Politics | State Politics

Granholm's unlucky appointments

AP photo

AP photo

How much responsibility does a governor bear for his appointments? At least some.

Gov. Rick Snyder has rightly taken some heat because his appointee as Detroit Emergency Manager, Kevyn Orr, had some unpaid property tax bills. They were discovered by a routine web search by an alert Detroit News reporter. The unpaid bills don’t disqualify Orr, but the vetting job by the governor’s staff was sloppy.

The situation is similar to the discovery during the confirmation process that Barack Obama’s nominee to be treasury secretary for his first term, Tim Geithner, had unpaid Social Security and Medicare taxes. Perhaps a mitigating factor in both the Orr and Geithner appointments is that both were at the top of their fields — Orr as a financial workout attorney and Geithner as a key official of the IMF and head of the New York Federal Reserve.

In both cases, quick checks by executive staffers would have anticipated these problems.

I mentioned last week that Arthur Blackwell II will be sentenced later this month for misappropriating $264,000 in public funds while EM of Highland Park. He entered a plea of no contest to a misdemeanor charge recently. He was named to the post by Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

She should have known better.

The News editorialized at the time of the appointment that Granholm was asking for trouble. Blackwell had a history of abusing expense accounts and other public resources in his various assignments for local government. When he ran for mayor in the early 1990s, The News called him a “nickel-grasping bottom-feeder.” He continues to justify the description.

Two other Granholm appointees — this time to the Wayne Circuit bench — are currently in trouble with the state Judicial Tenure Commission.

Judge Deborah Ross Adams has been charged by the Tenure Commission with a violation for forging her attorney’s signature and making false statements under oath in connection with her divorce. The case is pending before the Supreme Court. Adams’ attorney says it was all a misunderstanding. Adams was named to the bench by Granholm in 2006.

Perhaps worse is an alleged violation by Judge Wade Harper McCree. The Tenure Commission charges him with handling the child-support case of a man while he was having a sexual affair with the mother whose children were owed the support. He has admitted the sexual relationship, but contends it did not begin until after the child support case was already handled. The case is pending before the Supreme Court.

Even if what McCree says is true — and part of the Tenure Commission charges are that he has made misleading statements about the situation –his actions are far more unseemly than sending a shirtless photo of himself to a court employee. That escapade got him a public reprimand from the Supreme Court. This may get him removed from the bench.

How much blame should accrue to Granholm for these appointments? More for Blackwell than the two judges, whose alleged misdeeds took place several years after she named them to the bench.

The political process itself can produce a fair share of duds. The voters twice placed twice-convicted Kwame Kilpatrick in office. A Democratic-nominating convention put Diane Hathway on the ballot and voters put her on the state Supreme Court before she resigned from the high court in the face of federal bank fraud charges.

Maybe Granholm was just really unlucky in some of her appointments — a pattern we’ve noticed with some local Democratic officeholders such as, say, Bob Ficano. But that’s another story.

Jeff Hadden
Jeffrey Hadden is the former deputy editorial page editor of The Detroit News. A 40-year veteran of The News, Hadden covered the FBI, the auto industry, and the courts in addition to his time on the editorial page. He writes frequently on judicial issues as well as on politics and public policy. He was a columnist for The Michigan View, and has received editorial and column writing awards from the Michigan Associated Press, Michigan UPI, Detroit Press Club Foundation, and the National Press Club and Bicentennial Commission on the U.S. Constitution.