Saginaw County Controller Robert Belleman was terminated Tuesday by the county Board of Commissioners after a series of allegations that he mistreated county employees.
The vote was called in a motion by Commissioner Jack Tany following the allegations and claims of how Belleman failed to enforce standards in certain county agencies. According to Tany, the action was brought about after a meeting with the county’s IT Director Josh Brown, who was allegedly targeted by Belleman with disciplinary actions including unpaid suspensions and termination hearings.
“One of our jobs as commissioners is the health and welfare of our employees,” said Tany. “I sat down with Josh Brown about a week and a half ago… The way he has been treated as an employee just boggles my mind.”
Other county department heads, including County Clerk Vanessa Guerra and Register of Deeds Katie Kelly, spoke about a toxic work environment and being threatened with lawsuits and other actions by Belleman. Former employees with Saginaw County Animal Care and Control, as well as some who worked with the County Medical Examiner, spoke about issues including wrongful termination and failures within those agencies that report to the Controller.
Other Commissioners, including Dennis Krafft, said terminating Belleman’s employment immediately would be a failure on the part of the board.
“I think we need to take our time as we go through the process now of figuring out what direction we go,” said Krafft. “It may lead to Belleman’s termination.”
Saginaw Mayor Brenda Moore and Saginaw City Manager Tim Morales also spoke in favor of Belleman, citing the cooperation and collaboration between the city and county.
After a vote initially failed by one, Chairman Christopher Boyd presented a motion to start a third-party investigation into the allegations from Brown, as well as many other current and former employees who spoke during the meeting. The motion was approved with two dissenting votes, and Belleman was placed on paid administrative leave.
However, following a brief recess, Commissioner Lisa Coney changed her vote, providing the two-thirds majority necessary to remove Belleman from the position. Coney did not disclose a reason for her change of heart.
Commissioners will be working with the Controller’s staff to ensure county operations continue as smoothly as possible. The investigation will be handled by an out-of-county attorney to avoid what commissioners call “appearances of impropriety.”