On January 24, 2014, the Oakland Township Board submitted a proposal that would commit $431,875 of Township funds as part of a proposed Grant application for funds to restore the Millrace at the Paint Creek Cider Mill. This proposal was never discussed or disclosed in any public meeting. A portion of this money would be spent on improving the millrace that exists on private property. This is yet another action our Township Board has taken that may have violated the Open Meetings Act. It may have been another unilateral decision made by our Supervisor to proceed on a project outside the ‘public eye’. A request has been made to the Oakland County Sheriff’s office for further investigation on this matter as a possible Open Meeting Act violation.
Several years ago there was a project supported by the DNR, the Clinton River Watershed Council and Oakland Township to remove the Paint Creek Dam to allow fish passage and improve the natural habitat in Paint Creek. The dam historically diverted a portion of Paint Creek’s water to the Millrace that powered the water wheel at the Paint Creek Cider Mill. The removal of the dam, as well as the sediment that had built up over many years, now prevent water from flowing down the millrace to the Cider Mill. A significant portion of the millrace land is owned by private citizens. The Township has been attempting to find a solution to get water flowing back through the millrace to get the Cider Mill wheel turning again.
In reviewing the minutes of previous meetings, the Township Board never officially made a motion to establish a subcommittee to work on this project. However, Supervisor Gonser, Trustee Bailey and Trustee Buxar apparently worked as an ad hoc committee on this project.
Originally, the Township used the Engineering services of Wade Trim on this project. The Board later changed the Engineering firm to ECT (Environmental Consulting and Technology, Inc.). On January 24, 2014, John O’Meara P.E., from ECT, submitted a proposal for a grant application to the Clinton River Watershed Council for their consideration on behalf of Oakland Township. The proposal was then forwarded to the Michigan DNR for their consideration.
The total cost for the project is $863,750. Oakland Township’s portion for this project is $431,875.
There were no public meetings or public discussions regarding the Township committing over $400,000 for this project. At the April 22, 2014 BOT meeting, Supervisor Gonser indicated that there was no need for a public announcement.
ECT will be making a presentation at the May 13, 2014 BOT meeting where this project will now be discussed. We expect our Board to provide answers to:
- why they did not feel it necessary to obtain citizen input on this proposal prior to submission to the Clinton River Watershed Council,
- who authorized the request be submitted, and
- why they feel it is appropriate to spend public funds on private property.
Here is a copy of the grant request and the associated letters:
Here is a video of comments from Trustee Buxar, Trustee Bailey and Supervisor Gonser regarding the ECT submission. Please take note of Supervisor Gonser’s comment that a public notice for the meeting discussing this proposal was not necessary:
Correspondence from Board members after the April 22nd meeting occurred. Treasurer Langlois responded by saying:
“Not revealing this (the grant request) does not help citizens and does not meet my definition of transparency”
Trustee Buxar responded by saying:
“I was not informed of this until after the correspondence with the Clinton River Water Council. I believe this matter was handled by the Supervisor. The only matter discussed by the subcommittee were the SAW grant applications that were approved by the Board in November.”
So did the ad hoc subcommittee discuss this proposal and approve it outside the public eye, or did Supervisor Gonser make a unilateral decision to submit the proposal? In any case, our Township leadership is acting either illegally or inappropriately. Supervisor Gonser’s comment that the discussion did not need to take place in a publicly noticed meeting is yet another display of his arrogance and dictatorial leadership style. It is consistent with his previous definition of transparency. (Click on link to read his previous statement)
Supervisor Gonser and the members of the ad hoc committee may claim that they were only trying to determine if the various approval groups (CRWC – Clinton RIver Watershed Council, Public Advisory Council (PAC) and DNR) would support the requested grant request. This approach is contrary to the procedure for submitting a grant request according to the CRWC. The PAC is a 25 community member advisory council for the Clinton River Watershed area. The DNR is the State agency that controls the rivers and streams in our State. Asking those groups to “weigh in” on their support prior to obtaining the requesting community’s agreement to pay for the improvements on private property is outside the process. Besides, why would you ask for support for a grant request before you ask the citizens of the Township if it is appropriate to spend tax dollars on private property improvements? Only in Oakland Township!
Last year at a Board meeting on another subject, Supervisor Gosner commented:
In an email he sent to Board members last year, he said;
“While I am for transparency, there are policy decisions and strategies that must not be shared until after they have come to fruition.”
So it appears Supervisor Gonser uses “process” as a defense to not do something he does not want to do, but uses his definition of “transparency” to do things he wants to get done outside the public eye.
Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township? Having the Supervisor, or an ad hoc Board committee, develop and submit a proposal that would cost the Township over $400,000 outside any public meeting is inappropriate and possibly illegal. Supervisor Gosner’s denial of any wrongdoing in previous Open Meeting Act violation investigations indicate that the Board is not willing to change their behavior and listen to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s office reprimands.
Since much of the potential cost for this project would be on private property, why would our Supervisor feel that it was not necessary to disclose the cost to the citizens in an Open Meeting? Is it because some of the benefactors of this proposal were contributors to his campaign?
The citizens of Oakland Township need to understand what is occurring in our Township and demand the ‘transparency’ that Gonser claims to be providing.
Please attend the May 13th Board meeting to hear how the Board justifies their behavior.
Please review the following previous posts regarding similar actions by our Board and Supervisor Gonser.