Meier’s Attacks on a Planning and Zoning
Commissioner Evidence a Dangerous Escalation
By: Susan M. Halpern
(Addison Councilmember 1992-1999)
Todd Meier recent attacks against a member of Addison’s Planning & Zoning Commission are unprecedented, and evidence a dangerous escalation of tactics by this brazen politician.
Meier has inappropriately politicized P&Z during his unfortunate tenure, including by trying to control how it votes. It started when Meier and his cadre rejected the longstanding practice of allowing each council member to appoint a P&Z commissioner of their choosing. First, Meier took the previously open appointment process and moved it into secretive executive sessions, away from the public eye. This allowed Meier and his cadre to reject proposed appointments who Meier perceived would not “fall in line.” Meier then filled P&Z with individuals who he perceived would obey his wishes.
When Meier lost control of the council as a result of the election of Councilmembers Duffy, Walden and Angell in May 2016, the council started taking the appointment process back. That didn’t sit well with Meier, who did what he always does when anyone disagrees: he attacked the new councilmembers, never explaining the history or the problems inherent with his power grab and effort to control P&Z.
With that background, we now consider Meier’s recent conduct towards P&Z Commissioner Stacey Griggs. Here’s what happened. Addison’s Planning and Zoning Commission considered the AMLI development in January 2017. Prior to the P&Z meeting, Griggs met with Addison’s attorney, Brenda McDonald, as well as Addison staff member Charles Goff. The subject was whether Griggs’ employment with Post Properties presented any issues regarding her participation in consideration of the AMLI matter. McDonald concluded that Griggs had no conflict and therefore was free to participate in P&Z’s consideration of the matter.
So, Griggs participated in the January P&Z meeting. And, as it turned out, Griggs was one of four votes in favor of the AMLI development.
Within days of the P&Z meeting, Meier supporters penned a letter accusing Griggs of having a conflict. The letter contained misstatements and false information, including with respect to Griggs’ duties at Post Properties. After receiving the letter by email, Meier forwarded the letter to Griggs’ employer. Meier failed to disclose the meeting Griggs had participated in with Addison’s attorney, or the fact that the attorney had cleared Griggs to participate in P&Z’s consideration of the matter.
Make no mistake about this: Meier had no legitimate reason for sending the letter to Griggs’ employer. Oh sure, he claimed in his email that he didn’t want Griggs’ employer to be “blindsided.” But tell me what that would have looked like? Where and how would Griggs’ employer have been “blindsided?”
That question can’t be answered, because the suggestion is nonsense. Meier’s clear intent was to cause harm to Griggs by suggesting to her employer that Griggs’ conduct had been inappropriate. And, to thereby send a message of retribution to Griggs. In other words, this was Meier punishing Griggs because she refused to bend to Meier’s imperialistic will. And the truth is, we’ve seen this same tactic from Meier again and again. If you don’t agree with Meier you are punished. It is selfish, inappropriate and unprofessional, but Meier doesn’t care. Nor is it of any concern to him that his tactics have caused deep harm to Addison.
A week after his efforts to interfere with Griggs’ employment, Meier continued his attacks on Griggs at the council’s February 14, 2017 meeting. During the council’s consideration of the AMLI development, Meier interrogated the AMLI representatives and attacked them for having contacted P&Z commissioners prior to the January meeting. Meier focused on Griggs in particular, despite efforts by the AMLI representatives to indicate that they had contacted ALL P&Z commissioners and councilmembers. And, that they had done so at the suggestion of, and with the encouragement of Addison’s staff.
Meier’s conduct at the February 14, 2017 meeting was unprofessional and utterly disgraceful. If you haven’t watched it, you should. But you should also be upset and concerned about his attacks on a P&Z commissioner because of the way she voted. That is dangerous precedent and decidedly anti-democratic.
During the public comment section of the council’s March 28, 2017 meeting, Griggs’ husband and fellow Addison resident Phil Griggs spoke about Meier’s intimidation tactics. Griggs’ statement was forceful and articulate, and it is important for all Addison residents to review and consider. Griggs talked not only about Meier’s attacks on his wife, but also about Meier’s attacks on mayoral candidate Joe Chow and the Addison Midday Rotary.
Wherever your politics may take you, Meier’s conduct and intimidation tactics have to be of deep concern. The attacks on citizens who have stood up to Meier are anti-democratic. And, the efforts by a sitting mayor to compromise the independence of a P&Z commissioner are particularly inappropriate and contrary to Addison’s Charter. It is time for Addison’s residents to reject such tactics.
Our Town is at a dangerous tipping point. While it will be difficult to recover from the harm Meier has caused during his six-year reign, we have a chance to do so by electing a council that will deliberate in good faith, putting their own egos aside in favor of what is best for Addison. 2017 could bring us a new day in Addison.
I urge that we must seize this opportunity to return to the Addison Way.