Supervisor Gonser and Trustee Thalmann attempt (once again) to have a “Strong Supervisor” structure in Oakland Township

The October 9, 2014 Rochester Post had an article about the termination of the former Oakland Township manager’s contract.  In that article, Supervisor Gonser made comments that indicate he wanted to reconsider Oakland Township’s governance structure. Last year, he lobbied for having a full time “strong supervisor” structure vs. the current system (a part time supervisor and a full time professional manager).  

At the October 14th Board meeting, Trustee Thalmann indicated she wanted to revisit the “strong supervisor” proposal.  She made this comment after Trustee Bailey made a motion to have our current assistant manager, Jamie Moore, temporarily fill that position until a new manager was selected.  Gonser and Thalmann’s proposal was met with thoughtful objections from other Board members and citizens.  After considerable debate, the Board approved the temporary position for Jamie Moore, and authorized a search for a full time manager.

In the October 9th Rochester Post article, Supervisor Gonser is quoted as saying:

“The Township Board will have to discuss hiring –or not hiring– a new Township manager”

In the article, he went on to argue that Oakland Township is in the minority of Townships since we have an elected part time Supervisor and a full time manager or superintendent.

At the October 14th Board meeting, Trustee Bailey made a motion to have the current Township assistant manager fill the manager position until a permanent full time manager is selected.  He specifically included the designated statutory responsibilities “A through O” as part of her responsibilities.  He stated that he felt it was inappropriate for the Supervisor to assume those responsibilities.

Trustee Thalmann challenged Bailey’s comment and indicated that she wanted the Board to revisit the “strong Supervisor” structure.  She said:

“The Supervisor’s job is designed for all but 42 of the 1200-and-something charter townships in the state.  I still hold the opinion that a ‘strong supervisor’ and a deputy perhaps is a better way to go.”

Trustee Bailey and Treasurer Langlois expressed strong objection to revisiting this issue.  Bailey commented:

“We certainly debated that ‘ad infinitum’ and we concluded we do want to retain a township manager.”

Langlois commented:

“I like the idea of having a township manager that reports to the board.”

Several citizens expressed their objection to Thalmann’s proposal.  Reg Brown challenged Gonser and Thalmann’s comparison to other communities by saying:

“The statement that a small number of the 1240 townships do this (a part time Supervisor and a full time professional manager rather than a full time strong Supervisor) is a faulty comparison.  A great number of those townships have 200 to 300 people in them, so what does that have to do with what Oakland Township would do?”

Frank Ferriolo strongly objected to the proposal by stating:

“We spent 3 months last year going over, nitpicking if you will, this whole process of ‘strong supervisor’ vs. township manager having the “A through O” responsibilities.  We concluded our best interest is that the current form that we have is a good form.

The other thing I found a little bit curious is that both Mr. Gonser and trustee Thalmann were the champions of a ‘strong supervisor’ without a township manager.  Yet they were the only two that voted to keep the township manager (Capela) in the vote.

There would be great difficulty dismissing a ‘rogue’ supervisor and deputy.”

Gonser has previously stated that he spends over 50 hours per week in the Township Office, yet the Supervisor position is a part time position.

The Board ultimately voted on Bailey’s motion and approved it in a 6 to 1 vote.  Thalmann was the only negative vote.

There was also an issue raised whether Gonser should be the one offering the temporary position to the assistant manager.  After much discussion, the Board agreed to have Gonser extend the offer with the express statement that “the Board was making the offer”, not Gonser.

The Board voted on having Gonser extend the offer.  It passed in a 6 to 1 vote.  Thalmann was once again the exception.

Here is a video of the October 14th proceedings:

We should have seen this coming with Gonser’s post on Linkedin.  The responsibilities he states exceeds his statutory responsibilities.  The ENTIRE Board has those responsibilities and they delegated those to the Township Superintendant/ Manager – Jim Creech at that time.

Here is Gonser’s post to Linkedin:

Supervisor – Charter Township of Oakland, Oakland County, MI – (November 2012 to present)

Chief elected officer of the Township. Responsible for budgets, personnel, and all aspects of township government and Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Also a member of the Board of Directors of the tri-municipality Older Persons Commission.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  The majority of the Board members are beginning to recognize and exercise their statutory responsibilities.  They are no longer acting as the formal approvers of Gonser’s opinions and agendas.  The Board, collectively, is more important than the supervisor.  For their recent actions and votes, the citizens should be grateful.

The fact that Gonser admitted spending 50 hours per week, on what should be a part time position, is evidence that he is doing more than what he is authorized to do.  In essence, he is managing the Township as a “Strong Supervisor”.  Could that be why both he and Thalmann did not support terminating our former manager’s contract? Was he doing her work, and she was not opposed to him doing it?

Time will tell if the Board is able to ‘restrain’ the Supervisor from using his position in inappropriate manners.  It looks like the majority of the Board is beginning to recognize the issue and hopefully will ensure their authority is not usurped by Gonser. The Board’s motion that explicitly states the Board is extending the temporary offer to the assistant manager clearly is intended to let the temporary manager know that she reports to the entire Board – not just the Supervisor.

Here are some related articles previously posted on this website:

Former article on “strong supervisor’ structure

Can we trust Supervisor Gonser with more authority

Richard Michalski

4 thoughts on “Supervisor Gonser and Trustee Thalmann attempt (once again) to have a “Strong Supervisor” structure in Oakland Township

  1. Pingback: Supervisor Gonser thinks Oakland Township’s form of government is “bizarre” and unworkable | Oakland Township Watchers

  2. Pingback: Supervisor Gonser Plots a Vote to Grant Him Strong Supervisor Powers | Oakland Township Watchers

  3. Pingback: Oakland Township hires new Township Manager/Superintendent | Oakland Township Watchers

  4. Pingback: Oakland Township loses another Township Manager – What or who is ‘root cause’ for turnover? | Oakland Township Watchers

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