Daily Archives: August 6, 2015

Oakland Township loses another Township Manager – What or who is ‘root cause’ for turnover?

It was reported in the August 5, 2015 Oakland Press that Warren Brown, the recently hired Oakland Township manager has resigned after 6 months, creating the third vacancy at the position in less than two years.  Here is the Oakland Press article:

Oakland Township manager Warren Brown resigns

In the article, Supervisor Gonser states that “(Brown’s resignation) makes the township look terrible and highlights the fact the board of trustees is incapable of making a good hire,” Gonser said. “I seriously doubt any quality candidate would apply for this vacancy.”

Oakland Township is yet again faced with trying to find a good candidate to fill the Township manager position.

Supervisor Gonser has repeatedly tried to change the stucture of Oakland Township to one where he would be the “Strong Supervisor” rather than the one we have had for years with a “Strong Manager”.  That form had served our Township well for many years prior to Supervisor Gonser’s election.

When problems come up, it is best to think about what has changed that could have caused the problems. Since Gonser and the Board took office in 2012, the following problems  have occurred in Oakland Township:

  • In two and one half years, we have gone through three Township managers.  Jim Creech, Ann Capela and Warren Brown.  Jim Creech served our Township well for 15 years.
  • Three Township Trustees have resigned.
  • Our Fire Chief for many years resigned.
  • Unions have been created in our firefighters and Parks and Recreation staff.
  • Our knowledgeable and experienced Planning Commission members have been, or are all being, replaced.
  • Most of our knowledgeable and experienced Zoning Board of Appeals members have been replaced.
  • Our Planning Consultant has decided to retire from serving Oakland Township, but not other communities.
  • The Township changed legal firms representing our Township.
  • Our legal expense has almost doubled since the new Board took office.
  • Our Planning Administrator is planning on leaving to become the City Manager for Marine City.
  • Our original Township Board recording secretary quit, but continues to support the Parks and Recreation Commission.
  • The Township Supervisor attempted to take over responsibility the Parks and Recreation Commission had successfully managed for years.
  • The Parks and Recreation Commission retained their original legal firm.
  • Two Parks and Recreation Commission members filed a lawsuit against several other Parks and Recreation Commission members.
  • The Township Board legally challenged the formation of the Parks and Recreation union.
  • A Trustee and a Parks and Recreation Commission member shared ‘Privileged and Confidential’ material with others.
  • The Supervisor did not find anything wrong with having received the inappropriate “Privileged and Confidential” material, or that the information had been sent, by a Trustee, to others.
  • The Board repudiated the behavior of the Trustee and called the Supervisor’s inaction ‘improper’ regarding the sharing of Privileged and Confidential material.
  • After investigating several alleged Open Meeting Act violations, the Prosecutors office determined that “two of the matters may have been violations” and proceeded to make recommendations to the Board on how they should have handled it.
  • The Supervisor publicly apologized for making slanderous comments about a former Trustee.
  • The Supervisor accused other Board members of Open Meeting Act violation.
  • The Board approved covering the legal expense for a legal request that the Supervisor made ‘as an individual’.
  • The Supervisor did not recuse himself in the vote to have the Township pay the legal expense for the legal request he made ‘as an individual’.
  • There are multiple lawsuits involving Oakland Township at the County and Federal levels regarding the Blossom Ridge Senior development.
  • The Township has taken legal action against the non-profit Clinton River Watershed Council over the Millrace issue.

All of these items have occurred since our new Board was elected.

The things that have gone on in our Township over the past two and one half years indicate that we certainly are not the Township we were prior to Supervisor Gonser and the Board taking office.  The citizens need to determine if they think we are better off now, then what we were before they took office.

Over the past two and one half years,  the Board has repeatedly indicated that they want a ‘Strong Manager’ form of governance in Oakland Township.  They passed a resolution restating ordinance 97 to reaffirm their desire to have that form of governance.  Supervisor Gonser continues to want to act as a “Strong Supervisor”.  This may have been a contributing factor in Warren Brown’s decision to resign.  The rationale for having a “Strong Manager” form of government has been reported on this website many times (see below).

To be fair, over the past 12 months, some of the Board members have seen the “the errors of their previous ways”, and have taken steps to change the direction that Supervisor Gonser was leading them. With the resignation of Maureen Thalmann, the Board appears to be moving in a positive direction.  All of them ultimately will be held accountable for their actions.

Supervisor Gonser Plots a Vote to Grant Supervisor Strong Supervisor Powers

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

Trustees reject Supervisor Gonser’s desire to become a “Strong Supervisor”


Supervisor Gonser thinks Oakland Township’s form of government is “bizarre” and unworkable

Can we trust Supervisor Gonser with more authority?

So where do we go from here?  It will be interesting to see what the Board decides to do at the next Board meeting on August 11, 2015.  Stay tuned.  This may be as interesting as watching the Republican debates on August 6th.

Supervisor Gonser appears to place blame on the Board for the turnover in the manager’s position.  Did his repeated attempts at trying to change the structure of Oakland Township and his interaction with Mr. Brown play a role in Mr. Brown’s decision to leave?

Several months ago, I posted a facetious post asking:

Is Oakland Township the “Animal Farm”?

Every day, I think the answer is becoming more and more clear.

We have a little more than one year of ‘damage control’ before our next election.  Hopefully we will ‘choose wisely’ next time.

Richard Michalski