Richard Baird is the kind of guy you only hear about when he makes a mistake. That’s because he likes to operate behind the scenes, pulling strings, manipulating people, and using his power to get his way. Whether it’s secret meetings to bring back school vouchers with Gov. Snyder’s “Skunk Works” project, potentially illegal lobbying while working in the state government, or pulling strings to benefit the Governor’s relatives and donors, Richard Baird works in the shadows. He even made a tour of state government offices to put the fear of Snyder into the hearts and souls of state employees to ensure that they all were “team players”. When it was revealed that Baird, who shared office space with the Governor and even had the same phone number was being paid by a secretive slush fund with mystery donors, Gov. Snyder simply added him to the state government payroll.
He’s one tough guy, eh? He gets things done for his boss and stays out of the limelight.
As it turns out, he’s actually not so tough. In fact, he has an easily-bruised ego. When the Michigan Democratic Party revealed that he was getting homestead tax breaks in two different states, political leaders around the state called BS on it and called Baird out for his unethical behavior. Baird’s response? Threatening to sue them:
Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said the initial comment from Snyder was made while “we were still trying to track down what had happened,” but “the inadvertent error is that Rich didn’t doublecheck his tax bills — some of which showed in very fine print the [personal residence exemption] and some that did not.”
In recent days, Baird sent an e-mail and a voice mail message saying he was considering suing Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, and Michigan AFL-CIO President Karla Swift for publicly criticizing him over the tax issue and questioning his integrity.
You can read one of the emails HERE. The Michigan Democratic Party characterize Baird’s threats as bullying and called for Gov. Snyder to fire him:
Baird’s threat is nothing but a blatant and outrageous attempt by the Snyder administration to bully Leader Whitmer into silence about the pattern of cronyism and questionable activities by top Snyder officials, including Richard Baird who is Gov. Rick Snyder’s closest advisor. Leader Whitmer not only has the right but the responsibility to hold Gov. Snyder accountable for his actions and those of his most senior advisors. By using state resources to threaten one of Michigan’s top elected officials, Richard Baird once again shows that he and other top advisors to Gov. Snyder believe they are not subject to the same standards of conduct and behavior as everyone else. They believe they play by a different set of rules than the rest of us. Whether it’s not paying taxes you owe, using public funds to support a high-flying lifestyle, giving 90 percent raises to your former campaign staff or a $41 million state furniture contract to your cousin, Gov. Snyder believes people like him are entitled to play by their own set of rules. Richard Baird apparently believes that he can use official State of Michigan communications to convey personal threats to elected officials.
Instead of constantly changing his story about why he failed to pay property taxes he owed in Michigan, Mr. Baird should stop blaming others and issuing outrageous and inappropriate threats, and instead come clean and publicly disclose his 2011, 2012 and 2013 federal and state income tax returns along with all property tax notices he received since he purchased his home in Bath, Michigan in 2011. Mr. Baird, a former senior executive with the national accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, claims he benefited by mistake in not paying all the Michigan property taxes he owed until he was compelled by public disclosure to write a check for nearly $17,000, for Michigan property taxes he owed for the past three years. Gov. Snyder should direct Richard Baird to release his federal and state income tax returns and property tax notices, and then fire him.
Bullying or not, it seems to me that if tough guy Richard Baird can’t handle the political heat, he ought to stay out of the political kitchen. This ain’t ping pong, fella. It’s gets a little rough and tumble in the political world and when you spend as much time doing sneaky, questionable stuff as you do, expect to get smacked once in awhile.
Get a grip, pal.
UPDATE: Gongwer News Service reports that Richard Baird actually called Karla Swift to threaten her. You can listen to the call HERE.
Here’s the transcript:
This is Rich Baird. I didn’t figure you would pick up on this call. It would take courage to talk to me face to face. Number one, you better be careful. I may be suing you. It turns out that I did not sign an affidavit requesting a personal property residential exemption. My title company did not sign an affidavit indicating same. In fact, I have an apology from the Bath Township assessor saying they failed to act on the rescission of the PRE filed by the prior owners and I never requested the exemption. I am sick and tired of you people and your unbased attacks. You should be ashamed of yourself. And you have other facts in your so-called op-ed that are incorrect. So I’m not one to get down into the mud with you people, but I’ve about had it, so let’s just see where this goes when we start dealing with facts, Karla, instead of personal attacks, character assassinations and innuendo. That’s not how this world should operate. You know better.
Like I said: tough guy.