Commissioner alleges payback, conflicts in committee changes

County Commissioner Marlene Webster, R-District 1, speaks Tuesday about losing her positions on committees, and a Shiawassee County Board. In back are Shiawassee County Sheriff Brian BeGole, left, and Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Jeff Weiss.

CORUNNA — Commissioner Marlene Webster, R-District 1, Tuesday alleged she was removed from the Economic and Physical Development Committee, Community Corrections Advisory Board, and demoted from chairwoman of the Public Safety and Courts Committee in retaliation for voting against Commissioner Jeremy Root, R-District 5, for board chairman.

Webster was replaced earlier this month by Commissioner Dan McMaster, R-District 2, as chairman of the Public Safety and Courts Committee. She also was removed as the board’s representative to the Community Corrections Advisory Board and Economic and Physical Development Committee, by Commissioner John Plowman, R-District 7.

“I have serious concerns about (Root’s) leadership. I knew there would be retaliation when I voted no, and I wasn’t surprised,” Webster said.

She and Root met privately about the changes Monday.

During the meeting, Webster claims, Root told her the reason she is not leading the Community Corrections Advisory Board is because she was not reappointed as chairwoman of the Public Safety and Courts Committee.

Webster said she asked Root why she wasn’t reappointed as chairwoman. He allegedly told her it was because the “sheriff did not support me being the chair of the Public Safety and Courts Committee because allegedly I have said disparaging comments about the sheriff.”

Webster claims when she confronted Root about not being reappointed to the Economic and Physical Development Committee, he admitted it was because she voted against him for board chairman.

Tuesday, Root said he would not discuss the private conversation he had with Webster.

Webster said the thing that disappoints her most was being removed from the Community Corrections Advisory Board. The board is comprised of different community members seeking ways to reduce recidivism and to help people avoid jail.

“Last year chairman Root asked me to take leadership of the Community Corrections Advisory Board. It had not been in existence since 2016. I have had a number of meetings with the Michigan Department of Corrections, with judges and with the people who serve on the Community Corrections Advisory Board and, frankly, I was very surprised and quite dismayed to be removed from this board,” Webster said.

She said she believes the reason the sheriff doesn’t want her as chairwoman of the Public Safety and Courts Committee is because she didn’t support the 2019 jail millage.

Root responded by saying McMaster was more qualified to lead the committee.

“(Webster) was moved off of this because Commissioner McMaster was put on public safety and courts. The chairman has the discretion to put anyone they so feel on any committee at any time. Commissioner McMaster has the knowledge and the working relationship with the sheriff and the courts. You, Commissioner Webster, seem to only have the working relationship and knowledge of the courts,” he said.

The sheriff did not comment about the allegations.

Webster also claimed there could be a conflict of interest with McMaster serving on the Community Corrections Advisory Board and as chairman of the Public Safety and Courts Committee because he previously was involved with BeGole’s campaign in 2016 and is involved with his reelection bid.

“He is the sheriff’s campaign manager. I think that raises questions about whether or not this could be a feather in the sheriff’s cap,” Webster said. “He could very easily make it look like the sheriff is the champion of the ideas coming out of the Community Corrections Advisory Board.”

McMaster said the sheriff was a client in 2016, but said he also worked on other campaigns.

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