At the May 13, 2014 Oakland Township Board meeting, Supervisor Gonser unilaterally made a decision that violated the recently approved bylaws regarding citizen comments during Public Board meetings. By doing so, he violated former Trustee, Judy Keyes’ right to speak. He did not allow her to speak during the second “Public Comment” portion of the agenda, even though the bylaws specifically allow for residents to comment during the first and second “Public Comment” agenda items.
During the first Public Comment agenda item, former Trustee Judy Keyes pointed out that the Supervisor has been inconsistent in applying the rules during public comment. She stated:
“Over the past many months, Chairman Gonser has allowed certain individuals to stand at this podium to name call, slander businesses, make disparaging statements about other residents and even direct residents to stand up or sit down to show how they stood on a particular agenda item. All of this has been allowed, as many videos have now documented, with no intervention from Mr. Gonser.”
She went on to say:
“I am humbly and respectfully asking that Chairperson Gonser and the entire Board protect my Constitutional right to free speech without fear of intimidation, threats or slander and that your directives for citizen comments be equally enforced, and equally applied to all citizens, and that this be done not only by Chairman Gonser, but also the entire Board if he fails to do so, as you all swore to uphold the Constitution and the right to free speech, in it’s intending form.”
Later in the meeting, during the second public comment agenda item, Supervisor Gonser announced that only citizens who had not spoken during the first public comment portion would be allowed to speak. THIS IS A DIRECT VIOLATION OF THE BYLAWS THAT THE BOARD HAD RECENTLY APPROVED AND AMENDED ON MARCH 25, 2014.
When Judy Keyes approached the podium, he would not allow her to make another public statement. Supervisor Gonser said:
“You will not speak unless the Supervisor and Chairperson gives you an opportunity to speak!”
When Judy Keyes challenged his decision, since it violates the Oakland Township Board bylaws, Supervisor Gonser said:
“That is the standing operating procedures for all surrounding communities!”
Judy Keyes’ final comment was:
“I have more information that Supervisor Gonser does not want to get out!”
Gonser responded by threatening:
“Mrs. Keyes, don’t push the buttons!”
None of the Trustees challenged Gonser’s decision!!!!
Here is a copy of the applicable section of the approved bylaws. (click on image for larger view)
It explicitly states:
“EACH PERSON SHALL BE ALLOWED TO SPEAK ONCE DURING EACH PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD FOR A MAXIMUM OF 3 MINUTES.”
Here is a video of what transpired during the May 13th meeting.
Two citizens pointed out to Supervisor Gonser that he violated the Board’s bylaws.
Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township? Supervisor Gonser made a unilateral decision to not allow citizens to comment during the second citizen comment portion of the meeting if they had commented during the first public comment portion. THIS DECISION IS IN DIRECT VIOLATION OF THE APPROVED BYLAWS GOVERNING BOARD MEETINGS! This decision violated Judy Keyes right to speak. Unfortunately, none of the Board Members were willing to challenge Gonser’s decision.
Supervisor Gonser continues to feel he has the power to make decisions for which he does not have the authority. Not following the bylaws is a clear indication of his respect for ‘the rule of law”. Just because he discovered other communities may not allow citizens to make more than one public comment during a Board meeting, does not give him the authority to change the rules on how Oakland Township is governed.
It is also amazing, but unfortunately not surprising, that Supervisor Gonser violated Judy Keyes’ right of speech in the same meeting where she asked that both he, and the Board, protect her right to free speech .
It is absolutely amazing that the Board did not challenge him on this decision. Are the citizens of Oakland Township really blind to what is going on in our Township? If you find his behavior reprehensible, please start getting involved, or at least send emails to other Board members encouraging them to stand up to him!
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