At the April 14, 2015 Oakland Township Board meeting, Supervisor Gonser announced that Trustee Maureen Thalmann had submitted a letter of resignation. The Board voted 6 to 0 to accept her resignation. Supervisor Gonser commented that Thalmann resigned for family reasons and that she is spending time promoting a book that she recently had published.
It should be mentioned that one month ago Maureen Thalmann was named as one of the subjects of an investigation into the sharing of confidential, attorney-client privileged documents with un-authorized persons. At the April 14th meeting, the attorney’s findings prompted a motion by Treasurer Langlois to schedule a joint meeting between the Township Board and Parks and Recreation Commission (PRC) to review the results of the investigation and determine what action, if any, needed to be taken. The Board voted, 5 to 1, to schedule a Township Board closed session meeting, followed by a joint meeting with the Parks and Recreation Commission. Supervisor Gonser was the sole objecting vote.
Here is some additional background on this topic:
- At the March 10, 2015 Board meeting, Parks Commission member Ann Marie Rogers used ‘personal, private and/or confidential’ phone records when making several accusations against Trustee Buxar.
- At the March 24th Board meeting, Trustee Buxar presented the results of an investigation into how Parks Commissioner Rogers obtained the phone records. Here is a summary of her findings:
– Because Anne Marie Rogers is involved in a lawsuit against the Township, in October of 2014, Ann Marie Rogers was informed that ANY request she made for Township documents MUST be made in writing, so the Township Attorney can review them prior to them being provided to her.
– Email records confirmed that Commissioner Rogers and Trustee Thalmann were both informed of the requirement for written requests from Ann Marie Rogers for Township documents.
– In review of Township records, the only individual that had requested Trustee Buxar’s Township phone records was Trustee Thalmann. There were no written requests for phone records from Commissioner Rogers, yet Commissioner Rogers used the phone record information in her March 10th accusations against Trustee Buxar.
– Buxar’s findings also identified a much more serious issue : Attorney-Client Privileged information had been shared inappropriately between Thalmann, Gonser and Rogers.
- Treasurer Langlois commented on the severity of this situation:
“The magnitude of this breach simply cannot be overstated. The Board chose Supervisor Gonser and Trustee Thalmann as the two person subcommittee charged with representing the Board in good faith negotiations with the Parks and Recreation Commission. The fact that they shared privileged and confidential information prior to these meetings is extremely troubling and obviously, given the phone records, this isn’t the first time we have seen this.”
- Treasurer Langlois then made the following motion, that was supported by Trustee Bailey. The motions was unanimously approved.
“Secure all confidential communications and emails, including all communications and emails pertaining to closed sessions, and all attorney client privileged communications and emails, by and between the Oakland Township Board of Trustees and the Oakland Township Parks Commission for review by the Oakland Township Attorney. To authorize the Oakland Township Manager to retain IT consultant, I.T. RIGHT, for assistance, if necessary. To authorize the Oakland Township attorney to work with the Oakland Township Parks and Recreation attorney if necessary.”
- At the April 14, 2015 Board meeting, the Board was given a memo from the Oakland Township attorney with the findings of his investigation. The results were not shared with the public.
- After a brief recess for Board members to review the memo, Treasurer Langlois commented:
“Given that the information contained in our review, and presumable their’s (the Parks and Recreation Commission’s), does affect both Boards, I would like to see this Board agree to the joint meeting (proposed by the PRC).”
- The Board agreed, in a 5 to 1 vote, to hold a closed session meeting and then an open session joint meeting (at least for now) with the Parks and Recreation Commission, where the results of the investigation and potential actions will be discussed. Supervisor Gonser was opposed to the meetings.
Here is a video supporting the statements made above:
Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township? The Board and Parks and Recreation Commission members swear to adhere to an oath of office. Three of our elected officials may have violated their oath, and possibly the law. There may be efforts made to prevent the facts on these allegations from being made public. The citizens of Oakland Township deserve to understand what really took place. We do not need to know the content of any “privileged and confidential” letters, but we do need to know “who” sent “what” to “whom” so the citizens can consider the facts when voting in 2016.
Hopefully the joint meeting between the Board and the Parks and Recreation Commission will be an open meeting, and the facts will be made public. The public deserves to know if our elected officials violated their oath of office.
Do you know the process the board will use to backfill Trustee Thalmann’s position? Will it be an appointment by the board? How do they get their candidate slate if that is the process? Is there any specific timing required?
Just curious as to what the board may be doing to replace. I believe the next township board election will be in 2016 so we have 19 months left on this position.
The Township Board has 45 days to appoint someone to backfill the position. I believe the remaining tenure of the appointed candidate is too short to warrant an election to ‘officially’ replace Thalmann by the voters. This is different from when former Trustees Judy Keyes and Sharon McKay resigned. As you know, we had elections last year to ‘officially’ install Trustees Buxar and Giannangeli. That was because there was a significant amount of time left until the next regular election for the Board positions.
(PLEASE READ COMMENT SHOWN BELOW FOR CORRECTION TO MY ‘UNDERSTANDING’ STATED HERE!) It is my understanding that the replacement is ‘nominated’ by Supervisor Gonser, and a vote by the Board is required to approve any candidate. Therefore, Gonser still has some control over who he wants to put in. Hopefully, the Board will make sure the candidate is a qualified individual. If residents are interested, I would suggest they submit their names TO ALL of the Board members.
I received an email from Treasurer Langlois correcting the statement I made above regarding who has the authority to nominate the replacement Trustee. Here is her statement:
“I saw your post referencing the process to fill the vacant trustee seat and I would like to clarify that any trustee can nominate someone for the open seat. Also, if interested individuals submit their application via the township website, I am absolutely confident that our township manager will provide all six trustees with the information.”
I, for one, am thankful that the entire Board has the authority to nominate someone for the open seat. Once again, I would encourage any interested individual to communicate their interest to the Township as Treasurer Langlois has suggested above.
Hey Richard! When are YOU going to run so people can watch YOU?
I have spent almost 27 years serving the community on the Planning Commission. During those years there were plenty of opportunities for the citizens to voice any concern over my actions. Not once were any issues raised.
There are many good members of the community that will certainly step up now to fill the position. It is their time to serve!
Apparently, you believe the alleged actions do not warrant the investigation! That may be your opinion, but I believe the majority of our citizens feel differently.
Richard and Jim–It is absolutely obvious that the only reason you would be encouraged to contribute your time and expertise to serving on the board is for the purposes of satiating that person’s desire to make your tenure on any board as uncomfortable and difficult as possible. There are only a few people who regularly show up to meetings who are interpersonally difficult and abrasive so I’ll leave that as the obvious clue of that person’s identity. OldCarMan–please begin generating something more interesting to say than your two previous comments. It’s tiresome. There are many good (and bad) reasons for running for office. Encouraging someone to apply so YOU can put them down is selfish, immature, and trite.
I am not at all intimidated by OldCarMan. As I stated before, I put in my time. I will continue to invest time on this website, and at meetings, until the behavior of some of the Township Board members, and other elected or appointed individuals, returns to a level of civility and professionalism.
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