Commissioner absence leads to discussion
MANISTIQUE –A Schoolcraft County commissioner addressed rumors regarding her medical leave and per diem pay during a recent meeting of the board. The commissioner, who had not yet returned to serve on the board, made the comments during the public comment period, sparking dialogue from other audience members.
Sue Cameron, representative for District 2, was elected in November, beating out Republican candidate Rudy Lawrence. She had been absent from meetings since April 16.
During Thursday’s meeting, Cameron noted she had been on medical leave for the past two months. While out of both work and her duties as commissioner, she explained she had been notified that a commissioner had made inappropriate comments about her during committee meetings.
“I don’t think that it was a very wise thing for somebody to be saying that, ‘Well, it must be a woman thing’,” she said. “I was very appalled when I heard that.”
Cameron said she also heard about complaints that she was still being paid per diems for meetings she was not attending.
“If that were the case, I would like to see where the money is because I have not received money that I’m not entitled to,” she said.
Cameron noted she wanted to “set the record straight” about her absence and the fact that she had never received per diems for any meeting she didn’t attend. She explained her medical needs should remain private, and that each of her absences from the board were excused.
“During my absence I have spoken with Commissioner (Al) Grimm and he was aware of the things that I had to do,” she said. “No where does it say that I need to tell anybody or explain anything to anybody as to my medical problem.”
Paul Walker, chairperson of the Schoolcraft County Republican Party, addressed the board following Cameron’s comments.
“If medical evidence supports that she (Cameron) can no longer attend (meetings), I would, hopefully, after two months of absence – I believe that District 2 deserves representation,” Paul Walker said. “I would hope that Commissioner Cameron would step down and allow the board to appoint someone to represent, adequately represent, District 2.”
Cameron assured the board that she did not foresee her medical problems and would have no problem filling her position.
“I did not miss any meetings prior to my having to go out on medical leave,” she said. “Nor do I plan on missing any meetings when I come back, because I do have the ability to put my schedule around all of our meetings.”
Devin Lawrence, a resident, also took part in the discussion, noting the board was partially to blame for not clarifying Cameron’s absence.
“You guys (the board) not addressing the issue, has caused some of the grumblings that you hear on the street,” he said. “I have not heard the per diem thing, but there is a salary associated with the position that is paid whether you’re here or not, and it is a duty to be here.”
Dixie Anderson, chairperson of the Schoolcraft County Democrat Party, defended Cameron’s absence and condemned the alleged inappropriate commissioner comments.
“I think that Mrs. Cameron had done an excellent job prior to her illness, nobody can foresee this, this happens to a lot of people,” she said. “She has indicated and she has assured us that she is going to be able to return to work, so to be sitting around like wolves at the door may be a little bit inappropriate.”
She said Cameron kept in contact with the board and that, if she thought she was going to be gone long term, the board would have taken action.
“It does not bode well for the county board when a commissioner is going around making those statements about another commissioner,” she said. “It doesn’t look like we’re all pulling together to make the county look like a better place.”
Following public comment, Grimm noted he would check to see whether Cameron ever received per diems she was not entitled to.