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:
Township Attorney pays for Gonser’s lunches
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:
Township ‘administration’ authorizes paying for luncheon tickets – against wishes of several Board members
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While I am not a big fan of Gonser, in fairness I must say that I think the explanation of the two lunches in question given by the attorney and Gonser lead me to think that, at least this time,
this is much ado about nothin’. There is nothing unusual about an attorney and client having a working lunch together, discussing business and having the attorney pick up the tab. Lord knows there are many things to criticize Gonser for, but, in my opinion, this is not one of them.
Al, thanks for your comments. You may be right, however, when Gonser said these lunches have occurred “many times” and then tried to minimize his statement, it raised questions in my mind regarding the necessity for having ‘many’ lunches. I suspect the attorney’s ‘clock’ is running during the lunch. The contract that the Township has with the Law firm charges the hourly rate for ‘Litigation’ issues. The Attorney has charged the Township for the time he spent on FOIA appeals from citizens. From my perspective, that work should have been covered under the retainer. Thanks again!
In the professional, let alone PUBLIC world, this is a big no-no due to conflict of interest concerns and goes against many internal ethics policies, which I believe Oakland Twp. also has. I know that this kind of thing still goes on anyway in a hush hush manner. However, the concern that I feel is most important here is the fact that Dan Kelly is keeping a record of these expenditures within his firm, that seems odd. Being that we the taxpayers pay a hefty $9,000.00 per month retainer ON TOP OF all of the so called litigation, union negotiation, tax tribunal, FOIA appeals, multiple lawsuits, both as plaintiff and defendant that total to date, about $325,000 since Dan Kelly became our attorney, (a three fold increase from previous attorney over same time period) and there is NOTHING being billed AGAINST the retainer, leaves me to conclude that these types or charges are being billed against the retainer INTERNALLY within Giamarco, Mullin and Horton to reimburse Dan Kelly personally with TAX PAYER’S dollars, That, my friends, is not only unethical, it is ILLEGAL!!
If the Supervisor does it… that means it is NOT illegal. Borrowed concept from Richard Nixon.
What a bunch of crooks. No Mill Race, no new trails, no improvements to the Paint Creek Cider Mill, no improvements to Goodison, no recycling, no community events that unite, no community focus at all. Just Gonser’s internal good ole’ boy network. Kelly fits right in at OUR expense! The budget is bursting with money flowing all over the place, what do the residents have to show for it. NOTHING that matters!
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I am not sure what the issue is here. It appears that a $23 bill for a lunch is taking more intellectual capital than the issue of fracking for oil. I would suggest to Richard that he should cover issues that will create value or effect the value of the township. This is a little ” trite” and sophomoric. I expect more from a blogger that intends to be the “watchful eye” of the citizens. Weather someone buys a lunch, that is cheap at the cost, ( at least they did not go to the “Roast” in the Book Cadillac,) is a waste of time and effort, Lets concentrate on the real issues that help or hinder us. Taxes, major changes to planning, and major expenses that have long term effect.( bond issues for borrowing, etc.)
I hope that, other than this one post, you find the other items covered on this website insightful, thought provoking and helpful. Thanks for you continued interest and input.