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Cureton lashes out at Chairman Ziliak

Published 10:11am Monday, February 22, 2010

Dowagiac Daily News

CASSOPOLIS – In a tone uncharacteristic of one colleague to another, “insulted” former Dowagiac commissioner John Cureton ripped new Chairman Robert Ziliak Thursday night for playing “petty board politics” for the sake of “payback for support as chairman.”

Cureton, who lost the 2008 Republican primary to Ron Matthews, who, in turn, was defeated by Democrat E. Clark Cobb, expressed sympathy to the commission “that it may now be run by the lofty standard of Milton Township politics,” where Ziliak served as township clerk for eight years.

Just as uncharacteristically, Ziliak responded to Cureton’s comments during the meeting – but that wasn’t the end of the matter.

“I had to read it in the newspaper that at your Feb. 4 meeting you ousted me from an organization on which I had served faithfully for five years,” Cureton read from a prepared statement. “The body in question is the Area Agency on Aging, which serves three counties and meets in St. Joseph.”

Cureton referred to a letter “saying my appointment would run through Dec. 31 of this year.”

“Upon (inquiring) why my term had been cut short,” he said, “I found that it was entirely at the whim of your new board chairman. I do not recall that during my four years on this board we ever ‘fired’ anyone in midterm while they were doing their job well.

“I will paraphrase your chairman’s explanation of my termination as being ‘he did it because he could,’ ” Cureton stated. “There is an old adage that the poorest reason for doing anything is because you can. I am aware that it was done for the sake of petty board politics, a payback for support as chairman. It was not a gracious thing to do and he wasted no time in doing it.

“And what about the rest of you?” Cureton inquired.

“Do you think cutting me off in mid-term was the ethical thing to do? I guess the answer to that is that he put one over on you.
“Although you may not care the proverbial ‘fig’ about my feelings, I am insulted by this action,” Cureton said.

“Even so, I express sympathy to the commission that it may now be run by the lofty standard of Milton Township politics. I read that your Appointments Committee chairman is seeking people for memberships on some 25-plus boards and committees. Applicants beware!” Cureton exclaimed.

Ziliak responded, “It is the responsibility of the chair to make the commissioners’ committee appointments. You asked the previous chairman if you could continue on the Area Agency on Aging even though you lost the election and was no longer a county commissioner. The previous chair let you stay on this committee since there was only one other commissioner who had expressed an interest to serve on this committee, which includes two commissioners.

“This year, there were two commissioners who expressed an interest in serving on this committee and I appointed them (returning Johnie Rodebush, D-Howard Township, and, to replace Cureton, David Taylor, D-Edwardsburg). As a side note, I also had to appoint commissioners to other committees this year where no commissioner expressed desire to be on these committees. That was my responsibility as chair and I did it.”

That said, Ziliak announced the household hazardous waste dump day would take place the third Saturday, May 15, at the Cass County Fairground in Cassopolis from 9 a.m. to noon.

“Did you take over my job as head of hazardous waste?” objected Commissioner Carl Higley Sr., R-Edwardsburg. “I just wondered because I’ve always done it.”

“I can understand what happened with John Cureton,” Rodebush said. “It happened to me last year.
“It doesn’t look good to get kicked off halfway through your term when (Vice Chairman) Francis is asking people to submit applications.”

“While we’re on this subject,” Commissioner Robert Wagel, R-Wayne Township, who lost the chairmanship to Ziliak in January after six years, offered, “Mr. Cureton’s situation was voted on by the board. I don’t know how the chair can usurp the board’s authority in this particular situation. My other comment was that my term of duty for Michigan Works! was supposed to be two years and I was removed from that. Dave Taylor and I had been serving on that and it was supposed to be for two years. In fact, I chaired the committee for elected officials. There’s kind of an order to that rotated in the tri-county. That has been arranged so Cass County would have the chair, so that did create some havoc. I’ve had several calls on it because it really kind of upset the apple cart.”

“I didn’t want to make that change,” Ziliak said. “The only reason why I made it was it was my understanding that the chair of the board was supposed to be on this board.”
“No,” Wagel said. “It can be any commissioner on our board. You’re under a false assumption. I think it should be changed just for the order of the whole Michigan Works! LEOB (Local Elected Officials Board). At this point we’re really disconnected.”

“I’ve had two calls from two different commissioners on that board, asking me to find out why (Wagel) was taken off, with him being president,” Higley said.

“I’ll be happy to relinquish those duties back to Commissioner Wagel,” Ziliak said.

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