Feud revealed amid Kzoo Co. commission leadership shakeup

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

Left: Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners Chair Tracy Hall. Right: Commissioner and former Chair Julie Rogers. (Courtesy Kalamazoo County)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A letter sent after a change in leadership of the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners is being called a “smear campaign that has no basis in fact” by former Board Chair Julie Rogers.

Rogers stepped down as chair June 30, saying at a meeting she said was doing so to pass the baton. She was replaced at a board meeting Tuesday night by Vice Chair Tracy Hall. District 4 Commissioner Michael Seals was selected to takes Hall’s place as vice chair.

Then on Thursday, the newly elected chair and vice chair sent a letter to fellow commissioners, saying it was meant to “begin our tenure being as open and transparent as possible.” The letter detailed several occasions that Hall claims Rogers “created an unprofessional and difficult work environment for county government employees.”

The letter (PDF) claims Rogers:

  • Repeatedly tried to delegate tasks to staff and elected officials outside of her authority.
  • Manipulated information to garner control among the board and staff.
  • Repeatedly contacted staff which reports to the administrator.
  • Tried going around the sheriff to declare a state of emergency during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter goes on to say no formal complaints have been filed against Rogers but there “has been much time and energy devoted to dealing with issues related to her conduct.”

The letter then mentions a recent event where Rogers contacted many county government offices “during late hours while intoxicated.”

It says board members were first made aware of her conduct by a county official in February regarding her conduct at a National Association of Counties conference. A meeting was set on March 13 to ask her to resign as chair. The meeting appears not to have happened because that was the same day government buildings were ordered closed due to COVID-19.

The letter concludes saying, “This letter is no way meant to shame Julie. As her friends, we believe she needs help and have encouraged her to get it.”

In a statement sent to News 8, Rogers said, “The first duty of elected officials is to the truth. It is unfortunate that my fellow commissioners Tracy Hall, Mike Seals, and Stephanie Moore are engaging in a smear campaign that has no basis in fact.”

Rogers is running in the Democratic primary against District 1 Commissioner Stephanie Moore for the 60th District State House of Representatives seat held by John Hoadley. Hoadley is term limited in the House and is running to replace U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, in Michigan’s 6th Congressional District.

Several commissioners, including Moore, told News 8 Friday morning they were caught off guard by the letter from Hall and Moore. Multiple board members say they were unaware of Rogers being asked to resign in March.

“The timing of these smears should surprise no one,” Rogers’ statement continues. “With only one month to go until the primary, I am being targeted because I’ve run a highly successful campaign, with the help of my campaign manager Mariah Phelps. Because the Trumpian tactics of my opponent are not working, some who are willing to do anything to gain position have teamed up to attempt to derail my campaign with false allegations for which they produce no proof.

“As I said, the first duty of elected officials is to the truth. Hall, Seals, and Moore have failed this crucial test. Instead, they spread falsehoods in the heat of a campaign for personal and political goals.

“I hope the people of Kalamazoo will reject this transparent attempt to prevent my victory at the polls through the extraordinarily depraved and orchestrated campaign of deceit by Hall, Seals and Moore.”

On Friday, she had her attorney send Hall, Moore and Seals a letter insisting they publish a retraction of their letter within five days and telling them to “cease and desist from making further allegations” about Rogers under threat of a defamation lawsuit.

While Rogers has stepped down as chair of the board, she retains her seat as District 5 commissioner. She was first elected to the board in 2012.

“I left the position of county chair to allow others to take the reins as I focus on my campaign for state representative and the commission prepares for new members and new leadership in this difficult time.

“The fact that commissioners Moore, Hall and Seals now attack me publicly with false allegations is a product of their desire to insert themselves in a primary election for state representative in which Hall has already declared herself for my opponent, Stephanie Moore. The reason Stephanie Moore, my opponent, is involved should be obvious.

“Seals, however, endorsed me so I am at a loss for why he didn’t come to me directly if he had concerns. I can only conclude that he had his eye on the vice chair position in the county and was willing to go along with Hall’s negative smears in order to achieve this leadership goal.

“The timing of these smears should surprise no one. With only one month to go until the primary, I am being targeted because I’ve run a highly successful campaign, with the help of my campaign manager Mariah Phelps. Because the Trumpian tactics of my opponent are not working, some who are willing to do anything to gain position have teamed up to attempt to derail my campaign with false allegations for which they produce no proof.

“As I said, the first duty of elected officials is to the truth. Hall, Seals, and Moore have failed this crucial test. Instead, they spread falsehoods in the heat of a campaign for personal and political goals.

“I hope the people of Kalamazoo will reject this transparent attempt to prevent my victory at the polls through the extraordinarily depraved and orchestrated campaign of deceit by Hall, Seals and Moore.”

Julie Rogers

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