Pontiac — The Oakland County Republican Party says Oakland County Board of Commission Chairman David Woodward has adopted policies more befitting a dictator than the head of an elected body.
According to Commissioner Mike Gingell, R-Lake Orion, the head of the board’s Republican caucus, “Dictator Dave Woodward” has enacted a “gag order” that bars press releases from being issued that mention the board’s Democratic majority or that mention a Democratic commissioner’s name without prior consent.
Gingell sent out a release last week — without any use of Board staff — criticizing a resolution introduced by Commissioner Penny Luebs, D-Clawson, to approve language for a November ballot proposal that would raise the Oakland County Parks and Recreation millage rate by 50%.
Gingell said Woodward, D-Royal Oak, has also limited GOP input at meetings and that Democrats have stacked votes in their favor on nearly all board operating committees despite having only a one-seat majority on the board, 11-10. The appointments are made by Woodward and approved by the board.
“Since taking control of the Board in 2019, Woodward has become more and more militant with no regard for the opinions of other Commissioners, not to mention members of the public,” Gingell wrote in Monday’s release, which was issued on board letterhead, with his name in the upper right-hand corner. “He limits Commissioner’s comments at meetings and interrupts Commissioners as they are sharing their point of view on an item. He changes the Board’s meeting schedule with little notice to the entire Board of Commissioners or the public …
“It is unfortunate that the Oakland County Board of Commissioners has become so partisan under Chairman Woodward’s leadership,” Gingell wrote. “He has no regard for the fact that all Commissioners are elected to represent their districts and to bring a balance to the governing process. I did not know that dictatorships existed in Oakland County but apparently we have one in Dictator Dave Woodward.”
Woodward discounted Gingell’s claims as “exaggerated and inaccurate.”
“I’m shocked that a commissioner who has the worst attendance record this term has an opinion on this — and he is wrong,” said Woodward, adding that many of the votes Gingell takes exception with were bipartisan roll calls involving Republicans and Democrats.
“His rant enforces that Gingell is struggling to deal with the reality that there has been a Democratic majority and he has been unable to accept that reality,” Woodward said. “Every commissioner is allowed to speak twice to every motion, that’s according to rules the board has always enforced.
“I am not going to permit someone to use the county board and its resources to engage in partisan politics or attacking other commissioners,” he said. “It’s not going to happen. If you want to do that, go ahead. But you are going to have to do it on your own dime.”
In the election of November 2018, Oakland County voters flipped the makeup of the board, giving Democrats a majority for the first time since the 1970s.
Woodward instituted the new policies after Gingell sent out several press releases criticizing politics on the board, including one in April about a “stacking” of committees with a super majority of Democrats.
“We put a majority of members on committees for years but maybe one or two — not several,” Gingell said in an interview Monday. “Most of the committees are 2-1 Democratic makeup now.”
Woodward insists that some of the committee makeups are identical to what they were before this year.
“Despite allegations of a dictatorship, this board unanimously passed a budget last summer and almost always passes bipartisan policy,” said Woodward. “Let the record speak for itself that this board continues to work together.”
Gingell said while all 21 board seats are up for elections this November, he expects it to be a “tight” race and anyone’s guess if the GOP will retake the majority. He said Democrats on the board “want to have it their way but don’t want to be held accountable.”
Also up for election is county Executive David Coulter, who defeated Treasurer Andy Meisner in this month’s Democratic primary. Coulter, who was appointed a year ago to replace the late GOP Executive L. Brooks Patterson, will face former GOP state lawmaker Mike Kowall in November.
Gingell noted in recent years, traditionally Republican Oakland County voters have trended more Democratic, including in the elections of county prosecutor, treasurer, water resource commissioner – all currently Democrats.