Daily Archives: November 21, 2013

Trustees reject Supervisor Gonser’s desire to become a “Strong Supervisor”

At the November 20, 2013 Board of Oakland Township meeting, the Board agreed to proceed with the selection process to fill the Superintendent vacancy created by Jim Creech’s departure.  The responsibilities of the Superintendent will continue to be based on Ordinance 97. The vote was 5 to 1.  Supervisor Gonser was the single dissenting vote. Supervisor Gonser had desired to eliminate the Superintendent position, have the Board authorize him to assume some of the Superintendent’s responsibilities, making him a “Strong Supervisor”.  A Manager position  would be created to pick up the remaining responsibilities.   

The Board was considering a suggestion, previously made by Trustee Thalmann, to have Supervisor Gonser assume some of the responsibilities that our previous Superintendent, Jim Creech had based on Ordinance 97.  That structure had been in effect since 2002.  The Superintendent responsibilities, “A” through “O”, are called out in the Ordinance.

Ordinance 97

If this recommendation had been approved, the Superintendent position would be eliminated, a Manager Position would likely be created and Supervisor Gonser would have additional power in running the Township. Oakland Township would be under what is referred to as as “Strong Supervisor” Township.

Supervisor Gonser had invited the Supervisors from Orion, Addison and Independence Townships to the past two meetings to describe how their Townships operate under the “Strong Supervisor” structure.  There were many questions asked of them by Board members and citizens.

Treasurer Langlois reviewed the responsibilities in Ordinance 97, and concluded that those responsibilities were all administrative, and did not see any reason to move to a “Strong Supervisor” structure.  She stated that the selection process for a replacement for Jim Creech needs to proceed, and saw nothing wrong with the Superintendent position continuing to retain the responsibilities defined in Ordinance 97.

Here is her justification for her motion, and the vote by the Board:

Trustee Thalmann was not present at the meeting, and Supervisor Gonser made several attempts to have the vote deferred to some future meeting when she would be present.  A number of citizens supported having the vote take place that evening. One of the reasons given for proceeding with the vote was that the Township had reviewed a number of resumes of candidates that had submitted applications for the Superintendent position.  Proceeding with interviews, not knowing what the individual’s responsibilities would be was a major factor in making the decision now.  There was a strong feeling that the position needed to be filled quickly.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  By keeping the position of Superintendent, and selecting a qualified person, the Township will have a person that has the professional background to make a municipality run efficiently.  It also provides a level of stability that is needed when Board member changes occur.  The Board’s strength is retained by not having the Supervisor become too strong and possibly abuse his/her power.  See the following post on recent actions by Supervisor Gonser.

Supervisor Gonser’s Actions


Richard Michalski

Strong Evidence that an Open Meetings Violation Occurred Nov 20th

In my post yesterday I outlined how it appeared that the Board was likely to commit a violation of the Open Meetings Act when they went into a closed session to review resumes for the Township Superintendent position.  I had planned to speak during ‘citizens comments’ prior to the closed session to try to prevent this from happening by reminding them that The Open Meetings Act  says that:

 “it is permissible to go into closed session To review and consider the contents of an application for employment or appointment to a public office if the candidate requests that the application remain confidential.”

Unfortunately they had changed the agenda so that citizens comments were not allowed before the closed session.  During the rest of the open meeting an audience member commented the Board had received 30 resumes. Treasurer Langois said they had reviewed “many many” resumes in the closed session.  I took the opportunity to give them a “heads-up” about the potential problem during citizens comments near the end of the meeting.

Note that Supervisor Gonser replied “The resumes requested confidentiality under the law.”  I asked if every one requested confidentiality and he replied “I’m not going to say every one because I can’t speak to that.”.

Now the Board understands that  if one or more oversights did occur they have the simple remedy of re-doing their reviews of any resume where the applicant did not request that their application remain confidential in open session.   I hope that they will double check their records and, if they made any mistakes,  they admit them and correct them.

This is not trivial. This part of the Open Meetings Act was enacted so that we could know what our government is doing.  Our Board of Trustees is already facing two legal actions that allege violations of this Michigan statute and they need to  act accordingly

Jim Foulkrod