Were residents misled by Supervisor Gonser regarding the Parks and Recreation Commission’s legal fees?

This website has recently reported on legal expenses incurred by our Township.  One of our discoveries has resulted in a $9,000 per year savings to our Township.  As we continued our investigation, Bob Yager, the editor for the Oakland Township Sentinel LLC, made a discovery that raised a question regarding what really is covered in our Township’s monthly legal retainer fee.  

During 2014, former Trustee Thalmann repeatedly accused the Parks and Recreation Commission (PRC) of ‘wasting’ Township funds by using a different law firm, since the retainer fee for the Township Board’s law firm allegedly included PRC legal support. Supervisor Gonser never corrected the repeated accusations even though a year earlier, at a PRC meeting, Supervisor Gonser made a commitment that Thalmann’s accusations would not occur.

Here is the chronology of events:

  • On February 26, 2013, the Township Board approved a contract with our current Township legal service firm,  Giarmarco, Mullen and Horton P.C.
  • On February 27, 2013, the Parks and Recreation Commission discussed the Board’s decision regarding legal support.
  • The minutes from the February 27, 2013 PRC meeting state:

“Supervisor Gonser was present and explained that the Board solicited quotes for legal services. They agreed to contract with a firm for a not-to-exceed amount for one year, and that this figure anticipated that the new firm would provide legal services to the PRC. However, the amount would be reduced if the PRC chooses to obtain legal services through a different firm.”

  • At the March 13, 2013  PRC meeting, the PRC decided to keep the legal firm they had been using for years. It was not the same firm that the Township Board was using.
  • Between January 14, 2014 and Ocotober 14, 2014, former trustee Thalmann repeatedly accused the PRC of wasting money by using their own attorney rather than using the Board’s legal firm, which allegedly was covered in the Township’s monthly retainer fee..
  • Not once, after the repeated accusations by former Trustee Thalmann, did Supervisor Gonser challenge the accuracy of her statements, even though he stated on Febraury 27, 2013 that what she said would not occur.

Here are video clips of Trustee Thalmann’s repeated accusations made on:

  1. January 14, 2014 BOT
  2. February 11, 2014 BOT
  3. March 11, 2014 BOT
  4. September 23, 2014 BOT
  5. October 14, 2014 BOT

 

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township? Many citizens still believe that the Township is paying for legal fees that are unnecessary.  The Supervisor has never clarified this issue.

With this documentation, one of three things must be true:

  • The original monthly retainer fee was reduced to reflect the decision the PRC made to keep their own legal support firm, BUT Supervisor Gonser never felt it necessary to correct the multiple erroneous statements made by former Trustee Thalmann.

or

  • The original monthly retainer fee never included the PRC legal services, BUT Supervisor Gonser never felt it necessary to correct the erroneous statements made by former Trustee Thalmann.

or

  • Supervisor Gonser never reduced the monthly retainer fee to reflect the decision the PRC made to keep their own legal support firm, AND we are continuing to pay more for legal services than what is necessary.

We will request the the Board clarify this issue and report on it in a future post.  We are either paying more for legal services than what we need to be paying, or Supervisor Gonser’s ‘silence’ on this matter was an ‘act of omission’.

Richard Michalski

 

 

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