Monthly Archives: October 2013

Township Board approves Supervisor Gonser’s “personal” legal fee

As reported on other posts/ pages on this website, Supervisor Gonser had requested an opinion from the Attorney General on the Blossom Ridge Development.  The Board had originally authorized that request, but later rescinded it.  After being rescinded, Gonser continued to pursue getting an unauthorized opinion, first acting as the Supervisor and then “as an individual”.  

The Township attorney billed the Township for this service.  Trustee Keyes challenged the billing for this service.  At the October 8th Board meeting, Trustee Keyes explained why it was inappropriate for the Township to pay for Gonsers’ personal legal fee.  She made a motion to have him repay the Township.  The Board rejected her motion on a 5 to 2 vote.  

Trustee Keyes and McKay were the only ones who voted to have Gonser repay the Township.  Even though Supervisor Gonser personally benefited from the defeat of this motion, he voted on the motion.  He did not abstain as would have been appropriate.

On April 15th, the author of this post raised questions regarding Gonser’s authority to make the request.  Here is a copy of the ‘logic tree’ I used in my comments at that meeting:

Questions on authority for AG opinion

At that meeting, he stated, he sent the memo “as an individual”.  The copies of the two memos sent, as well as the billing from the Township Attorney, indicate that Gonser did not send the letter “as an individual” until 8 days after he claimed he had sent it.  He was clearly trying to ‘cover his tracks’.  

I have attached a file that is a ‘fact check’ comparing Gonser’s statement at the September 24th meeting, and previous Board meeting comments and other supporting documentation.  Here is the “fact check’ document:

Fact check for AG opinion

Yet with all this as background, the Board agreed to have the Township pay for his personal legal fee.   What could be the motivation for their approval since they had previously rescinded the authority?  Their approval clearly appears to violate their oath of office.

Why is this important to the Citizens of Oakland Township?  With all the facts presented by Trustee Keyes, there does not seem to be any justified reason for the Trustee’s approving the payment for Gonser’s legal fees. What hidden agenda’s were driving their decision?  Was there a decision made outside an open meeting authorizing Gonser to proceed with the Attorney General request?  Gonsers’ vote on the matter is clearly a conflict of interest, and violates his oath of office.

Richard MIchalski

Marshview Connector Parking Lot Subcommittee Meeting – Cooperative, Productive & Troubling

The Oct.16th meeting of the Marshview connector parking lot project subcommittee was cordial, cooperative and productive.  In attendance were:

  • Board of Trustees – Terry Gonser and Maureen Thalmann
  • Parks Commission  –  David Mackley, Joe Peruzzi, Andy Zale
  • Parks Department – Mindy Milos-Dale
  • Paint Creek Trail Commission – David Becker, Kritstin Meyers
  • Oakland Township Safety Paths and Trails Committee – none

The purpose of this subcommittee is to move forward on the plan for a parking lot on two parcels on Orion Road, adjacent to the Paint Creek Trail that are owned by Parks.  The subcommittee was formed because there has been a lot of controversy about this project due to:

  1. The project was launched independently by Supervisor Gonser;
  2. without Board of Trustees authorization;
  3. without Parks Commission authorization;
  4. the assumption that it would be funded with Trails Millage money;
  5. after objections raised at a Planning Commission meeting about funding it with our trails millage Gonser began splitting the expenses between general funds, parks funds and trails funds;
  6. Parks has objected to the use of their funds without their authorization.

After reviewing the first site plan that Gonser had ordered, the committee agreed that a new concept plan is needed that at least studies a number of things that weren’t considered by the current plan.  The committee authorized new work to reflect the feasibility of:

    1. Equestrian use, most importantly room for large horse trailers to park and turn around and maybe even hitching rails;
  1. Possible picnic tables;
  2. Possible playscape;
  3. Possible nature trail loop;
  4. Consideration of using the northern parcel for some or all of the project;
  5. A safer trail down to the Paint Creek Trail.

The bottom line is most of the work Gonser had authorized was a waste of time and money and needs to be re-done.  We did, at least, get a topographical survey of the southern parcel that will be useful.

Gonser then spoke to the meeting about an alternative plan sketched by an engineering firm who agreed to do it without payment.  He said that he couldn’t share the plan with the committee at this time because he had not paid for it. Gonser said this new plan could be done for $25k rather than the $100k that township’s engineering firm, PEA, had estimated.

  • Mindy replied saying she has done other parking lots of similar size where the gravel alone cost $20k so she thought Gonser’s firm should take another look at it.   Gonser said he could get the gravel for free. 
  • The Committee agreed that Supervisor Gonser could contact his unnamed firm and ask them to submit a formal proposal.

The point to be made here is that Supervisor Gonser, although he was amiable and agreeable, continued to attempt to dominate the process by getting ahead of everyone and going his own way.

Jim Foulkrod

Supervisor Gonser attacks Trustee Keyes for doing her job!

At the beginning of the October 8th Board of Oakland Township meeting, Supervisor Gonser spent seven and one half minutes attacking Trustee Keyes for doing her job.  He accused her of wasting the Board’s time by raising issues that he thought were “trivial to trite and insignificant”.  He refused to allow her to respond to his attack.  He told her she could respond at the end of the meeting.  Five hours later, when she was allowed to respond, after almost all of the residents present at the beginning of the meeting had left, he tried to limit her comments to 2 minutes.

Supervisor Gonser attacked Trustee Keyes for challenging the accuracy of two vote counts from previous meetings that were confirmed to be wrong. 

He attacked her for raising issues because  he is not following the outdated Township Bylaws.  Yet earlier this year, Trustee Keyes made a motion to perform a review of all Township policies and procedures.  That motion was not approved by the Board.  Her intent was to identify issues, and update the policies and procedures as needed.

He attacked her for challenging several bills in public, and wanted the Board to raise billing questions outside the Board meeting and the public eye.  Yet Trustee Keyes’ previous questions went unanswered by Supervisor Gonser and Clerk Reilly for a month,  only to find out that Supervisor Gonser had indeed inappropriately authorized the work that was in question.

In Supervisor Gonser’s closing comments during the attack, he stated:

“I hope and pray that future meetings will be conducted professionally without attacks and the bludgeoning of consultants, staff and residents in a public forum.”

Supervisor Gonser violated his own statement by his treatment of Trustee Keyes in the October 8th meeting!!

Here is a more detailed review of the events described above:

Supervisor Gonser stated that Trustee Keyes questioning the vote count for the first reading of the parks rezoning at the September 10 meeting was “much to do about nothing”.

  • Supervisor Gonser stated that the vote count was 4 to 3.  Trustee McKay confirmed at the October 10th meeting that she had voted in favor of the motion making the vote count 5 to 2.
  • Even though the outcome did not change, Trustee Keyes was correct, and Supervisor Gonser was wrong.  It is the Chair’s (Gonser’s) responsibility to make sure the recording secretary gets the proper vote count.
  • Proper vote counts are very important in our governmental processes.
  • Trustee Keyes was trying to correct the error.

Supervisor Gonser accused Trustee Keyes of “bludgeoning” the auditor and questioning the accuracy of the vote count for the approval for filing the audit at the September 24th meeting.

  • Trustee Keyes had made requests to accept the auditor’s offer to provide training to the Board on the audit process.
  • The auditor failed to respond to her written requests.
  • Clerk Reilly indicated that her staff was “too busy” to schedule the requested training session.
  • One of the reasons Supervisor Gonser voted against approving the audit for filing was that he was unfamiliar with the audit process. (training??)
  • Once again, the recorded vote count was wrong.  Supervisor Gonser announced in the meeting that the motion had passed, but did not state the count.  He asked the recording secretary “Did you get the votes?”
  • The following day, at Trustee Keyes request, the staff reviewed the video of the meeting, and determined that the motion had actually failed in a 3 to 3 tie vote, contrary to what Supervisor Gonser had announced at the meeting.
  • Once again, proper vote counts are important in our governmental processes.  Trustee Keyes was trying to fix an error.

Supervisor Gonser accused Trustee Keyes of raising bylaw procedural issues since the bylaws were outdated and not being followed.

  • Trustee Keyes recognized that the bylaws were not being followed.
  • That is why earlier this year, she requested an audit of all of the Township’s policies, practices and procedures.
  • The Board did not support her initiative.
  • Trustee Keyes offered copies of the bylaws to all of the Board members several months ago.  Only Trustee McKay accepted her offer.
  • Apparently, the Board members (with the exception of Trustees Keyes and McKay) have been operating for almost one year without having either a copy or an understanding of the Township bylaws.
  • By having outdated bylaws, Supervisor Gonser feels empowered to make unilateral decisions, as evidenced by his October 8th assertion that:

“Meeting protocol is established by the Chair!”

Supervisor Gonser accused Trustee Keyes of having a ‘gotcha’ mentality because of her desire for public viewing of the bills.

  • Fiduciary accuracy is a major responsibility of the Board.
  • Supervisor Gonser indicated that questions by Trustees on billings should be raised and resolved prior the meetings.
  • However, at the August 13th Board meeting, Trustee Keyes asked a question regarding several bills.
  • Supervisor Gonser, Treasurer Langlois, Clerk Reilly and Superintendant Creech sat silent for 20 seconds.
  • Trustee Keyes had followed up with e-mails to Clerk Reilly asking for an answer to her question.
  • Clerk Reilly did not respond to her e-mail.
  • Clerk Reilly then sent a letter to the Board, the day of the following month’s meeting, asking the Board to approach the staff if they have any questions on billings.
  • It was not until after questioning by Trustee Keyes, in that Board meeting, that her question from the previous month had been answered.
  • The answer to the question was that Supervisor Gonser and Clerk Reilly had approved the actions that Trustee Keyes had questioned the previous month.
  • The approvals that Supervisor Gonser and Clerk Reilly had made were not appropriate, since those approvals should have been made by the Parks and Recreation Commission (Marshview Connector Park parking lot).
  • In the October 8th meeting, Supervisor Gonser stated

“All questions on bills have been satisfactorily answered!”

  • It was not made clear for whom, besides Supervisor Gonser, had the questions been satisfactorily addressed.
  • Questions on the appropriateness of the Township paying for Supervisor Gonser’s legal advice for his personal request for an Attorney General opinion on the Blossom RIdge matter still existed when Gonser made this statement.

Why is this important to the Citizens of Oakland Township?  Having accurate vote counts is a fundamental necessity for a governmental body. Considering their accuracy as “trivial and trite”, is not something we should expect from our Supervisor.   Making sure our Township is governed by a set of established procedures is critical.  We cannot have them established by the “whims” of the Supervisor.   The outdated bylaws should be updated as Trustee Keyes attempted to do earlier this year. The Supervisor’s efforts to “cover up” his own deficiencies by attacking a Trustee for raising good questions is totally unacceptable.  Supervisor Gonser appears to be attacking those who point out his own leadership deficiencies.  This from a leader who ran on “transparency”.

Richard Michalski

Could the Federal Government determine the Blossom Ridge outcome?

An earlier post on this website gave an example of how the Federal Government took actions against a community in Missouri for discriminatory housing practices.  Attached is a link to an article that describes some recent actions that the Department of Housing and Urban Development may take against communities that demonstrate discriminatory practices.

As stated in earlier posts on this website, there is a Federal investigation of Oakland Township underway regarding alleged discriminatory practices regarding the Blossom Ridge development.

At the last Oakland Township Board meeting, Supervisor Gonser indicated that there have been ongoing discussions with the Blossom Ridge developer to resolve some of the concerns of the  citizens.  At that meeting, the developer’s attorney described revisions to the plan that they were willing to make to arrive at a mutually agreeable plan.  Citizen comments at that meeting were not supportive of the proposed changes.

If the Board of Oakland Township is not successful in coming up with a mutually agreeable plan, and the Federal Investigation determines that Oakland Township has demonstrated discriminatory practices and policies, we may be subject to the Federal government’s decisions as described in the attached web article.

The citizens of Oakland Township need to encourage the Board to come up with a mutually agreeable plan for the Blossom Ridge development.  

The Board is playing “Russian roulette”.  We may lose total control of what is developed, and the Township may have to pay fines if the investigation finds the Township guilty of discriminatory practices. 

Here is the link to the October 14, 2013 website article:

http://m.weeklystandard.com/articles/hud-s-power-grab_759151.html

Richard Michalski

Spend Our Trails Millage to Bailout a Subdivision?

At the 10/1/13 Planning Commission meeting Mr. Ron Hein, a  Planning Commissioner newly appointed by Supervisor Gonser and the Board, volunteered to serve on the Township Safety Paths and Trails Committee saying “I have a little bit of a vested interest in this.”  Ron went on to say that his subdivision (the Hills of Oakland at Adams and Dutton)  has safety paths that need repair and that rather than build new trails and connections the Township should maintain what we already have (watch the video below).

This is not a new idea.  Treasurer Jeanne Langlois proposed the same thing at a Safety Paths and Trails Committee meeting this summer.  She was told then that this would not be an appropriate use of taxpayer’s money.  Hein and Langlois, together, will be half of the body which has the responsibility of suggesting to the Board how our trails and safety paths millage money is spent.

The safety paths that Ron and Jeanne want to spend our money on are privately owned and their maintenance is the responsibility of the homeowners and their associations.  If they have been allowed to fall into disrepair, as Mr. Hein says, he and his neighbors need to pay for the repairs.  Is this why he says he has a “vested interest”?

The millage language that we, the voters, approved says precisely how our money must be spent.

“Nov. 2006

TRAILS SYSTEM MILLAGE PROPOSAL

Shall the Charter Township of Oakland be authorized to levy up to .25 (1/4) of one mill for a period of ten years, starting with the December 2007 levy, to provide funds for the construction and maintenance of a network of safety paths, trails and boardwalks to provide healthy recreational opportunities and safe routes to schools, parks and neighborhoods in the Township, and for the acquisition of property and right-of-way for such purposes?  Approval of this proposal would authorize a tax limitation increase of 25 cents per $1,000 of taxable value on all taxable property in the Township.  The proposal is for a new additional millage the revenue from which would be disbursed to the Charter Township of Oakland. It is estimated this proposal would result in the Authorization to collect $315,178 in the first Year, if approved and levied.”

Our money is to be spent to construct and maintain a network of trails that connect parks, schools and neighborhoods. It says nothing about bailing out subdivision residents.  Mr. Hein’s subdivision safety paths do not form a network nor connect to parks, or schools. We have millions of our tax dollars at stake.  Gonser and the Board know that unless we, the residents, make it plain that this misuse of our money is unacceptable they can do it and get away with it.  No one else is watching to be sure that the Board spends our trails money appropriately.  Make your voice heard!

Jim Foulkrod

Supervisor Gonser accuses creators of this website of ‘cowardice’ while he refuses to admit HE made unauthorized request!

At the August 13th Board of Oakland Township meeting, several citizen made comments about this website.  Supervisor Gonser responded by saying that the creators of this website were cowards and should appear at the meetings ‘in person’.

One of the creators of the website WAS present for the beginning of the meeting.  He was not present when the Supervisor made his comments.

The author of this post was on vacation, and watched the entire meeting using the Township’s website.  For the record, and to the dismay of Supervisor Gonser, I have made many comments at Board meetings, challenging the Board on many issues.  He has cut me off at the 3 minute limit, while he has allowed others that share his views to continue for much longer.

So WE are cowards because we document the FACTS on Board issues and share them with citizens who do not have the time to watch all the meetings and “CONNECT THE DOTS” themselves?

Please watch the attached video from the August 13th meeting, where Trustee Keyes asked who authorized work for a parking lot on a park parcel, since the Parks and Recreation Commission had not made that request.  Supervisor Gonser sat silent for 20 seconds.  At the September 10th Board meeting, Superintendent Creech indicated that Supervisor Gonser did authorize that work.  Yet Supervisor Gonser sat silent for 20 seconds at the August meeting only to state at the end of the silence:

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

Supervisor Gonser did not speak up when he knew he authorized the work on the Park parcel!

He made accusations of cowardice when two of the creators of this website were not present!

SO WHO IS REALLY THE COWARD?

Someone once told me “If the truth hurts, it is because you do not like what it says!”  I will let the readers decide who is truthful and who is a coward.

If you are a concerned citizen of Oakland Township, I would encourage you to come to several of the Board of Oakland Township Meetings, and voice your opinion on matters.  The current Board has a small group of citizens that always participate supporting the Board’s point of view.  Diverse opinions are needed to protect Oakland Township’s future from being defined by this small group.

Richard Michalski

Here are the videos confirming the above statements.