As previously reported on this website, there was an Oakland County Prosecutor’s investigation into possible violations of the Open Meetings Act by our Township Board. On February 27, 2014, a letter was written to our Board regarding the results of their investigation. At the March 11 BOT meeting, Supervisor Gonser stated that no charges were going to be issued, and no reprimand was made by the prosecutors office. However, the details of the letter from the Prosecutor’s office paint a slightly different picture.
The author of this post filed allegations that the Board had committed Open Meeting Act violations regarding the Paint Creek Cider Mill Concessionaire’s contract, as well as with Supervisor Gonser’s April 1, 2013 authorized memo regarding the takeover of the Land Preservation Fund. Former Trustee, Judy Keyes, also filed allegations that an Open Meetings Act violation occurred when the Board had inappropriate discussions during a Closed Session Meeting.
Over the past many months, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office performed an investigation into these allegations. Both Judy and I told the investigator that our intent was not to have any Board member fined or arrested. Our intent was to have the Board change their behavior so it was consistent with the Open Meeting Act requirements.
On February 27, John Slevin from the Prosecutor’s office sent a letter to the entire Township Board and the Township Attorney with the results of the investigation. Supervisor Gonser announced at the March 11 Board meeting that “no charges were going to be filed” and that “there was no reprimand in the letter.”
However, here is some of the content of the letter sent to the Township Board by John Slevin:
“Most of the allegations were not violations of the Open Meetings Act. However, two of the matters may have been violations and therefore I am bringing them to your attention.”
“In the contract, the term length of the agreement was changed from what was contained in prior contracts. Some citizens wanted to be heard on that issue. After the contract was drafted, it was signed without additional approval by the Board at an open meeting. This amounts to the delegation of decision-making by the Board which circumvents the intend of the Open Meetings Act. The better procedure would have been to require that the proposed contract be submitted to the Board for final approval at an open meeting prior to execution.”
“Closed sessions are restricted to very limited purposes under the Open Meetings Act. The intended subjects for the closed session appear to be appropriate. – – – The subject matter was then changed to areas of discussion that may not have been allowed under the OMA. When this occurred, and if the subject matter was questionable for a closed session, the better course of action would have been to cancel the closed session and proceed in an open meeting.”
“Neither of the aforementioned OMA issues was found to be intentional. There will be no action taken by this office concerning these matters. However, you should know that of these OMA concerns so as to avoid future actions that may lead to complaints by citizens.“
Here is a copy of the Prosecutor’s memo:
The underlined wording in the attached document is as I received it from the Township Office. Their emphasis on the underlined wording, as well as Supervisor Gonser’s comments at the March 11th BOT meeting, indicate that they feel that nothing wrong was done and they do not intend to change their behavior in the future.
Webster defines a “reprimand” as ” an expression of disapproval”. Since Gonser appears to think nothing wrong was done, ironically the Prosecutor’s letter may only have served to embolden him.
In a previous meeting, Supervisor Gonser referred to the allegations as ‘frivolous pursuit of minutia!” If having important decisions that affect our Township take place outside an open meeting, and inappropriate topics being discussed in Closed Sessions are considered ‘frivolous’ by our Supervisor, the future of our Township is in peril. This from a person that ran on a platform of transparency!
Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township? It is clear that our current Supervisor does not recognize that inappropriate actions had been taken by the Board in the past. As a result we should not expect behaviors to change without the intense scrutiny of our citizens. In order to prevent inappropriate actions in the future, please get involved in watching our Township leadership.