and relatedness has contributed to higher turnover.

From these comparisons with possible explanatory and causative factors in reduced employee engagement as a factor in increased employee turnover it appears that they do coincide. There are other associations that also hold weight.

Is turnover associated with the political party in power changing and a favorable labor market? (Doherty, Lewis, and Limbocker, 2019) Yes, both of these were true during the term in question.

Is there a causational or explanatory relationship between turnover in the township organization and key executive and key policy change? (Bolton et al, 2021) Yes, there was both significant change in the key executive positions and in key policies.

Is managerial authority as shown in pay negotiation and hiring/firing correlated with employee turnover? Is goal ambiguity associated with employee turnover? (Nielsen, 2014) Yes, managerial authority is divided for pay negotiation, hiring, and firing. Also, the organization has a high level of goal ambiguity.

Is employee turnover associated with the selection of family and friends? Is employee turnover associated with the selection methods? (Hays and Sowa, 2005) Yes, the selection of associated people did not turn out well in one very notable set of incidents, and for key positions the need to hire quickly so that the finances for the township could continue to legally operate while having few candidates meant that appointments were at times done out of desperation. 

As we can see here the organization meets criteria proposed for high turnover in the research literature time and time again. Thus we may conclude that many of the theoretical constructs about employee turnover in organizations when applied to this case hold weight and are in alignment and often in agreement. Therefore it may be that the framework for evaluation of the complex set of variables that contributes to employee turnover is the most important theoretical work that can be done, with implementation in practice being taken into account as the prime aim.

Chapter 7: Conclusion

Making use of a unique opportunity, with a focused subject and critical depth that fills a knowledge gap, this research will be useful academically and conceptually for confirmation, invalidation, comparison, or generation of existing and new theoretical constructs to advance the field of research on employee turnover and in application for policy and management in organizations.

The research literature is wide and varied. Adding to this difficulty is the complexity of the issue of employee turnover being embedded in a real world with a vast array of known and unknown contextual factors at play. The research subject has been approached from a variety of standpoints. In this study a case has been viewed dealing with a single organization and point of view going over multiple incidents. Thematic patterns yielded minimal results with coding possibly obscuring important elements, but this being adjusted for did allow for the analysis of key contributing factors and possible remedies. Comparison of the case incidents with existing theoretical frameworks correlates many of them in the applied context.

With so many factors seeming to correlate with the employee turnover incidents it is desirable to seek an overarching framework to incorporate these correlations to lead to a simplified explanatory model. However, this has been noted in the research literature in the past and is yet to be achieved. It may be that the complexity of the issue means that in practice and theory disparate issues must be dealt with as pieces of an unknown whole, with application in context being a skilled craft.


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Phenomenological Narrative by Supervisor B of Turnover Incidents

Board of Trustees (BoT), Treasurer, Clerk, Trustees, Administrative Assistants, Deputies, Zoning            Administrator, Enforcement Officer

The Board of Trustees (BoT) is made up of seven elected officials. In Dalton Township three of these positions are full-time and are considered the executive committee, the Supervisor, Treasurer, and Clerk. Each has certain duties, for instance a partial list is: the Supervisor prepares the yearly budget, prepares information for and runs BoT meetings, is the legal agent of the township, and is the head elected official; the Treasurer primarily collects money for taxes and permits; and the Clerk runs elections, keeps records, and pays bills. (Michigan Legislature, 2023) The four additional positions are trustees. These four positions primarily act as a power check on the executive committee positions. All seven of the board positions are elected every four years.

The author had begun writing a series of articles criticizing the township in May of 2019 because of a lawsuit against a farm. (Martin, 2019) This was followed up with a recall petition, a large attendance of the public at a township board meeting, filing a police report on an Open Meetings Act violation, and two recall attempts against the Supervisor then in office. In February of 2020 the author filed to run for Supervisor in the election. This was followed by others also filing to run for offices. In the November 2020 election six of the seven positions on the BoT changed hands. The only person that stayed was the Clerk, whom no one had run against. (Muskegon County, 2020)

The officials and staff that were in the organization prior to the November 2020 election will be referenced by their title followed by a letter representing their temporal sequence, and in the case of trustees the letter will be followed by a number. In the case of the board this means the elected officials holding office at the beginning of November 2020 are Supervisor A, Treasurer A, Clerk A, Trustee A1, Trustee A2, Trustee A3, and Trustee A4. The elected officials holding office at the end of November 2020 are Supervisor B, Treasurer B, Clerk A, Trustee B1, Trustee B2, Trustee B3, and Trustee B4.

This was an intense election filled with strong emotions both by key people and by the general public. The author, Supervisor B, had little direct interaction with the previous board of trustee members both before and after the election. Supervisor A and Supervisor B had a short discussion in the office after Supervisor B had been sworn in with the customary offer to reach out if any help was needed. Supervisor A also gave some basic statements of advice such that Treasurer B would be trouble, that Supervisor B should be careful not to miss many family events for the job as Supervisor A had, that a key part of the job was trying to not get sued, and that in general the role is more difficult than is generally thought.

Over the next couple of years there were a few times when Supervisor B bumped into Trustee A1 while working or helping at the garbage transfer station operated by the township. These interactions were cordial and even friendly. Trustee A1 expressed approval for the work that Supervisor B was putting in and the changes that he was making in the organization. Trustee A1 noted that he often felt like things were being kept from him while he was on the BoT, and that Supervisor A had purposefully done that. Supervisor B noted that the vote for change was just that and not personally against Trustee A1. Supervisor B had stoked dissatisfaction and a desire for change in the populace and therefore the vote was a vote for change, for something different, for someone new.

Originally the author did not want to run for office. His thought was that criticizing the township on various issues would open a place for other people to run for office and make changes. However, interest in speaking against the township was high while interest in taking on the daunting task of following up with changing things was rather low. The author had guaranteed people that there would not be only one option in the 2020 election, there would at least be a choice when voting for Supervisor as this had been the focal point for criticism. One person had stated that they would run for the role. However, this person hadn’t followed up or done anything. An active online social media group started by the author focused on change in Dalton Township politics had often been used for discussion on such topics. A direct public question was posed if anyone was planning to run for the Supervisor position. The person that stated they would run didn’t respond, but another did. The author met with this person to discuss the idea. After talking in person they decided that the author may be a better fit for the role of Supervisor because of his intellect, knowledge base, and communication skills, while the other person would run for Treasurer, which resulted in the change to Treasurer B.

Before the election Supervisor B had talked with Treasurer B about coming into the role and making peace and calming people down. Treasurer B had proposed firing everyone and changing them out, Supervisor B talked him out of it for the most part although he still wanted to change the Ordinance Enforcer because he had a previous run-in with him where Treasurer B had threatened to shoot him. Supervisor B explained that things would have to be assessed when they had taken office and talked with everyone, and that it would be a bad idea to fire people because they already had a huge learning curve and didn’t understand the roles or the full situation. Supervisor B emphasized the need for a strong work ethic, the importance of tackling things to learn them, and the importance of strong moral ethics.

During this time Covid was a big controversy. Whitmer, the governor of Michigan, had been issuing executive orders and directives on a frequent basis, 204 in 2020. (Whitmer, 2020) Some of these pertained to lockdowns, general house arrest, banning in-person gatherings, and such. With the election being so controversial Supervisor B thought that someone may report the meeting if he held the board meeting inside and in-person. His first meeting in office he therefore held outside in front of the firehouse. (Dalton Township, 2020) It was December of 2020, with the meeting being at 6pm it was both dark and well below freezing. From that even some of his detractors that regularly attended meetings said that if meetings were going to be held in-person then he might as well hold them inside. This is what he wanted and the January 2021 work session meeting was held in the board room of the township hall. (Dalton Township, 2021A) Supervisor A did report this meeting, the police didn’t stop the meeting or come in, although the county health department did send an email recommending that the state law be followed and the meetings move online. Supervisor B knowing that he would have many struggles and wanting to focus on other problems decided to make this compromise.

The next few meetings were held as an online video conference on Zoom. During one of these meetings the then wife of Treasurer B used a township computer to attend. During the meeting she held up signs she had written stating that the person who had run against Supervisor B in the 2020 primary election had been arrested for drinking and driving and had calls at his house for domestic abuse. (Dalton Township, 2021B) This led to him writing a letter calling for the resignation of Supervisor B. Trustees B3 and B4, a married couple, also talked with Supervisor B about either taking down the board meeting video from YouTube or editing it. This is just a short time after the board had unanimously voted to approve a resolution written by Supervisor B to record and post the board meetings (Dalton Township, 2021C), so Supervisor B did not compromise on this issue and kept the full video posted.

Treasurer B’s wife would often come to the township during the day and hang around. At one lunch session, which Supervisor B wasn’t at since he normally worked through lunch, there was an incident in that Treasurer B’s wife was talking about Zoning Administrator A’s daughter in an insulting and derogatory way. Supervisor B heard about this from Deputy Clerk A and knew it was an important thing that had to be addressed. Supervisor B talked with Treasurer B to say that something would need to be done, and either both of them could talk with the wife together, or the Supervisor could talk with her alone, whatever the Treasurer thought would be best. Treasurer B explained that people came to him a lot to complain about his wife doing various things and he thought they were ridiculous because he’s not in charge of her, they shouldn’t ask him, and they should just talk to her directly. Supervisor B contacted the wife, she came into the office, they talked and decided that she should apologize to the Zoning Administrator, even though she wasn’t apologetic and sent a light apology through text.

A short time after this incident the wife was making comments on Facebook attempting to represent the township where she was insulting people and making false statements. The Supervisor texted her to have another conversation. A few minutes after the text the Treasurer walked into the Supervisor’s office visibly shaking with anger and had a threatening conversation about how the Supervisor can’t just contact his wife directly and that he can’t request she come to the office to have a conversation. There was also instability in their relationship in that she had moved out of Treasurer B’s house at one point and lived in the backyard of another guy, and then moved back. A year or two later they would get divorced.

When the new board had taken office Zoning Administrator A was already looking to do a partial retirement. She was working three days per week at Dalton Township and one day per week at neighboring Cedar Creek Township. She wanted to step back from Dalton and gave Supervisor B notice about six months in advance. This allowed for an extensive amount of time to make the transition. Early during the hiring at the township Supervisor B wanted things to be thorough and open so that consensus could be built around decisions and a culture of teamwork could be developed. Through postings on Indeed dozens of applicants were reviewed. These reduced down through a review of the paperwork submitted including resumes, letters, IQ, and personality tests to those to be interviewed. Panel interviews were conducted with six people including elected officials and deputies. Working interviews were conducted with the Supervisor and the Zoning Administrator. From all of these three qualified candidates emerged. However, one of the less qualified candidates was a friend and neighbor of Treasurer B. In the end everyone thought Zoning Administrator B was the best candidate, other than the Treasurer who thought his friend would be best, and Trustee B4 who voted against the candidate for no known reason. Zoning Administrator B was approved for hiring at the 14 June 2021 meeting. (Dalton Township, 2021D)

When coming into office Supervisor B knew that there was a lot of tension. He later found out that most people were planning on leaving the township no matter which way the election went because Supervisor A had been yelling at people openly in the office for months and if he won they wanted to leave, he had also been yelling that they needed to vote for him because if Supervisor B won the election then everyone would be fired. So, the staff thought that no matter which way the election went they would be looking for other jobs. To calm the situation down Supervisor B started one-on-one meetings with the staff the first week that he took office. He explained that people would not be fired just because they worked for the previous Supervisor. He just wanted them to keep working and doing their jobs, to get along and to get some things accomplished. Supervisor B also did these one-on-one meetings with Treasurer B and Clerk A. Both of them thought it was odd because they were elected officials and the Supervisor isn’t technically in charge of them. At one point the Treasurer told the Supervisor that he didn’t like to have private meetings and that if the Supervisor wanted to talk about something then it should be said in front of everyone.

Supervisor B had confirmed that everyone other than the Treasurer was agreed on the best candidate for the Zoning Administrator role, so in the middle of the office where multiple others would hear he told the Treasurer that he was proposing to the board that Zoning Administrator B be hired. Treasurer B then stared Supervisor B down, which is one of his often used intimidation tactics that unnerved a number of people. In this case Supervisor B simply stared back and waited. After a minute or two the Treasurer asked if he was expected to say anything. The Supervisor explained that the Treasurer was the only one that disagreed with the decision and so he was expecting him to say that he disagreed. The Treasurer said that it was fine and he had nothing to say.

The Supervisor prepares physical packets of paper for the elected members of the township board for them to review before meetings about the decisions that will be voted on. These are placed in trays at the office labelled with their names for them to pick up. During the board meeting Trustee B4 noted that she had information for two people in her board packet. The other Trustees did too. As it turns out Treasurer B had contacted all four board Trustees to tell them that Supervisor B was doing something corrupt by proposing the candidate for the Zoning Administrator position and that the Treasurer’s friend should get the position instead. He also secretly put her information in the Trustee board packets. This friend then came to the board meeting and during the board discussion on the hiring she stood up and made a speech about how she should be selected. The board voted five to two to hire Zoning Administrator B. (Dalton Township, 2021D)

Previous to this Treasurer B wasn’t doing well. He showed up during work hours, but he wasn’t trying to learn and Deputy Treasurer A was carrying the work load. After this the Treasurer seemed to abandon any pretense that he was going to try to be ethical or work with others in a reasonable manner. It became obvious why he had wanted his friend in the position of the Zoning Administrator because he tried to get Zoning Administrator A to use zoning to shut down a childcare facility that Treasurer B’s wife’s son had gotten kicked out of for fighting. In another incident the Treasurer’s wife got into a Facebook argument with someone, so the Treasurer called this other person’s employer from the township office and identified as representing the township in an attempt to get her fired from a factory in Pennsylvania. This resulted in the woman attempting suicide and ending up in the hospital. Another company that the woman worked for part-time contacted Supervisor B to let him know and said that they might take legal action. The Supervisor said that he thought legal action was justified, but nothing was filed. In another incident the Treasurer talked with the Superintendent of a local school system and told him that as the Treasurer of Dalton Township, which is part of where taxes are collected for the school, he would fire him unless something was changed because of the Treasurer’s wife’s son, which isn’t how the law works. In another incident the Treasurer’s wife used the Treasurer’s office for a Zoom court hearing and closed it to the public during business hours for that personal use.

The Supervisor had a letter on ethics written by the township attorney and in July of 2021 part of the board meeting was a closed session to discuss these ethical violations by Treasurer B. (Dalton Township, 2021E; Dalton Township, 2021H) Seeing no change in the Treasurer the Supervisor also started drafting a letter to the Michigan Attorney General about such incidents on a recommendation from legal counsel because removing an elected official is highly unlikely but such things should be followed up with.

In early August of 2021 Deputy Treasurer A resigned. (Dalton Township, 2021F) She had started at the township as a teenager and worked there for over a decade. She had tried to get elected to the Treasurer position in the neighboring township of Fruitland without success. Working with Treasurer B was not enjoyable or productive for anyone. She also couldn’t be promoted within Dalton Township because it’s a small organization. Supervisor B was aware of all of this and offered for the township to pay for her to do various trainings and certifications which would set her up for future career growth. Instead she took a position with the assessing department for Muskegon County, the county which Dalton is in. This would allow her room for advancement in future years.

In a special Board of Trustees meeting held on 30 August 2021 a new Administrative Assistant was hired. (Dalton Township, 2021G) The Deputies for the Clerk and the Treasurer are hired as Administrative Assistants for the township because of the state laws around Deputies being at the whim of the elected office holders, so hiring them as Administrative Assistants gives a check and balance against this arbitrary power and adds stability to the township staff. This hiring process was once again extensive. There were 70 applicants to begin with. These were mostly eliminated by the Supervisor consulting with Treasurer B and Clerk A or by the applicants not responding. Panel interviews were conducted with six people. There was not a consensus and so four people were going to be brought to the board for a decision. One pulled out, so three people were interviewed in the public meeting. Deputy Treasurer B was chosen. Deputy Clerk B also interviewed for this position but was not selected. Also at this meeting Clerk A was made the Cemetery Coordinator to take over that role from Deputy Treasurer A. (Dalton Township, 2021G)

Treasurer B resigned in a special meeting at the beginning of October 2021. (Dalton Township, 2021I) Resignations of elected officials have to be put in writing, filed with the clerk, and then approved by the Board of Trustees. As part of his resignation he stated that it was due to the high tensions in the work place and asked that his reputation not be disparaged. (Dalton Township, 2021J) He also recommended that Deputy Treasurer B be appointed to the position by the board, which is what occurred. With this being early in the term there would be a special mid-term election triggered for the position in 2022, and then elections for the position would be back to the regular schedule in 2024. Supervisor B asked if Deputy Treasurer B was interested in becoming Treasurer C. He emphasized that he would not push her and that it’s completely her choice. She said she wanted to. Later, when she resigned from the position she stated that she felt pushed to take the position by Clerk A and Deputy Clerk A.

With the difficulties in hiring including the mess at the board meeting with the zoning administration position and the oddity of doing three interviews in a public meeting for an assistant position, it was determined that the executive committee would make the staff hiring decisions after that, which is as stated in the employee policy handbook. Deputy Treasurer C was hired as mutually agreed upon by Supervisor B, Clerk A, and Treasurer C. This decision later connects with issues in the maintenance department, that will be covered shortly, but first the narrative of the office staff will be continued.

Treasurer C was overwhelmed by the position almost immediately and in hindsight was a bad selection for the role. There is a lot to do and it was especially hard because it wasn’t being done properly before. Treasurer B had told her that people would be plotting against her as she later told the author. Supervisor B had warned her that with Treasurer B leaving on bad terms and with his previous nefarious activities that it’s important to try to learn the aspects of the role while not believing everything else he may say.

Treasurer C quickly became closely connected with Deputy Treasurer C. There were some oddities that occurred. Within a couple of months of being hired Deputy Treasurer C told the author she was planning on coming to a meeting. He told her that was fine and she was free to make a public comment if she wanted. He assumed that she was going to say that things were going well with her onboarding into the organization. Instead her comment at the meeting with prepared notes was about various complaints and concerns she had from citizens. (Dalton Township, 2022A) When she mentioned that there were complaints about the bumpy railroad track crossing on Riley-Thompson Rd. a few people in the audience and on the board laughed, because it had been a common complaint for the last couple of decades and something that Supervisor B had already been working on getting approvals to get fixed. (Dalton Township, 2022C) It was an awkward moment because these were things that should have been communicated at the time to the Supervisor rather than waiting and compiling a list to bring to a board meeting. The author tried to be gentle, but also communicated this at the meeting. By this time Supervisor B had started shooting briefing and debriefing videos in the days before and after each board meeting to give summaries because the board meetings themselves can often be long and boring. This incident, being part of the meeting, was communicated in a similar way in the debrief video. (Dalton Township, 2022B) Treasurer C was upset and talked with Supervisor B about how it was rude to mention that Deputy Treasurer C spoke at the meeting. Supervisor B pointed out that it’s a public meeting and that’s what happened. It seemed as though Treasurer C and Deputy Treasurer C had worked together to come up with the plan of making those comments at the meeting and when they didn’t work out well both were upset.

Shortly after Treasurer B left office Clerk A noticed that things had been moved in her office overnight. Even though Treasurer B had turned in his keys there was a possibility that him or his wife had made a copy. Clerk A wanted to change all of the locks. Supervisor B thought it would be better to get some cameras and that way if it happened again it would be known and provable who was doing the security breach. There were always some security concerns anyway. A professional system should be installed, but it could take awhile for the various people in the organization to come to an agreement on the specifics, and cameras had to go up right away. Some small cameras that wouldn’t be noticed by an intruder were ordered and placed. They didn’t work very well, so somewhat larger but still cheap cameras were ordered from Amazon and put up; one pointing at the back employee entrance door and one pointing at the front door. The lower end cameras like these were only designed to connect with a cell phone so Supervisor B connected them to his phone.

Supervisor B had been having one-on-one meetings with staff every month or two since taking office. These were largely for him to ask what people thought he was doing well, what he was doing poorly, and what they would like to see changed with the organization. They served two primary functions: one, to help calm people down and get them to feel more comfortable during a large and intense change; two, to help speed up the author’s learning curve so that he could better and faster understand the processes, people, organization, structure, and history. These one-on-one meetings were effective at first, but seemed to have diminishing returns. Some of the people were uncomfortable with them because they felt like people would be saying things about other people, which is true. Also, there is a commonality in politics of people being paranoid, plotting, and often both, so that private meetings don’t lower the tendency toward having a rumor mill inside of the staff and branching out into the public because of the various conversations that township officers and staff have privately with community members.

In an attempt to bring people together and get everyone on the same page Supervisor B thought weekly staff meetings would be a good idea so that people could have the conversations together as a group and work out any issues. In the first staff meeting Treasurer C brought up that Supervisor B had installed security cameras so that he could spy on employees. Supervisor B said that it was good that she brought it up and explained the concerns about security and that it was a temporary measure until professional cameras would be installed. Supervisor B put security cameras on the discussion list for a board meeting. (Dalton Township, 2022D) The initial idea was to set up security cameras throughout the building. Some of the staff didn’t want to be watched and didn’t want anyone to hear what they were saying. Supervisor B noted that if someone came into the office and assaulted someone outside of the limited camera range, or if they came in and issued verbal threats, neither of these would be recorded. In the end three security cameras were installed with no sound; one on the rear employee entrance door, one on the front doors, and one on the mail drop box.

A gravel road was going through the special assessment process to get paved when Treasurer C came into office. Treasurer C lived on this road. This is not a simple or fast process. First, a person that lived on that portion of Michillinda got people along the road to sign a petition. Second, the board of trustees accepted the petition. Third, the township requested the county road commission calculate the amount of money needed to do this road upgrade. Once the township had the numbers then over several months two hearings needed to be held and four resolutions passed. Also, because a bond was being pulled to finance the project an additional resolution would be passed for that. With Treasurer C living on the road Supervisor B recommended that she abstain from voting on the resolutions. Instead of having a discussion about disagreeing with this she voted on the resolution in question and then at the end of the meeting pulled out a piece of paper and read a statement about how Supervisor B had tried to stop her from being able to vote. (Dalton Township, 2022E) Yes, the Supervisor did recommend that she abstain because she has a clear financial interest and that is a legal definition of a conflict of interest. Even though the entire process had taken close to a year to get approved, Treasurer C and a few of her neighbors who had signed the original petition wrote objection letters a few days before the final hearing and resolution, which the board postponed for one month before approving. (Dalton Township, 2022F)

The resignation of Treasurer B occurring in early October of 2021 was early enough in the four year term that it triggers a mid-term election in 2022. Treasurer C swung wildly back and forth on if she was going to go for the election or not. To be in the election you register in the first few months of 2022, there’s a primary in August, the general election in November, and you can be sworn into office in November as well. The process for resigning is that the person writes and signs a letter, files this with the Clerk, and then the Board of Trustees votes on the resignation. Supervisor B had told Treasurer C that this type of thing is a personal decision and it’s fine either way, just to let him know if she was going to resign so that he could include it on the meeting agenda and in the board packet. There was a regular board meeting scheduled for 14 March 2022. That same day Treasurer C told the Supervisor that she was definitely not going to resign.

Near the beginning of Supervisor B’s term he wanted to hold two Board of Trustee meetings per month. One as a work session just for discussion, and another as the regular meeting for voting. Trustees B2, B3, and B4 had complained about meeting so often. Supervisor B then switched to just having one regular meeting per month other than at certain times of the year. Still wanting to include discussion items, the agendas were arranged so that there were business items at the beginning, then decision items, then discussion items. At the 14 March 2022 meeting every item was completed. At the end of the meeting Supervisor B has a place for a second public comment, or if the board wants to make any other comments. At this point Treasurer C pulled out and read a resignation letter. A motion was made to accept it and passed, the effective day of resignation being 30 March 2022. (Dalton Township, 2022G) The author is uncertain to this day why there was the deception over resigning or what purpose it served. Over the next year some of Treasurer C’s neighbors on Michillinda called and emailed the Supervisor to complain about the special assessment with incorrect information which they stated they heard from Treasurer C.

There was a special meeting for the budget scheduled on 28 March 2022. Appointing a new Treasurer was added to the agenda. Treasurer D was the only one who had filed to run for the office in the election. She was appointed with a majority vote. Treasurer C once again had an unexpected prepared statement at the end of the meeting recommending that there be a forensic audit of the township. (Dalton Township, 2022H) Supervisor B had previously discussed this with the auditor and was informed that there isn’t a general forensic audit. There is a yearly general audit by an outside firm. Some kind of accusation of what was wrong or incorrect should be made to start a forensic audit dealing with that. Supervisor B informed Treasurer C that if she thought something was wrong she should let the auditor know what it is. She never did.

Treasurer D was the only one to run in the primary and general elections for the position, so she won. This will once again be up for election on the normal pattern for the four year office in 2024. As of now, September 2023, she has remained in the position.

The author thought and hoped that at this point the board and township would stabilize in a good position. He was wrong. In the middle of May 2022 Clerk A, who Supervisor B had worked well with, decided to resign and take the election coordinator position with the county. She thought it was a more desirable position and had passed on it previously, which she wasn’t going to do twice. At the 23 May meeting the board approved her resignation effective 31 May 2022. (Dalton Township, 2022I)

The meeting to appoint a new clerk was held on 27 May 2022, a very short turn around time because of the short notice. Four of the 19 inquiries about the position were potential legal holders of the office. All of them were contacted by Supervisor B. Unfortunately, only one person put in a letter and resume. Clerk B was appointed to the position. (Dalton Township, 2022J) Later this mistake would result in retirement accounts not being paid to employees for five months, meeting minutes not being completed in the legal timeframe many times, cemetery checks not being deposited for eight months in some cases, the township being the last municipality to settle taxes in the county, overdrawing payroll funds, an election inspector list being approved incorrectly almost invalidating an election, and other such difficulties. This also increased stress around the office leading to four other employees of the township asking Supervisor B to fire Clerk B, along with a few residents requesting the same. Supervisor B explained in all of these cases that an elected position cannot be fired neither by him nor the board, even though she was appointed.

When Treasurer D took office she appointed Deputy Treasurer C to continue in the role. There were some issues but Supervisor B tried to get everyone once again to work together. In some of the staff meetings he drew the organizational chart on the white board in the board room to show that some of the lines of authority and responsibility cross. Every book he’s read on business management and every autobiography he’s read by successful business people says that such a situation will not work. He explained this and also explained that because of state law designating what positions need to exist and what they need to do, combined with the municipality being a fairly small organization working with a budget of around 2.5 million dollars per year with a population of 10,000 people, that the organization structure cannot really be corrected. In a similar way because of Michigan state law designating some of the duties of the township, combined with historical operations of the township, designating a true vision and mission for the township doesn’t really work. Therefore, everyone would have to pull together and have better soft skills to get along and collaborate. They would encounter enough struggles, people in the organization shouldn’t be fighting with themselves. The author covered these and similar topics in more than a few staff meetings to little avail.

Deputy Treasurer C had a tendency to plot with Treasurer C. Supervisor B was hoping this was led by the Treasurer and that it would change with the changing of that role. It did seem to improve for awhile. A portion of maintenance turnover will be covered here because it relates and then referenced back to in the following section.

There had been a struggle with getting people to work for township maintenance. Several of the women connected with the township had offered to have their husbands work for the township. Supervisor B was highly skeptical that such an arrangement would go well. After months of struggling to get maintenance people that included offering people positions that they didn’t take, having people not show up for physicals to be hired, having people show up for one day and then quit, along with everyone at a staff meeting other than himself being comfortable with potentially hiring Deputy Treasurer C’s husband, the author agreed to do an interview with him. Maintenance F was hired.

There was an explicit understanding that Supervisor B expressly talked with both Deputy Treasurer C and Maintenance F about. They both stated that their relationship and recent marriage would not be an issue.

Maintenance C, the then maintenance manager, pointed out that Maintenance F was spending too much time coming into the office because his wife was there. Maintenance C did not do a good job of communicating this. Just a few weeks after Maintenance F was hired he said he was going from the maintenance building up to the township hall. Maintenance C said something about Deputy Treasurer C having a place for Maintenance F under her desk.

Supervisor B has four major spinal deformities. The one in his upper cervical spine has caused some brainstem damage in the past and is something that he manages. It happened to be at this time that he had tweaked his neck, slightly damaging the brainstem again, and his body was having some difficulty with breathing and swallowing. The verbal incident between Maintenance C and F occurred on a Friday. Supervisor B brought Maintenance C, F, D, and E in separately for sit down conversations and explained that he had heard from the Treasurer and the Clerk that there was an issue. He determined that it was a small matter that no one was particularly insulted by and that it would be a good opportunity for everyone to get together in maintenance to talk it through and that it would probably bring the team closer together. He got an agreement from all four maintenance personnel that they would meet together as a group to talk it through on Monday. Then he went home to lay down.

A couple of hours later Treasurer D texted him that Deputy Treasurer C had written a complaint letter about the verbal incident and that it had been sent to the township attorney. This triggered a six week investigation with the conclusion that there was probably a minor insult said, as Supervisor B had already surmised and was working on.

Once this investigation started Maintenance C was put on leave and Maintenance D stopped showing up and then quit, because it’s odd to work at a place where any comment could potentially result in a lengthy and expensive investigation. Supervisor B did not think it a good idea to attempt to hire maintenance staff during an employee investigation, and couldn’t get the labor attorney specialist to speed up the process. Therefore, Maintenance F and E were alone to do the work including four parks, two cemeteries, the township hall, the fire department, a bike trail, a horse trail, a transfer station, and other assorted items. Since it was in summer they could basically only keep up with mowing the grass.

During this time Maintenance F filled the authority vacuum left in maintenance and Deputy Treasurer C seemed to enjoy and support this. After the investigation was over Maintenance C was offered his job back, but he informed Supervisor B he had already started another job. During the hiring process Maintenance F applied for the position but because of his troublesome relationship was not hired. The executive committee also decided that he would finish the season and then not be brought back in the spring. Deputy Treasurer C was not happy with this and it was reported to Supervisor B that there were several times when there were yelling matches when he wasn’t there between Deputy Treasurer C and Clerk B, and of Deputy Treasurer C also yelling at Treasurer D.

As these problems continued Deputy Treasurer C was given explicit warning. At one point she took a leave of absence for health reasons. Later, during her requested yearly review it was noted that hopefully these relational issues were resolved. However, they did continue and the executive committee unanimously decided to fire her.

Deputy Treasurer D was hired. She onboarded well, gets along with people well, and has taken on additional duties since being hired such as Cemetery Coordinator. The election in August of 2023 was important for the township. There were two things on the ballot, a renewal for the fire department operating millage and an increase for the fire department operating millage. (Dalton Township, 2023A) This had to be split because of state law. The increase is to add full-time firefighters. Currently only the fire chief is full time and the department is having difficulty covering all of the shifts and calls with the other firefighters being paid on call. Clerk B was arranging a daughter’s wedding and for the most part ignored the election. Luckily Deputy Clerk B was able to pick up the slack. She even caught that the election inspector list had been improperly made by the Clerk and was able to correct it in time so that the election would be legal. Deputy Clerk B does not handle stress well and had struggled with that the entire time she was at the township. For awhile she had also been frustrated with the Clerk not doing the proper job on things like completing meeting minutes in the legal timeframe or properly running elections, which she considered also reflecting poorly on her. Supervisor B had been telling Deputy Clerk B for many months that she should at least stay at the township through his term. With the August election not going well and the Clerk not being willing to work, Supervisor B thought that the Deputy Clerk may quit in the middle of the election and that would probably result in an illegal election. So, he asked her to at least stay through the August election, which she did. After the election she took a few days off and asked the Supervisor to have a conversation with the Clerk about clarifying the roles.

Four employees and a couple of residents have previously asked the Supervisor to fire Clerk B, which is illegal by state law. But, moving responsibilities away from the Clerk and to other people did help things get done. He wanted to propose that doing the meeting minutes be moved to the Deputy Clerk, along with the board voting to officially recognize her as Elections Coordinator along with a raise. This meeting was with Supervisor B, Clerk B, and Treasurer D. Supervisor B made a serious error in the presentation in that he opened by acknowledging that Clerk B is a horrible worker and that the only thing that has worked over a long period of time is to move work away from her and to other people. As should have been expected, she reacted poorly to this saying that she will not have any more of her work taken away from her. Over the weekend she then blocked multiple people from the computer programs dealing with finances. The Deputy Clerk found this out when she came in on Monday and couldn’t sign in to the programs stopping her from being able to do her job. At this point the Clerk is both not doing her job and purposefully preventing other people from doing her job. By the end of the week Deputy Clerk B had put in her two weeks and left for a job in another municipality elsewhere in the county, Clerk B accepted it and said that she didn’t need to stay for two weeks which left the office short handed through the busy tax season for the Treasurer and Deputy Treasurer.

Clerk B was slow to get anything posted for the open position. During the delay the Deputy Treasurer inquired into if she could move to Deputy Clerk, and then we could hire for Deputy Treasurer instead. Supervisor B supported this position because it could be that Deputy Treasurer D would have the social skills to slowly shift things from the Clerk to herself to get work done, and hiring with Treasurer D as the primary would move much faster and better because she’s willing to work and works well with Supervisor B. Deputy Treasurer D became Deputy Clerk C.

The hiring process from that point moved along well. There were a few good candidates. Treasurer D looked through resumes and set up interviews with Treasurer D, Supervisor B, and Clerk B. From this the top two candidates were selected. Supervisor B emphasized that there should be a second round of interviews with other staff and this was done with Deputy Clerk C, Zoning Administrator B, and Maintenance G asking various questions that Supervisor B also observed. From this there was full agreement and Deputy Treasurer E was hired. As of the end of September 2023 she is onboarding well. Also, with having failed at redistributing the Clerk’s work Supervisor B thought it was time to bring more awareness of the continual and ongoing issues to the township board and the public. In the September meeting he included a letter from the lawyer emphasizing that meeting minutes should be done in the legal timeframe. (Dalton Township, 2023B) That month they were done on time.

Trustee B3 and B4 had already been married when they ran and won election in 2020. During the term Trustee B3 retired from his role at a prison and got his license to be a boat captain. During the fall of 2021 he missed a number of meetings while getting his license. At that time he asked Supervisor B if he should resign. The author told him that it was his decision, but if he was going to miss most of the meetings it would be odd to stay in office. Clerk A talked him out of resigning at the time because she didn’t want to deal with that turnover.

By early 2023 Trustee B3 had his boat captain license and was looking at different jobs. He had worked some in the area, and then a couple hours north. In the summer of 2023 he was set to work on a boat from the lower peninsula of Michigan to Mackinaw Island. Trustee B3 and B4 were preparing to sell their house as part of that but they were uncertain as to when. Supervisor B told them just to let him know when they were going to resign so that he could put their letters in the appropriate monthly meeting packet for the board to vote on. The job in Michigan fell through, but they continued with the plan to sell their house and to move to a southern state for his work. An elected official cannot legally hold office in a municipality unless they live there.

Trustee B3 and B4 wrote out and gave their letters of resignation on the day of the board meeting, 10 July 2023. The agenda was amended during the meeting and their resignations were approved effective as of 7 August 2023. (Dalton Township, 2023C) One person announced at the July meeting that they were interested in the position. Supervisor B offered to have anyone that wanted the position to be able to place a letter of interest in the meeting packet and five others chose to do that. Five people turned in letters before the meeting packet was posted, and another three after, with a total of eight people vying for the two positions. Trustees C1 and C2 were appointed to finish the term at the 14 August 2023 meeting. (Dalton Township, 2023D)

Transfer Station Attendant

The transfer station is where residents can dump garbage, leaves, brush, and recyclables. When the author took office as Supervisor in late 2020 the Transfer Station Attendant had been controversially changed in the past year, along with price increases and a different method of accepting payment. When Supervisor B talked with Transfer Station Attendant A he was informed that there were some issues. Supervisor B allowed cash to once again be accepted rather than just punch cards that needed to be purchased separately at the township hall. There was a large and illegal pile of tires there that the Attendant had been asking the previous Supervisor about but hadn’t been resolved. Supervisor B contacted the tire recycling company and those were removed. In short, things were going well and progress was being made.

Transfer Station Attendant A also worked another job at a retail store. After some time he was offered the manager position. It was a salary position where he would have to potentially always be available and therefore wouldn’t be able to continue at the transfer station. Thankfully he was able to work with Supervisor B so that the hiring process could be done over a reasonable length of time and Transfer Station Attendant B was hired.

Transfer Station Attendant B had some health issues and was retired. He had previously been a manager in manufacturing. The role doesn’t need to be particularly physical, and was only two days per week in the summer and one day per week in the winter. As his health issues caused him to miss at times Supervisor B worked with him to have other maintenance members cover or would cover the shifts himself. This worked out well in 2022. In 2023 the time that Transfer Station Attendant B had to take off increased in frequency and duration, and his wife began to have health issues increasing the frequency and duration to the point that it was becoming more common for him to not be there than to be there. Maintenance G, who was the maintenance manager at that point, and the Supervisor discussed making a change. Maintenance J had been hired in the spring of 2023. He had previous transfer station experience, had been covering the most often, and was interested in the position. In July of 2023 Supervisor B called Transfer Station Attendant B while he was once again taking time off and let him know that he was being let go not because of anything he had done wrong, just because he wasn’t able to cover the shifts and that it made sense for him to focus on personal things that he had going on. He was not particularly happy about this.

Maintenance J became Transfer Station Attendant C. Supervisor B hoped that this would work out at least through his term if not longer. However, near the end of August 2023 Attendant C decided to quit. Supervisor B asked him why thinking that it may be because there were some communication issues between Attendant C and the Maintenance Supervisor. However, Attendant C said that it was personal and he didn’t want to share.

Supervisor B and Maintenance G had discussed since his hire that over time more of the management responsibilities in maintenance would be transferred to him. Having been through the hiring process together before, Supervisor B let Maintenance G be the lead this time. Maintenance G knew the father of a friend that was retired and may be interested. Both Supervisor B and Maintenance G thought that a retired person may work out best because of the odd part-time schedule. He was interviewed and hired as Transfer Station Attendant D. He worked one day of training with Attendant C who worked the man of advanced years too hard and he called and quit. Supervisor B was letting Maintenance G lead this hiring process in looking through applications, having phone conversations, arranging the interviews and conducting them, but emphasized at this point that Maintenance G call all applicants, which he did. Supervisor B had various other conflicting meetings that week and met some of the candidates but not all of them. Maintenance G frequently updated him on the process, and was quite worried about getting someone in time to cover shifts before Attendant C’s last day. Supervisor B talked with someone about it that gave him a referral candidate who interviewed well and was hired at Transfer Station Attendant E. As of the end of September 2023 he is onboarding well.

Maintenance and Grounds

When the author took office in late 2020 he was told that there was one maintenance person, Maintenance A. At the initial one-on-one Supervisor B held with him, Maintenance A sat down in the chair and said, “So, am I fired?” Supervisor B explained that he wasn’t firing anyone just because they worked at the township currently, or because they were friends with the previous Supervisor. Supervisor B had hired Maintenance A and B because they were his personal friends who he had known for a long time. Maintenance A worked full-time year-round. He was quite angry because Supervisor A had told him that it would be an easy job where he was managing other people. This was not true. It’s a small operation so the manager is the only one on in the winters to handle snowplowing and does much of the work during the summer as well.

The first winter did not go well. Maintenance A couldn’t cover the plowing and the Fire Chief often plowed during the night, who was already running extra shifts and calls to cover the fire department. Supervisor B talked with Maintenance A and said that they definitely needed a better solution for next year. In the spring Clerk A asked Supervisor B if he wanted to call Maintenance B back from being laid off for the winter. Supervisor B was astounded because they had just finished having a winter with not enough coverage for snowplowing and no one in the entire organization had mentioned that there was another maintenance person that was laid off.

These two had known each other growing up along with Supervisor A. Neither of them cared for Supervisor A any longer because of the way he had treated them at the township. Sometimes Maintenance A and B were getting along, sometimes they weren’t. Maintenance C was the son of Maintenance A. Supervisor B had noticed that Maintenance C was doing his homework in the firehouse on the wifi in the fall of 2020 because of the state mandated shutdowns and lockdowns. There were still leaves to do at that time so Supervisor B offered him a part-time role to also help at the township with his father and that worked well. He didn’t have a driver license and so couldn’t plow in the winter, but he did help with shoveling. Maintenance A didn’t like Maintenance B talking with Maintenance C. So the relationships were complex.

Supervisor B told Maintenance A to get any equipment that he would need for plowing heading into the second winter. The plowing areas were largely the fire department, township hall, and maintenance building that all shared a driveway and parking area, along with the transfer station and a bus crossing area, along with the cemeteries or parks if something arose and that was needed. Supervisor B also suggested that Maintenance C could once again help shovel, and that Maintenance B could be on call to fill in any necessary days and times. Supervisor B didn’t want the Fire Chief doing very much if any plowing, nor did Maintenance A who was upset about the Fire Chief hitting a pole with the plow truck in the first winter.

The normal daily occurrence was that Maintenance A would be upset about something and Supervisor B would spend 30 minutes in the morning calming him down before both of them moving on to do things. Supervisor B was exhausted by this, but also understood the frustrations of Maintenance A and wanted to improve things and get people to work together with the team that he had. Maintenance A threatened to quit many times and after almost a year Supervisor B told him that he either needed to quit or stop saying that.

Going into the second winter of 2021 to 2022 Supervisor B thought that the plowing would work out fine. At the first major snowfall Maintenance A did not come in at night to plow and the Fire Chief did. The fire department needs to be plowed more often than most places because if a few inches of snow are packed down in front of the fire doors it will harden, and when backing up the trucks with water in them will slide and potentially hit the edges of the doors which would be expensive for both the trucks and building. Supervisor B had a strong talk with Maintenance A that they had talked and planned for this and Supervisor B was told that everything was covered and taken care of and then it wasn’t. Maintenance A then told Supervisor B that because of his vision he didn’t like driving at night. This at least partially explained the problems. Supervisor B suggested that Maintenance B then be called in to plow during the nights.

In the second major snow of the year this was the plan. Supervisor B pulled in and parked in the morning. Maintenance A was plowing with Maintenance C shoveling. It seemed to be fine. As Supervisor B approached the truck Maintenance A opened the truck door, jumped out, gestured to the truck and said, “If you want to do it, do it.” Supervisor B had talked with him before about this type of thing several times. Supervisor B had a plan coming into office. Knowing that there would be a large learning curve and a lot to do he planned and did pour many hours into township work. He hoped this would last for six months, however it continued for much longer, with him at the township for sometimes 16 or 18 hours straight, working in the middle of the night, working every weekend. However, with his spinal deformities plowing wasn’t a good option with repetitive car impacts and continuous head turning. Thus, he had told Maintenance A that he was employed to do the job of snowplowing and it was his responsibility to get it done, and that it was Supervisor B’s responsibility to make sure that he understood and agreed to that, and was provided with what was necessary to accomplish that mission. Supervisor B had told Maintenance A that he wasn’t going to struggle through a second winter like the first winter. When this happened again in the early portion of that second winter Supervisor B wanted to fire him immediately, but decided to sleep on it.

The next day Supervisor B told Maintenance A that he needed to speak to him in the office. No one else was there because it was a weekend. Maintenance A brought Maintenance C to the office as well. It was obvious that Maintenance A was already angry as normal. Supervisor B told him that the plowing obviously wasn’t working out again and that he was being let go. Since Maintenance C didn’t have a driver license this would include him as well. Maintenance A yelled at Supervisor B, then went back to the maintenance building to grab his things. He came back to the office to drop off the keys and talked with Supervisor B. They got along well, Maintenance A had wanted to quit for a long time and felt that he had been lied to about what the job was in the beginning anyway, so that in the end this wasn’t a bad thing. They shook hands and hugged and Maintenance A and C left.

Supervisor B contacted Maintenance B to let him know and see if he could do the plowing, which he said he could. Supervisor B let Clerk A know what had happened. She was surprised because she wasn’t fully aware of the issues because it had previously been decided in discussion that the Supervisor would be the point person for maintenance. She thought it should have been discussed more, but hearing how things had gone agreed with the decision. Over the next couple of days Supervisor B talked with Maintenance B, Clerk A, and the Treasurer about Maintenance B taking over the maintenance manager position and that was agreed to. Supervisor B and Maintenance B talked about how Maintenance B would need to grow in some ways such as organization, thinking about the budget, and in the most important category of managing the small crew in the summer, along with taking care of plowing. Deputy Treasurer C wanted to pick up extra hours and had asked about plowing to do so. Supervisor B said that this was fine as long as it was limited. That year plowing went fairly decent, with Maintenance B and Deputy Treasurer C seeming to get along well.

In the spring of 2022 Maintenance D was hired to help with the spring, summer, and fall duties. Supervisor B wanted to hire another person or two but struggled with being able to get anyone. At this time the United States and Michigan were trying to recover and hopefully move away from paying people to stay home and not work, but it was still popular, along with inflation including wages. Maintenance E was hired and fit well because he was retired from a career in sales. Now he wanted to have a gig that was outdoors and that he could leave in the winter to travel in the southern states with his wife.

Then Maintenance F was hired, the husband of Deputy Treasurer C. As previously mentioned this resulted in both Maintenance B and D leaving while only E and F were employed in maintenance for a couple of months. After the investigation concluded both Maintenance B and D had jobs elsewhere. 

Out of the applicant pool for the Head of Maintenance and Grounds position a few people were selected for interviews with the executive committee. The committee agreed to make two full-time offers, one as the head and one as second. Another candidate was offered a seasonal position. The first selection decided to not take the job officially because he was uncertain about the physicality of the job, unofficially because he had previously worked with Deputy Treasurer C at another company and she had caused issues. The second selection was then recontacted by Supervisor B and offered the head position. It was emphasized that there are a lot of duties, that plowing in the winter is important and difficult because of the fluctuating hours and on-call status, and various other challenges that there would be with the job including managing a small crew. He was eager to take the job and take on the growth challenges as Maintenance G. Maintenance H was also hired for the rest of the 2022 season bringing the crew back up to four.

Maintenance H often made mistakes, was talking on his cell phone with his wife, and didn’t get much work done. He was talked to, but after a couple of months Maintenance G and Supervisor B decided that he should be fired. Maintenance G wanted to learn how to do that so they had the meeting together and Supervisor B fired Maintenance H. He was hired back as a second chance for a small minor job during the winter, which didn’t work and he was fired again and not hired back in the spring.

A couple of months after getting hired Maintenance G brought up being changed to salary. This was an idea that Supervisor B had previously thought about to solve the issue of being on-call and odd hours especially during the winter. This was approved by the board along with a raise in January 2023. The plowing went fairly well. Maintenance G did take a vacation that was covered by the snowplowing of the Fire Chief, another firefighter, and some shoveling of Supervisor B. During the winter Maintenance G did mention that it was good that Supervisor B emphasized during the interview process how inconvenient plowing could be.

Maintenance E had asked multiple times in 2022 if he could come back to work in 2023 and Supervisor B told him yes, so in the spring of 2023 he began again. Supervisor B and Maintenance G also wanted to hire two additional seasonal workers. The original idea was to stagger them on timing so that each was working less than 26 weeks and therefore couldn’t get unemployment at the end of the year. When Supervisor B checked with the township attorney the state law only allows that exemption for certain types of companies and municipalities are not included. Supervisor B and Maintenance G had both interviews and practical tests for the applicants, a key component being their ability to accept and adjust to coaching. Maintenance I came on board and started. Another was chosen and worked for a couple of weeks before quitting to take a different full-time position. Maintenance J had previously been contacted by Supervisor B to let him know that he did not get a position. Maintenance J stated to keep him in mind if a position did come up, so when the one employee left after a couple of weeks Maintenance J was called and given the position. Early in the season of 2023 Supervisor B was also contacted by the mother of a teenager who had been in a fight in school and had to do court ordered community service. Things went well with him doing a week with the maintenance crew.

Crossing Guard

When the author took office in late 2020 there was a crossing guard on a busy road. Oddly enough the crossing guard was employed by the township. Supervisor B found this odd and wanted to fix the situation. There were so many situations coming into office that many of them needed to be sorted out and this wasn’t an urgent priority. The crossing guard had some health issues and would sometimes miss. These times were covered by Maintenance A, Maintenance B, or Supervisor B. This increased in frequency until eventually the crossing guard decided that she needed to quit. Supervisor B had looked into it by that point and it turns out that at one time there was a state grant to pay for crossing guards, but it couldn’t go to schools, so townships ended up employing crossing guards to get the grants. Those grants had gone away years before. The township continued to employ the crossing guard and the school reimbursed the township. This made no sense to Supervisor B and he wanted to change it so that the school employed the crossing guard. This especially made sense because the school knew the school schedule and the township did not. Supervisor B assumed this would require approvals by both the township board and the school board. With the current crossing guard leaving Supervisor B talked with the school superintendent about it and they determined that it made no sense to have a crossing that no one used and that the road was dangerous enough that if someone needed to cross there then the bus routes should be adjusted so that wasn’t needed. The school superintendent didn’t think board approvals would be necessary in this case, so the position was discontinued by agreement between the Superintendent and Supervisor.

Building, Trades, Construction Board of Appeals

When the author took office in late 2020 there was a building inspector, an electrical inspector, an inspector that did both plumbing and mechanical inspections, and three people on the Construction Board of Appeals. Supervisor B didn’t want to change anyone. All three of the inspector contracts were expired. Supervisor B had these changed to be continuing instead of with an expiration date and approved by the township board at the 14 June 2021 meeting. (Dalton Township, 2021D) The pay was also later increased at the 11 July 2022 meeting. Later Clerk B requested that how the payment process works be changed and that was done in the 8 May 2023 meeting. The plumbing and mechanical inspector is slowly retiring and has stepped away from doing inspections at other municipalities. Supervisor B asked him and the others to at least stay through his term.

The Construction Board of Appeals has never met in Dalton Township. When their terms came up Supervisor B called them and asked if they would continue to stay on the board. All of them agreed and they were approved by the board. Their terms will expire after the author has left office in late 2024.


When the author took office in late 2020 the township had made a contract that year with county assessing and equalization that would last through the entire term of Supervisor B. The first assessor that he was working with didn’t have a lot of initiative, but Supervisor B just wanted it to run properly, it wasn’t an area of focus of his for change. Supervisor B did one basic certification in assessing to understand it better, but decided not to continue with others, he obtained three certifications in zoning because that was a greater area of concern. A little after a year the head of assessing for the county contacted Supervisor B and let him know that Assessor A was being moved to another city in the county and that Dalton would get an assessor currently working at a smaller municipality. The new assessor worked out better.

However, Assessor B didn’t like some of the management at the county and decided to leave to take a job auditing businesses with the state government. In September of 2023 Assessor C was brought into the township, who had been the original Deputy Treasurer when Supervisor B took office. She integrated quickly.

Wastewater Management Committee, Water Policy Board, Berry Junction Trail Commission

There are three boards that the Dalton Supervisor ends up on by default: Wastewater, Water Policy, and Berry Junction. Supervisor B was unaware of these and how they worked when coming into office. He immediately was invited to and attended the Water Policy and Berry Junction meetings. Officially there is a board vote to confirm him going to these meetings to represent the interests of his constituents. There is also an alternate established. Supervisor B was confused when coming into office with a Supervisor from a neighboring municipality and wasn’t invited to Wastewater meetings for a few months. Afterward he began attending.

The Water Policy Board included people from Dalton Township, Muskegon Charter Township, Fruitland Township, Laketon Township, and from Muskegon County. There had been major issues in the past including lawsuits between the municipalities. Supervisor B was not put on the subcommittee to redo the contract, but he emphasized that something should be done for disagreements to be settled in some other way than a lawsuit in the future. The lawyer for the board ended up quitting and another was hired. Progress on the contract was lacking.

An issue brought up by Muskegon Charter Township was the policy over mandatory connections. It was begun with the notion of reducing exemptions. Supervisor B and at least one county commissioner wanted to increase exemptions to give people the choice of connecting or not. They made a small win in this capacity. Supervisor B had been updating the township board and public at meetings about this. Eventually a policy was passed by the Water Policy Board. It then had to be passed by each municipality otherwise the only way to resolve a major issue is a lawsuit. Trustees B2, B3, and B4 didn’t want to pass anything that included anything being mandatory, even if it lessened the then current mandatory connection. Supervisor B made the case that they should take the small win and then he would try to push for more afterward.

In the final vote on the policy Trustee B2 accused Supervisor B in the meeting of having a conflict of interest by being on the Water Policy Board and the township Board of Trustees. This makes no sense because there has to be a representative from the township board on the Water Policy Board and anyone else could be accused of the same baseless conflict. Nevertheless Supervisor B said that Trustee B2 should then take his position on the board. The policy passed in a split decision. At the next meeting Supervisor B included as part of the agenda a vote to put Trustee B2 on the Water Policy Board. She backpedaled and said she didn’t want to be on it. Supervisor B asked if anyone else wanted to be on it and Clerk B wanted to and was approved by the board. (Dalton Township, 2023E) Clerk B didn’t pursue any changes in the mandatory connection policy that Supervisor B would have, so Trustee B2 stopped the changes that she had stated she wanted. Trustee B2 later apologized to Supervisor B for the accusation.

Muskegon Area District Library (MADL) Board

In his final meeting in office in November 2022 Supervisor A pushed for and was appointed to the MADL board. Supervisor B thought this was an odd appointment because the election had already taken place and Supervisor A knew that he would no longer be in office. Later Supervisor A resigned from the position. Supervisor B was never looking to collect a list of various boards, commissions, and committees that he was on. He has a library card, knows the local librarian, sometimes uses the local library, and had previously belonged to a writing group at the main library location. Still, he thought it might be better if someone else took the position. Other area township Supervisors were on the board and tried to convince him to join. He said he would if there wasn’t another good candidate. One candidate did apply that had previously worked at the local elementary and knew people associated with the library. The township board approved appointing him to the MADL board at the 12 April 2022 meeting. (Dalton Township, 2022F)

Cemetery Coordinator

When the author took office in late 2020 Deputy Treasurer A was also the Cemetery Coordinator. When she left to take a position with county assessing, Clerk A wanted and took over the role. When Clerk A left she offered to continue in the role and Supervisor B brought this to the board for a vote at the same time as her resignation on 23 May 2022. (Dalton Township, 2022I) Trustees B2, B3, and B4 were worried about Clerk A still having access to township information after she left office and objected to her continuing with the role, including contacting a county commissioner. These three trustees have stated that they are loyal to Republicans just because they are Republicans and don’t like Democrats just because they are Democrats, and it appears this is why they didn’t want her to continue with the role. Oddly enough the new Clerk coming into office who would be taking over cemetery was also a Democrat, so the objection made no sense. Alas, Treasurer D said that she would help with the cemetery with assistance from the Deputies while the new Clerk was being transitioned to.

Clerk B had done poorly at many things including the cemeteries. Multiple citizens ended up eventually contacting the Supervisor and asking for her to be removed from her position. After Deputy Treasurer D was hired she showed an interest in the history of the township and in the cemeteries. She took over the Cemetery Coordinator duties to try to fix some of the things that were outstanding from Clerk B that she just wouldn’t do even when asked. Shortly afterward this was officially acknowledged in a board vote at the 12 June 2023 meeting. (Dalton Township, 2023F) Things have gone significantly better since.

Board of Review (BoR)

When the author came into office in late 2022 there were three longstanding members of the Board of Review: BoR A, BoR B, and BoR C. Supervisor B emphasized that he didn’t want to change anyone and he wanted them all to stay at least through his term. They expressed that they weren’t enthusiastic about the positions but were staying because it’s important for the township to function and it’s difficult to find anyone else to take the positions. The Board of Review holds meetings a few times per year to review tax exemptions. BoR C had serious health issues. This continued to get worse, eventually leading to him resigning instead of renewing for another term. Both BoR A and BoR B were renewed for another term in the 12 December 2022 meeting. There were five candidates for the position at the 13 February 2023 meeting. Supervisor B thought this would work out well because he also wanted to add one alternate. One candidate was the former township Clerk, Clerk A. Trustee B2 didn’t like another candidate because she thought he was a Democrat. That candidate, who was also a Republican, didn’t like Trustee B2 because he thought she was a Democrat. He then didn’t show up to the meeting. At the meeting neither of these two candidates were motioned for approval and BoR C took the regular position with BoR D taking the alternate position. (Dalton Township, 2023E) BoR C is a resident of the Village of Lakewood Club that is within Dalton Township and his wife is the head of the Planning Commission in the Village. BoR D was a former maintenance employee before Supervisor B’s time in office who left on bad terms, but Trustee B2 motioned for him to take the alternate position because he had shown up to the meeting. The Board of Review has continued to function fairly smoothly. In September of 2023 BoR B had a conversation with Assessor C saying that she didn’t want to continue. Assessor C told Supervisor B this and he called BoR B to confirm. BoR B doesn’t like how divided and aggressive the society is and doesn’t want the hassle of being on the board anymore, and considers herself having served a long time and that it’s time for other people to take over, so her last meeting will most likely be in December of 2023.

Planning Commission (PC) and Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA)

One of the areas of focus that Supervisor B had for reforms in the township was zoning. These are local laws dealing with property use. He wanted slow and consistent change over his term toward regulations that would be less strict and allow for more business, farming, and housing. Associated with this he wanted a more explicit due process for enforcement. Since each change would take a large amount of agreement to go through the approval of the Planning Commission and then the Board of Trustees as part of the local legislative process, Supervisor B needed to make the direction clear that change was going to take place. Supervisor B didn’t want to take office and attempt to just ignore enforcement, and he didn’t want to destroy the system, he wanted to make reasonable changes through the legal process to change the laws to be better. He noticed that there were positions that would soon be completing their term on the PC and ZBA. He determined that he would not renew the people currently holding the positions and replace them with people more oriented toward libertarianism. He would also hold exit interviews with each member not being renewed for two reasons. One, to gather insight into the history, the people, and the workings of the organization and how they viewed the current set of zoning ordinances and what they thought should be changed. Two, if these exit interviews went well he would consider appointing them to an open spot when people either resigned or when their terms ended. There are technicalities and some small differences, but in general these positions are nominated by the Supervisor and then confirmed by a Board of Trustees vote.

Some transitions took place in the first meeting run by Supervisor B in December of 2020. (Dalton Township, 2020) PC A was a previous Trustee that was voted out of office. Supervisor B nominated Trustee B1 to take his place and become PC B. He is the owner of the farm that was sued by the township which had originally gotten the author involved with township politics. Supervisor B nominated Trustee B2 to take the place of ZBA A who was voted out of office and become ZBA B. He thought she might be somewhat of an independent thinker. PC E’s term was up on the PC so at this same meeting PC M was appointed to the position. Supervisor B called PC E to let her know that she would not be renewed on the Planning Commission and that he would like to meet with her to have an exit interview. She scolded him for letting her go saying that he wanted power and now he had it, and declined to meet. PC M had contacted Supervisor B while he was running for office. PC M had been in the US military and when he returned from the Middle East he thought he would get involved in politics because of the idea of protecting liberty from enemies foreign and domestic. What he saw is that it was a mess and corrupt and hadn’t voted since. He told the author that he would go on election day and probably just vote for him. The author responded that if he took office he would replace some people to help with changes and they might connect again. PC M was appointed to the Planning Commission for a normal three year term. There was also an already vacant alternate position on the ZBA that was filled by ZBA H, a local business owner and resident that had told Supervisor B that if he took office he would help if he could. ZBA H never showed up to be sworn into office.

In January of 2021 two more terms concluded on the Planning Commission. (Dalton Township, 2021K) The terms should have been staggered and weren’t well aligned before then. A few times over the next transitions Supervisor B worked to adjust the term length to stagger the terms with mixed success. PC C and PC F were replaced by PC I and PC J. Supervisor B had a good exit interview with PC C. The Supervisor asked if PC C would be interested in another position when one came up, but he declined saying that he would like some time away from politics as he had been on various boards in the township and the village and would like to do more hunting. Less than a year later there would be resignations on the village council and PC C would end up being the Village President. Supervisor B also had a good interview with PC F. She had recently had a major incident with a horse falling on top of her and was still working on recovering health and didn’t think she would be able to make meetings. Supervisor B had talked with PC I while running for office and he had expressed interest in being on the Planning Commission if Supervisor B won the election. PC I knew quite a bit about the history of the founding of the United States and Supervisor B liked that. PC J owned a bar in the township and lived in the neighboring township. One member of the Planning Commission can live outside of the township. He had a struggle with the township over various aspects of his bar including the name, which was why the sign ordinances in the township were so strict, something that Supervisor B worked to lessen over the next couple of years. Supervisor B thought local business owners would be organized and thoughtful enough to make useful changes on the commission. Supervisor B was naïve and idealistic in a number of ways.

In April of 2021 two transitions took place. (Dalton Township, 2021L) PC J wouldn’t show up to meetings and so agreed with Supervisor B with being replaced. PC K had applied and shown interest. Supervisor B had mentioned at meetings that he was taking applications for the PC, ZBA, and BoR boards at any time in case openings became available and kept applications on a shelf in the board room. PC K was a little rough in her communication and seemed to tell Supervisor B that he had to appoint her because she was a woman, at which point he said he wouldn’t because he disagrees with gender quotas. They talked it out with her making the case it was a miscommunication and that it would make sense to have her perspective on the board and she was appointed in the April meeting. This was to complete the resigned term, which was already shortened in working out the timing of positions, after that expired she was reappointed for a regular three year term in the role at the 13 December 2021 meeting. (Dalton Township, 2021M) The term for ZBA D was up. Supervisor B had a phone conversation with him and he stated that he didn’t want to continue. ZBA G was already an alternate on the ZBA and appointed to the open position.

PC I wasn’t able to make meetings and talked with Supervisor B about leaving the Planning Commission. PC L had been recommended by PC G. He was appointed at the 12 July 2021 meeting. This was to finish the short term that was left, after which he was renewed for a full three year term.

ZBA F hadn’t shown up to meetings for awhile because of personal issues. When he did show up he didn’t realize that the township was changing policies on things. He had a phone conversation with Supervisor B stating that Dalton Township should have the same policies and laws as the City of Muskegon, where he worked. Since Supervisor B disagreed with this ZBA F decided to resign. A member of the Board of Review, BoR C, was interested in any openings on the ZBA and was appointed ZBA K at the 13 December 2021 meeting although he already had health issues and would later resign in November of 2022 because of those issues. (Dalton Township, 2021M) It was something he had been interested in doing for awhile and wanted to complete it while he still could.

At the 14 November 2022 meeting a number of renewals were done for the Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals. (Dalton Township, 2022K) One person is on both the PC and the ZBA. Just like one Board of Trustee member being on the PC and one on the ZBA, this is set by state law to help generate communication between the boards. PC G / ZBA E was reappointed for both positions. PC D who was a member when Supervisor B took office was reappointed. He’s a local business person who Supervisor B believes has a good perspective and does well at studying the information packets and making informed comments and decisions. PC H was a member when Supervisor B took office. They had talked and PC H said that his life had gotten busier and he wasn’t able to make all of the Planning Commission meetings, with one regularly scheduled each month and a work session when the commission felt they needed it to talk through items, which added about another six sessions per year. He was interested in moving to the ZBA which meets as needed and therefore about one-third the number of times per year as the PC. With a resignation happening on the ZBA at the same time, PC H became ZBA I. A former firefighter was interested in a PC position and had considered running for Supervisor at one point before abandoning the idea because of the hassle involved was appointed as PC N. BoR A was also a member of the ZBA when Supervisor B took office. He holds a position as a county attorney. He was reappointed as ZBA C. 

Supervisor B wanted to add an alternate to the Zoning Board of Appeals. The two candidates for the Board of Review that Trustee B2 didn’t like were the two applicants. ZBA J was added as the alternate at the 13 March 2023 meeting. Over the next 14 months that Supervisor B has left in office he’s sure there will be some more changes on the PC and ZBA, although right now he’s comfortable if everyone were to hold their positions for the rest of his term and preferably longer to help hold in place the changes that have been made.



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