As reported earlier on this website, Supervisor Gonser violated Oakland Township’s bylaws when he did not allow former Trustee Judy Keyes to speak during the second ‘citizen comment’ portion of the May 13th BOT meeting. At the June 10th BOT meeting, a motion was made to change the bylaws to restrict citizens to only one comment for items not on the agenda. This motion, if approved, would have allowed Supervisor Gonser’s May 13th action to be in compliance with the ‘revised’ bylaws. In documenting Supervisor Gonser’s actions and comments on this issue, there are clear inconsistencies between his actions and his comments. He ultimately did not support the motion, but still tried to inappropriately justify his actions . His future actions must be monitored, or we will face, as one of his past supporters stated, “increasingly repressive measures”.
Here is the chronology of events:
May 13th BOT meeting
- Gonser refuses to allow former Trustee Keyes to speak during second public comment portion of meeting – violating Oakland Township’s bylaws.
June 10th BOT meeting
- At beginning of meeting, Supervisor Gonser tries to justify his May 13th actions by stating:
“It is clearly stated in Michigan law that the Chairman determines who speaks, for how long and who does not speak, and who may be called ‘out of order’.”
- He then goes on to make a statement that indicates he will support a proposed change to the bylaws that would have allowed his actions at the May 13th meeting:
“I believe tonight some of that (the May 13 issue) may be resolved relative to a change in the wording of the bylaws”
- During the discussion on the proposed bylaws change to prevent citizens from making a second comment during the ‘citizen comments’ portion of the agenda, a very vocal supporter of Supervisor Gonser and this Board made the following statement:
“This move does not pass the smell test. It is obvious that the concern for some on the Board is to push back on the voices of the opposition.”
- Treasurer Langlois, who wrote the proposed wording for the bylaw change, responded by saying:
“Based on my fellow trustee’s comments, and the math (statistics on how much time has been consumed by citizen’s second comments) I will support leaving the bylaws the way they are.”
- Supervisor Gonser then states:
“I am not in favor of changing the bylaws. What happened last month – happened. Since I was chairing, I will accept responsibility for it. But according to MCL 4197, the Supervisor, a.k.a. chairman of the meeting, does grant authority to persons to speak at the meeting, and silencing those that may be out of order for disrupting the meeting….. I have never suggested we not leave it (allowing public comment for a second time) that way.”
Here are some key points
- Former Trustee Keyes was not disruptive at the May 13 meeting, so Supervisor Gonser had no justification for his actions, even though he tried to hide behind the MCL rule.
- Supervisor Gonser’s actions at the May 13th meeting were clearly aimed at silencing former Trustee Keyes, since she (and others) have been very vocal opponents of this Board, and Supervisor Gonser in particular.
- Treasurer Langlois, who was the author of the proposed amendment, had the courage to acknowledge that her initial position was not appropriate and changed her mind based on input from trustees and citizens.
- Trustee Thalmann was not influenced by trustee and citizen comments and voted to restrict citizen input.
- Supervisor Gonser did not have the courage to publicly state that his May 13th action was wrong since he continued to try and justify his actions by referencing the MCL rule – even though he violated our Township bylaws.
- Supervisor Gonser stated that he never suggested or favored changing the bylaws. However, earlier in the meeting, he stated that the issue (his actions) from the May 13 meeting would be ‘resolved’ through a ‘change in the wording of the bylaws’.
Here is a video documenting the above statements:
Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township? Supervisor Gonser’s comments at the June 10 meeting clearly demonstrate he believes his May 13th actions were acceptable even though they violated the bylaws of our Township. His continued attempt to justify his actions by referencing the MCL rule further confirms that his vote to not approve the change in the bylaws was ‘half hearted’. His actions must be closely monitored by concerned citizens, or we will see “increasingly repressive measures” as stated by one of Supervisor Gonser’s supporters.