While Patterson Recovers, Who is Running Oakland County?
In the wake of L. Brooks Patterson's Aug. 10 accident, county officials discuss who is in charge while he recovers. Some commissioners say they feel like they are being kept in the dark; Patterson's representative says he's focusing on the 'big picture.'
While Oakland County executive L. Brooks Patterson is recovering from injuries sustained in a crash last month, his deputy is running the day-to-day show, Patterson's spokesman said Wednesday.
Gerald Poisson, chief deputy county executive is running day-to-day operations in Oakland County government, according to Bill Mullan, Patterson's media and communications officer, while the county executive recovers at a private location.
Patterson has not given a media interview or made a personal appearance since the auto accident in August.
He was not wearing a seatbelt and sustained injuries to his hip, leg, ankle, five ribs and both wrists in the Aug. 10 crash. His spokespeople have said he is rehabilitating in an undisclosed location after being hospitalized for several weeks.
By state law, Patterson has an order of succession declaring who performs the functions and duties of his office in times of an emergency, and that person is Poisson, Mullan said.
“While Gerry runs the day-to-day business of the county, Brooks is looking at the big picture,” Mullan said. That includes meeting with his staff once or twice a day from the location where he is recovering.
“He gets updates and lets us know what concerns him,” Mullan said. “Occasionally staff will speak to him on the phone.”
Mullan said Patterson is always looking at his iPad and is staying engaged in county government and politics.
While he stays connected with his staff, Mullan said, Patterson isn’t yet available for interviews or appearances. He did not attend Arts, Beats & Eats in Royal Oak, which Mullan described as his “legacy event.” Nor is he expected to attend the Brooksie Way race Sept. 30, but the communications officer said anything is possible.
“There is no way I can get inside Brooks’ head,” Mullan said. “You just never know, he always has a way of surprising us in a positive way.”
Others in county government, however, are not pleased with the relative silence from the executive’s office.
County Commissioner Jim Nash (D-15th District) said he has no idea what's happening with the county executive, and as an elected official, he believes he and the other commissioners should know.
"Everybody's wondering about it. I think we deserve an answer," Nash said. "He has basically disappeared ... I don't think he has a right to be totally private like that."
Nash said the county administration, now led by Poisson, "won't tell anyone anything." All Nash knows at this point is that Patterson is recovering at an undisclosed location. "I've known Brooks a long time, and he's never had a problem talking to the media," Nash said. "I think he has an obligation to the public to release what's going on."
Commissioner Craig Covey (D-25th District) agreed, and said he feels like the public isn’t getting the whole story about Patterson’s health and ability to manage the county’s affairs. "I think that there are folks that are in charge that are deliberately keeping the public out of the loop in terms of the true nature of his health and injuries," he said, noting that as more information comes out it seems Patterson's injuries are "a lot more extensive than originally reported."
"No one in the public has really seen or heard from Brooks much," he said. "A lot of us are very concerned, at least on the County Commission, that we're not sure who's running the county.
"I don't think that he is well enough to be giving orders or using his laptop," he said, noting that commissioners have received "no emails, no memos, nothing. The County Commission has gotten nothing. Nothing written down about his health or his state of ability to work.
"We're being kept in the dark just like the public is," Covey said.
County Commissioner Bill Dwyer (R-14th District), however, said all indications are that Patterson is progressing well. Dwyer believes he would have been told if there were any problems. "I just talked to Bill Mullan, and he said (Patterson) is really coming along well," he said.
Mullan said Patterson is "mentally tough and his rehabilitation is going very well."
“He is a very healthy man, who used to workout before he came to work. That is a credit to his recovery,” Mullan said. “However, whether you are 73 or 23, with the amount of injuries he’s had, it’s still going to be a road to recovery.”
As for when Oakland County voters will actually see or hear the county executive on the campaign trail, Mullan said he is unable to predict.
“I don’t know the answer,” he said. “I know he is running and plans to serve Oakland for another four more years, he has no stump speeches planned, but I can assure you he is engaged.”
In the meantime, Poisson is out of town on a family commitment and is not expected back until next week.