Commission missed mark in replacing Cambensy on panel

While voters made their selection in the Nov. 7 election, and some people further stated their support for a particular candidate in the weeks following, the Marquette City Commission bypassed that directive by appointing a different person to the vacancy created by the departure of Sara Cambensy.

This appointment by the commission was not handled correctly, and the seat should have gone to Tony Ghiringhelli, who was among Marquette voters’ preferred candidates.

After reviewing nine applications and hearing directly from the candidates, the commission at its meeting last week chose Marquette Area Public Schools Human Resources Manager Jennifer “Jenna” Smith to replace Cambensy, who was elected to represent the 109th District in the Michigan House.

Smith may do a fine job on the commission, and this editorial isn’t meant to undermine or criticize her character in any way.

However, it appears that the commission, rather than listen to voters and the people who spoke up at meetings in support of Ghiringhelli, decided to make a selection for its own reasons, whatever those may be.

Before we all saw the results of the Nov. 7 election and knew of Cambensy’s call to the state House, Ghiringhelli campaigned for a seat on the commission against now Mayor Tom Baldini and Commissioners Fred Stonehouse and Peter Frazier.

Ghiringhelli didn’t make the cut in November for the three open seats, but he did receive the fourth most votes, which for many of us appears to be the best reason for why he should have been appointed to the open position. The people of Marquette cast their support behind him, just like they did for all of the other seated commissioners. That should be clear enough, but apparently it wasn’t for commissioners.

Instead of appointing Ghiringhelli, the commission decided to seek applications from the general public. We believe that would be the appropriate move if a commissioner resigned from her or his post just about any other time of the year. But at the time, the election results were still fresh and it seemed commissioners had the logical conclusion at their fingertips in the appointment of Ghiringhelli.

However, they decided against Ghiringhelli’s appointment for what one might believe to be personal agendas, or simply because commissioners have the authority to do so.

Certainly, you can argue that people might have voted differently on Nov. 7 if they knew the outcome of Cambensy’s move to the House was certain, and another seat on the commission would open up.

If voters knew the outcome of the election beforehand, they might have cast ballots in an entirely different fashion, and the top three vote-getters — Baldini, Stonehouse and Frazier — may not have won. And if Smith would have run for the position like Ghiringhelli or Jermey Ottaway, who also threw his name into the appointment process, we might be having yet another completely different discussion.

There are a lot of “what-ifs” and “could have beens,” but the situation we find ourselves in is the only one that matters.

As we see it, the commission circumvented the public democratic process by failing to appoint the person who wanted the seat from the get-go, campaigned for it throughout the primary and general elections, and earned the support of a sizable portion of voters.