At the July 8th Board meeting, it was disclosed that the Township attorney has been purchasing lunches for Supervisor Gonser. The original bills were discovered on July 7th. The lunches were in November and December of 2013. These bills were reviewed and approved by Supervisor Gonser, since we did not have a Township Manager at that time. Dan Kelly, our Township attorney, repaid the Township for one of the lunches on July 7th. He did not agree to repay the Township for the other lunches since they were part of the Township’s monthly “retainer fee”. During questioning at the July 8th meeting, neither the Township Attorney nor Terry Gonser found anything ‘inappropriate” about the Attorney purchasing Gonser’s lunches. The other Board members did not express an opinion on the matter.
On July 7, 2014 the author of this post reviewed several bills that our Township attorney has charged the Township for Legal services. This review was part of a Freedom of Information Request. In reviewing the documents, it was discovered that the attorney had paid for 3 lunches with Supervisor Gonser. The bill information is:
- 11/21/2013 $23.08 Westwynd Grill Terry Gonser
- 12/02/2013 $38.43 Champps America Terry Gonser
- 12/11/2013 $40.00 Westwynd Grill Terry Gonser
The actual bills can be seen here:
On July 7th, when these charges were discussed with Manager Ann Capela, she said:
“This is not good, it will create problems!”
During the public comment portion of the Board meeting, the author of this post brought up the issue discovered on July 7th. The Attorney indicate that he paid back only the $23.08 bill, since it had been charged inappropriately to the Township. The other two lunch bills were not specifically charged to the Township, but were included as a noted item as part of a monthly retainer fee the Township pays the attorney.
Treasurer Langlois confirmed that two of the lunch bills were an ‘internal amount’ that the attorney was tracking against the monthly retainer fee ($1,500 per month).
When asked if it was appropriate for the Supervisor to have his lunches paid at the expense of the Township, even though it is part of the retainer fee, Dan Kelly responded by saying:
“It is not inappropriate!”
He went on to say that he spent hours with the Supervisor discussing legal issues in the Township.
Supervisor Gonser then said:
“Many times . . . I should not even say many times. . . . there are times when we conduct business over lunch. I guess I would have to say it is not inappropriate. We are conducting Township business!”
Here is a video of the July 8th BOT discussion:
Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township? Clearly one of the bills was inappropriately charged to the Township, and was repaid by the Attorney. The other two bills may just be the ‘tip of the iceberg’ in terms of expenses that are being ‘buried’ within the monthly retainer fee. Costs for lunches (and possibly other inappropriate charges) become the ‘baseline’ for the Legal firm to establish new monthly retainer fees in the future. If questionable expenses are included now, future retainer fees may rise without any transparent justification.
When Gonser was a manager at GM, GM had a policy where suppliers were not allowed to purchase lunches for employees. When Gonser retired, he obviously felt that that policy was inappropriate for the Township Supervisor.
The entire Township Board should go on record for approving, or not approving, the cost for this type of ‘fringe benefit’.
Here is a link to recent similar issue that Gonser approved: