Monthly Archives: September 2013

Abuse of Power and a Misappropriation of funds?

At the August 13, 2013 Oakland Township Board meeting, Trustee Keyes asked who authorized the expenditures for the Marshview Connector Parking lot work.  She discovered that neither the Parks Commission nor the Trails and Safety Paths Committee asked for, or authorized, the clearing of brush and preliminary design work on this project.  However, someone had requested the work and directed that the cost for the work be shared between the Parks and Recreation Budget, the Trails and Safety Path Budget, and the General Fund.  

There are TWO issues with this situation:

  1. The first represents a potential abuse of power by either Supervisor Gonser or the Township’s administrative staff.  
  2. The second is a potential misappropriation of funds by the Township Board. 

The Parks and Recreation Budget is the responsibility of the Parks Commission.  The Township Board does approve the Park’s Commission budget, but it does not have authority to authorize work on Parkland, or spend money against the Parks Budget without the Parks and Recreation Commission’s approval.  

The questions raised by Trustee Keyes at the August 13 meeting went unanswered at that meeting, as well as the September 10th Board meeting until aggressive questioning resulted in Superintendent Creech stating that Supervisor Gonser approved both the clearing of the land and the allocation of expense to the Park’s Commission’s Budget.   The Board then proceeded to not only approved the questioned bills from the August meeting, but added several other bills pertaining to the same project by a 6 to 1 vote (Keyes voting nay).

At the September 11th Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, the Commission agreed to pay for some of the expenses that were incurred on this project, but not the previous bills.

Many citizens indicated they do not understand the importance, or the significance, of this situation.  One citizen has stated that the Park’s Commission has “overplayed’ this issue.  However, the autocratic decisions made by Supervisor Gonser, or the Township administration at his request, represent an abuse of power, given that the Parks and Recreation Commission has autonomous authority.  The unauthorized allocation of costs for the unauthorized work to the Parks Commission Budget appear to be a misappropriation of funds.

Here is the background on this issue:

  • At the March 18th Oakland Township Board meeting, when the Parks Commission’s budget was being discussed, Supervisor Gonser indicated that he wanted the Parks Budget to be modified to include the addition of a parking lot at the Marshview Connector Park. He went on to say:

“I would like to see this accomplished this summer, so people are seeing progress.” (at 2:36:00 in the audio recording of the meeting)

  • Supervisor Gonser also stated, while reviewing the Parks Commission Budget:

We are setting the Budget!” (at 2:29:05 in the audio recording of the meeting)

  • The Parking lot project is not in the Parks and Recreation Commission’s 2010-2014 Master Plan.
  • At the April 10 Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, during citizen comments, Trustee Thalmann introduced the request for adding a Parking lot on the Marshview Connector Park located on Orion Road, just South of E. Clarkston Road. She stated that Supervisor Gonser had a keen interest in this project.
  • At that meeting, a subcommittee was set up to participate with Trails and Safety Path Committee and Township Board members to review the request.
  • On May 13th the representatives from the Parks Commission,  Trails and Safety Paths Committee, and the Board met at the site to discuss the potential options for the site.
  • On May 20, an Engineering firm, that was getting direction from someone other than the Parks Commission, submitted a Proposal for the Marshview Connector Park to Mr. Creech, the Township Superintendent.
  • On May 22 the Engineering firm was asked by Mr. Creech to prepare a presentation for that evening’s Parks Commission meeting.  It was not on the agenda for that evening’s meeting.
  • At the Parks Commission meeting that evening, the Engineering firm apologized for the low level of information provided because of the late request for the presentation.
  • The Parks Commission was informed that Supervisor Gonser wanted the project to be completed this building season, and desired that the Parks Commission approve a Special Land Use request to the Planning Commission.
  • In a spirit of cooperation with the Township Board, the Parks Commission recommended that the Township Board approve a Special Land Use request, even though they did not have any significant information on the proposal and were not directing the project.
  • On June 4th, the Planning Commission accepted the Special land use plan for study.
  • On July 2nd, the Planning Commission held a public hearing on the plan. There were a number of issues raised including slope and grade issues with the proposed pathway, as well as the overall location of the path and the parking lot on the parcel.
  • At that meeting, Treasurer Langlois said:

“The Township Board did not have the authority to instruct the Parks and Recreation Commission to undertake this project.”

  • At that meeting, concerns over the funding for the project were discussed, but it was determined that those issues were outside the Planning Commission’s responsibilities.
  • This topic was placed on the  August 7th Planning Commission agenda.
  • Prior to the August 7th meeting, but after the agenda was published, Parks Commissioner Chair Mackley requested that this topic be tabled since they had not requested it be placed on the agenda, and that they had not reviewed the information that was to be presented since they had only received it on August 2nd.
  • The Parks Commission did not have a meeting scheduled between August 2nd and August 7th to review the plan that had been developed.
  • After much discussion at the August 7th meeting, the Planning Commission tabled the topic.
  • At the August 13 Board meeting, Trustee Keyes identified expenses associated with the Proposed Parking lot project that were to be charged to the Parks and Recreation Budget, as well as the Trails and Safety Paths Millage Budget.  This work had not been requested or directed by either of those groups.  As a result, she asked who authorized the work.
  • When she asked who authorized the work, there was absolute silence from the Board members.
  • After 20 seconds of silence, Supervisor Gonser stated:

“We are probably not going to solve this in front of the the Television cameras tonight!”

  • At the September 10th Board meeting, Trustee Keyes indicated that she had not received ANY response to her request for information on who authorized the work and who authorized the appropriation of the expenses to the various accounts.  Clerk Reilly had not responded to her written request.
  • At the September 10th Board meeting, Superintendent Creech commented on who authorized the work and who authorized the allocation of expenses.
  • At the same meeting, the Chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission as well as the Parks and Recreation Director commented on how this project has been handled.
  • At the September 11 Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, the Commission agreed to pay for  $1,059.51 of the expenses incurred on this project, but not the previous bills that were under dispute.
  • Parks Commissioner Barkham indicated that there should not be any  further expenditures on this project without concurrence from the Board, the Parks and Recreation Commission, and the Trails and Safety Path Committee.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  The division of responsibilities between the Township Board and the Parks and Recreation Commission are clearly defined. Having the Supervisor make decisions on park land for one of his “pet projects” exceeds the authority that the Supervisor or the Board have over the Parks and Recreation Commission.  The booking of the expenses for the work done at the Supervisor’s request against the Park’s Budget is a misappropriation of funds.

Do you think that Supervisor Gonser knew who authorized the site plan and the work that had been done on the site since the project was moving forward at his request?

Do you think Supervisor Gonser was silent for 20 seconds when asked who authorized the plan was because he was reluctant to admit that he authorized it with the video camera running?

Do you think Clerk Reilly should have responded to Trustee Keyes’ August 13th verbal request and her follow-up email requests?

Do you think Supervisor Gonser played a role in Clerk Reilly’s lack of response to Trustee Keyes request?

Is this the type of leadership you want in our Township?

Richard Michalski

Supervisor Gonser’s definition of “transparency” in government

Oakland Township Supervisor Terry Gonser ran on a platform of  “transparency”.  Since he has come into office, the various governmental Board, Commission and Committee meetings are being broadcast live and are captured on video for playback on the Township website.  HOWEVER, the discussions between Board members that occur ‘behind the scenes’, and not on camera,  can be violations of the State’s Open Meeting Act, and certainly contribute to the amount of “transparency” in our Township governance.

In an April 6th document received through a Freedom of Information Act request, Supervisor Gonser responded to Treasurer Langlois discussing a concern raised by a citizen about how an  April 1 policy decision had been made.  The policy decison impacts the relationship between the Township Board and the separately elected Parks and Recreation Commission.

Here is Supervisor Gonser’s statement:

“While I am for transparency, there are policy decisions and strategies that must not be shared until after they have come to fruition. —-  I think we have to be careful as to what we circulate in emails.  Phone calls may be in order.”

Is this another way of saying “I am all for transparency unless there is something to hide”?

Why is this important to the Citizens of Oakland Township?  Transparency in government goes beyond having meetings videotaped.  The discussions that our leaders have on  decisions that affect Township residents are to be made in public, not on phone calls, and certainly not held back until the results “come to fruition”.

Do you agree with Supervisor Gonser’s definition of transparency?

For more information on the topic where Supervisor Gonser’s statement was made go to:

https://oaklandtownship.info/2013/09/02/another-open-meeting-act-violation-or-a-dictatorship-in-oakland-township/?preview=true&preview_id=970&preview_nonce=1bb70d9df5&post_format=standard

Richard Michalski

Oakland Township pays Supervisor Gonser’s ‘personal’ legal fee!

Earlier this year, Supervisor Gonser tried to obtain an opinion from the Michigan Attorney General regarding the need for the referendum on the Blossom Ridge Development issue.  

Supervisor Gonser did not have the Board’s approval to obtain that opinion.  At the April 15th Board meeting Supervisor Gonser was questioned on the authority for sending that request.  He indicated that he had sent the letter “as an individual”.

However, on September 10, Trustee Keyes pointed out that the Township had been charged for the legal services for Supervisor Gonser’s letter.  Our Township Attorney provided those services to Supervisor Gonser.

The author of this post requested that Supervisor Gonser repay the Township the $1,693 for his legal fee.  Supervisor Gonser’s response was:

“YOU ARE ENTITLED TO YOUR OPINION!”

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  The Township should not be responsible for legal expenses for any Trustee who is pursuing an issue “as an individual”.

This is  especially true given the misrepresentation that Supervisor Gonser made regarding the earlier request for an Attorney General opinion.

Please click on the following link to learn more about Supervisor Gonser’s attempts at obtaining an Attorney General opinion:

https://oaklandtownship.info/ethics/supervisor-gonsers-request-for-attorney-general-opinion/

Do you think the Township should pay his legal fees?

Richard Michalski

Gonser hears from former Zoning Board of Appeals members

Recently several people who have served our township for many years on the Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Commission were not notified when their terms were about to expire.   They were not asked if they wanted to continue their service.  They were not told that they were being replaced, largely by contributors to Supervisor Gonser’s campaign.  Two of them spoke up about this at the Sept. 10th Board of Trustees meeting.

  • George Platz, chairman of the ZBA for 15 years, a professional Land Surveyor and
  •  Carolyn Phelps, member of the ZBA for 12 years  and formerly Township Clerk for 28 years.

Their remarks, as recorded in the publicly available video of the meeting, are shown below.

Jim Foulkrod

First Time Defeat – Gonser loses Board vote on Parks.

EDITORIAL – see straight news reporting of this event here

Please note that, on 9/22/13, I changed the names of those that voted Aye and Nay , after receiving information about the vote from Supervisor Gonser.  I think that the change is important because Clerk Reilly has never before opposed Supervisor Gonser so Trustee Thalmann is the only 100% supporter left.

The Board of Trustees handed Oakland Township Supervisor Gonser his first defeat with their Sept. 10th votes on rezoning parkland.  Having not lost any prior vote on anything, he lost on two motions in a row. This was not an inconsequential defeat, rather, its importance to Gonser has been shown in our previous reporting on his attempts to change the direction and challenge the authority of the elected Parks Commission.

Since this Board’s first meeting last November, virtually every vote was approved unanimously.  This began to unravel several months ago when Trustees Keyes and McKay began to challenge the Board on, among other things, the signing of the Board approved ethics pledge. Trustee Bailey would also occasionally make arguments contrary to Gonser’s direction.  This time Keyes and Bailey were joined by Clerk Reilly andTreasurer Langlois who argued that the voters gave the Parks Commission the authority  to manage parkland.  The Board did not have that authority.

This is an important development and maybe we will now begin to enjoy a more representative, responsive and pluralistic Board of Trustees.

The first Gonser defeat was a motion to allow first reading of the rezoning changes for only two of the seven parks for which the Parks and Recreation Commission had been pushing  zoning changes from Single Family Residential to Recreation-Conservation.  Supervisor Gonser made impassioned  arguments describing Oakland Township Parks as “appalling” and “unacceptable”.  Without a single mention of the township’s great history of land conservation, he decried the lack of ball fields.  Gonser did not acknowledge the fact that much of the land in question had been purchased with funds from the voter approved Land Preservation Millage which proscribes most development for active recreation.

The Supervisor made a proposal that no parkland can be zoned as Recreation-Conservation until there is a plan with a short time frame that would develop it for recreation, not allowing this additional protection to our preservation/conservation land.  

Gonser’s plea failed to gain sufficient support and the motion failed.  Trustee Bailey then moved to accept this first reading of the rezoning for all seven parcels.  Bailey, Keyes, Langlois and Reilly voted aye.  Gonser, McKay and Thalmann voted nay.  The Motion passed.

This topic will be re-visited at the October 8th board meeting when there will be a public hearing and, possibly, a final vote on the re-zoning.  If you support our Parks and Recreation department and Parks Commission please attend and speak up.

Jim Foulkrod

 

“Split decision” on Township Board’s approval of ‘first reading’ for Rezoning of 7 Park Parcels – Final vote coming up!

On September 10, the Oakland Township Board approved the ‘first reading’ for rezoning seven park parcels from Residential to Recreation/Conservation zoning.  The vote by the Board was 4 to 3.  Supervisor Gonser and two other Board members were opposed to the rezoning. The second reading and a public hearing for the rezoning will occur at the October 8th Board meeting.  

The difference of opinion among the Board members centered around the amount of “active” vs. “passive” use of park land, and the pace at which the park land is being developed into “active” usages by the Parks and Recreation Commission.  Treasurer Langlois pointed out that those decisions are  the “purview” of the Park and Recreation Commission and NOT the Township Board.

Supervisor Gonser’s reluctance to approve the rezoning appears to be an attempt to control the separately elected Parks and Recreation Commission.

Please attend the October 8th meeting to provide your input on the rezoning request.  

Over the past many years, the Parks and Recreation Commission has used funds from the Parks and Recreation Millage, the Land Preservation Millage and Grant Funds to secure property for parks and recreation use in our Township. Park land has also been obtained through land donations.  Historically, after acquiring  a number of parcels, the Parks Commission requested rezoning them from the original zoning to Recreation/Conservation (R/C) zoning in order to protect the land for that usage.

On April 2, 2013 the Planning Commission reviewed the rezoning request for seven Parks and Recreation Commission parcels and recommended that the Township Board approve the rezoning request.  The Township Board had their first discussion on the rezoning at the September 10, 2013 meeting.

Supervisor Gonser raised concerns over the lack of progress that the Parks and Recreation Commission has made in providing ‘active’ usages on our park lands.  He proposed that the Township not rezone the land until after the Parks and Recreation Commission develop a plan for each parcel.  He made those comments with little understanding of the history of the Parks and Recreation Commission’s past efforts and focus.

Parks and Recreation Director Mindy Milos-Dale shared the history behind the Parks and Recreation activities in our Township.

Supervisor Gonser commented that Lake Orion has many more active recreation facilities than Oakland Township.  Mindy Milos-Dale shared the historical reasons why there are differences between our communities, and also why Oakland Township focused on acquiring and preserving land rather than developing each parcel.

Trustee Bailey shared his support for the approach of the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Treasurer Langlois pointed out that how the parkland is to be used is the purview of the Parks and Recreation Commission and NOT the Township Board.

Supervisor Gonser appears to want to control or dictate the actions of the Parks and Recreation Commission as evidenced by his comments on how Lake Orion administers parks.

The motion to approve the first reading, set the date for the second reading and set the date for the public hearing was made by Trustee Bailey.  The motion passed by a vote of 4 to 3, Supervisor Gonser being one of the negative votes.

Why is this important to Oakland Township Residents?  The rezoning of the land that has been procured by the Parks and Recreation Commission has always occurred without controversy.  Rezoning the land to Recreation/Conservation will ensure that that land will be used for Parks and Recreation purposes.  The Board and Parks and Recreation Commission should work together, but the responsibility for the development of park land is the responsibility of the Parks and Recreation Commission, NOT the Board as Trustee Langlois clearly stated.

Do you want to ensure that the land purchased by the Parks and Recreation Commission be preserved for that use through the rezoning?

Do you agree that the Township Board should have input, but not control or dictate the projects that the separately elected Parks Commission chooses to work on?

Please come to the October 8th, 2013 Township Board meeting to share your thoughts on this very important Township issue!

Richard Michalski

Gonser Refused $1.1 million in Grants for Safety Path.

It has only been a few months since Township  Supervisor Gonser and the Board of Trustees, through their inaction, refused Federal and State Grants for $1.1 million that would have allowed our township to build a safety path from Gunn and Adams to the Paint Creek Trail.  It would have provided approximately 10,000 township residents with a safe way to access the Paint Creek Trail.

I am writing about this now because so many people are  reading these pages ( 6,500 views since we went live in July) and many of you may not have been aware of this action.   The safety path plans and grant requests were approved by Federal and State authorities.   Oakland Township was to contribute funds from the Trails and Safety Paths millage approved by the voters in 2006. There are now well over a million dollars in the millage fund.  It is our money.

Gonser was against this from the beginning.  He told me in a face to face conversation on Dec 12 2012 that he was against taking the Federal and State funds.  Gonser repeated this in a Jan. 3rd email where he said:

“I will tell you my position on trails/safety paths.  First, I strongly support private property rights and as such find that the Township suing property owners to confiscate their property through eminent domain most distasteful.  Second, I am opposed to accepting money from a government that is totally and completely out of money.  Nearly 42 cents of every dollar spent by Uncle Sam is borrowed, principally from the Chinese.

Terry Gonser”

He has contradicted himself on these topics with support of grant funding to rehabilitate the Mill Race and when he proudly accepted Federal grant funds for Fire Department equipment.  He has also proposed using the eminent domain process to obtain an easement from Flagstar Bank to build a different trail that he thought up all by himself.

We voted to tax ourselves so our government could build ” a network of safety paths trails and boardwalks to provide healthy recreational opportunities and safe routes to schools, parks and neighborhoods” ( from the 2006 ballot language).  How is our money being used? Gonser is now spending this money on a parking lot for the Paint Creek Trail.  His representative to the Township Trails Committee has proposed spending the money to maintain privately owned safety paths in large subdivisions.  This may have been a campaign promise used to gain votes in the election.

Happy Trails to You

Jim Foulkrod