Monthly Archives: June 2016

Parks Commission and Board ‘ticket’ candidates are recommending ‘NO’ vote on Parks renewal millage

At the June 27, 2016 “Meet-and-Greet” candidate event that Trustee candidate Lana Mangiapane set up, it was discovered that ALL of the Parks and Recreation Commission and Board candidates that were sponsoring this event are recommending a ‘NO’ vote on the Parks renewal millage.  They are running for office as a ‘ticket’   One of their documents states:

“This action will NOT close the Parks, it would simply turn the funding of the parks to the Trustees.”

The candidates who are running as a ‘ticket’ include:

Parks and Recreation Commission

  • Ann Marie Rogers
  • Beth Markel
  • James Clark
  • Bryan Cecilio

Township Board

  • Terry Gonser – for Supervisor
  • Judy Workings – for Clerk (*)
  • Jayson Corey – for Trustee
  • Lana Mangiapane – for Trustee
  • Jeaneane Landers – for Trustee (*)
  • Bob Ricketts – for Trustee (*)

(*) Were not present at event

One of the documents being handed out by the group is ‘illegal’ since it does not identify who authored the document.  When questioned who was the source of the document, none of the candidates answered.  However, since this document was being handed out at their ‘ticket’ campaign events, they all share in the responsibility for the content and legality of the document.

This illegal document is the same one that was previously reported as being distributed on residents mailboxes along with some candidate campaign literature.  See “Fact sheet on Parks and Recreation Commission and millage renewal”.

A second document they were handing out indicates that they all recommend voting ‘NO’ on the parks renewal millage.

Oakland Township election slate

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  There has never been such a clear distinction between the candidates who are running for the Parks and Recreation Commission. The four Parks candidates named above must think that the money for managing the Parks will ‘magically’ come from the Trustees.  Where is that money coming from?

As I stated, the choice is clear!  If you like the Parks in Oakland Township, please vote ‘yes’ on the millage renewal, and the true ‘Park Protectors‘ shown here:

Emily Barkham
Craig Blust
Dan Bukowski
Colin Choi
Cathy Rooney
Daniel Simon
Hank Van Agen

The choice is also clear regarding the candidates for the Board.  Knowing the millage renewal position of the Board candidates mentioned above is one factor the voters should consider.  It is also interesting that none (Jeaneane Landers being the exception) of the Board candidates running on this ‘ticket’ have provided their position on the form of governance they recommend for Oakland Township.  Jeaneane Landers has stated that she supports changing our structure to what Supervisor Gonser has been trying to do for almost 4 years  – Gonser being a full time Supervisor, and elimination of the the full time professional municipal Manager position.

Absentee Ballots are going out this week.  It will be an interesting summer!

Richard Michalski


Fact sheet on Parks and Recreation Commission and millage renewal

Parks Commission sign

A number of residents have been receiving fliers on their mailboxes recommending voting ‘no’ on the upcoming Parks  millage.  These fliers have no identification on them as to who generated the flier.  However, they have been  included with campaign fliers from several Parks and Recreation candidates.

It is a criminal offense under the Michigan Campaign Finance Act (as quoted below) to distribute election material without identifying who paid for it.

Section 169.247
Act 388 of 1976

Sec. 47.
(1) Except as otherwise provided in this subsection and subject to subsections (3) and (4), a billboard, placard, poster, pamphlet, or other printed matter having reference to an election, a candidate, or a ballot question, shall bear upon it an identification that contains the name and address of the person paying for the matter.

(6) A person who knowingly violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or imprisonment for not more than 93 days, or both.

Several current Parks and Recreation Commissioners felt Township citizens should be provided the facts to offset the false statements claimed on the flier.  Here is their fact sheet:


  • In the 2015 Planning Commission Survey, Parks and Recreation topped the list of positive changes in Oakland Township according to township residents. Oakland Township residents have supported parks millages for over 40 years. Thank you!
  • In a 2009 publication of The Trust for Public Land, studies showed that excellent parks can add 15 percent to the value of a nearby dwelling.
  • Over the years, the Parks and Recreation Commission has purchased the most valuable natural areas for our parks as determined by a professional land survey IN 1974.
  • Wetlands clean our groundwater, provide habitat for fish and wildlife, store floodwater and maintain surface water during dry periods. Wetlands are among the world’s most productive ecosystems, comparable to rainforests or coral reefs. They are neither “unusable” nor just “swamps.”
  • According to the 2016 National Recreation and Parks Association Field Report, Oakland Township Parks and Recreation’s annual operating expenditures, based upon the Township’s population, is 14% lower than a typical park agency.
  • The real cost of salary and benefits for our PRC is actually only 33% of the revenue provided to the Parks and Recreation Commission, less than half of what parks opponents have alleged.
  • Equipment purchased for PRC employees are necessary for parks work. Examples include two-way radios required for the safety of prescribed burn crews and communication at large events, phones for reporting emergencies or using online sources during field work, a golf cart for transporting disabled and elderly residents at events and equipment etc.
  • All park properties are open to the public.  Federal grants don’t restrict residents from using parks. They do restrict such things as water towers and cellphone towers.
  • Of the total 1100 acres of Oakland Township park land, 782 acres could have been otherwise developed as subdivisions. Instead the PRC applied for grants that funded 132 acres, worked with generous land owners who donated 242 acres as well as negotiating purchases of 726 acres.
  • Professionals are hired for park design and master planning because of their knowledge of federal, state and local requirements and their expertise on practical as well as aesthetic design issues.
  • The Parks and Rec Commission demonstrates prudent budgeting by keeping a fund balance to cover future costs – a strategy used by most sensible families. Since the PRC receives its funding once each year, money must be reserved to cover operations, park improvements, programs and matching funds for potential grants until the revenue is received.
  • Legal fees for the 2015/16 PRC fiscal year were 2% of the total budget (Parks and Land Preservation).
  • The PRC creates a new Master Plan for the Oakland Township Parks every five years.  In the 2015 PRC Master Plan survey, residents responded that the most desired park facilities are walking and biking trails, fitness trails, greenspace, natural areas, and off-leash dog park.  The highest interests in recreation included walking, biking, sledding, ice skating, canoeing/kayaking and fishing.  All of these are currently part of the OT Parks and Recreation programming.

Information provided by Current PRC Commissioners

Colleen Barkham

Joe Peruzzi

Alice Tomboulian

Some answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the millage can be seen by clicking:

FAQ on Parks Millage

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Having the facts before voting on the millage issue is critical.  The three current Parks and Recreation Commission members who have responded to the false information in the flier, as well as Parks Commissioner David Mackley, are recent State award winning Parks Commissioners for their “ongoing and tireless commitment to Parks and Recreation Programs and Services in their communities.”  They are all retiring after years of service to our community. Their efforts, and your past support for parks millages, have been responsible for the outstanding Parks System Oakland Township possesses.  In order to continue that legacy, they have endorsed the following candidates for the Parks Commission.

Emily Barkham
Craig Blust
Dan Bukowski
Colin Choi
Cathy Rooney
Daniel Simon
Hank Van Agen

If you like the Parks in Oakland Township, please vote ‘yes’ on the millage renewal, and the true ‘Park Protectors shown above.

NOTE: The campaign information for these candidates was not what was included with the flier mentioned in the first paragraph of this post.

Richard Michalski


Statistics on growth of “Board/Manager” form of community governance

Supervisor Terry Gonser is proposing going back to the form of Township governance our community had prior to 1998, where his position would be a full time position.  There are several 2016 Oakland Township Board candidates that support Terry Gonser’s re-election candidacy, and presumably support his desire to make this change. 

Statistics published by the International City/Council Management Association (ICMA) indicate that many communities are moving toward the form of governance Oakland Township currently has, not away from it.  Their data indicates the size of a community influences the form of governance the communities choose.

After several attempts, we have not been successful in obtaining written statements from Supervisor Gonser (although his past actions make his position clear) , or several other Board candidates, regarding their position on this issue.  The citizens of Oakland Township deserve to understand each candidate’s position before they cast their ballots. Unfortunately the following have been reluctant to provide their positions.

We have not received responses from:

  • Terry Gonser – Supervisor Candidate
  • Judy Workings – Clerk Candidate
  • Jayson Corey – Trustee Candidate
  • Lana Mangiapane – Trustee Candidate
  • Robert Ricketts – Trustee Candidate who has withdrawn from race

The statements from the other candidates can be read by clicking:


Here is more information on ICMA and the statistics they provided:

The ICMA is an organization that:

“identifies leading practices to address the needs of local governments and professionals serving communities globally. We provide services, research, publications, data and information, peer and results-oriented assistance, and training and professional development to thousands of city, town, and county leaders and other individuals and organizations throughout the world. The management decisions made by ICMA’s members affect millions of people living in thousands of communities, ranging in size from small towns to large metropolitan areas.”

Here is a quote from their website regarding the form of governance in communities (note: the ‘board-manager’ form of governance for a Township is similar to the ‘council-manager’ form for a village or city):

“Since it was first created a century ago, the council-manager form of government has become the most popular structure of local government in the United States. While many new municipalities have been incorporated with managers from their beginnings, many cities and counties across the country have made a deliberate change from strong-mayor to council-manager. Appointing a non-partisan professional manager with the authority to carry out the policies set by the elected body has advantages for many communities, and several have recently made the switch.”

The ICMA has provided data on how the preferred form of governance changes as a community increases in size.  Here is a graph of that data:

(click on image to enlarge it)

Form of governance vs. Community size

As you can see, when a community is small in size, it tends to have a “Mayor-Council’ or “Supervisor-Board” form of governance.  As it grows, and the complexity of managing the community increases,  it tends to move toward a “Council-Manager” or “Board-Manager” form of governance, where a professionally trained manager handles the administrative issues of the community at the direction of the Board.  Once a community gets above 250,000 residents, the “Mayor-Council” form of governance comes back into favor.

Oakland Township’s 2010 population was almost 17,000.  With that population size, 53% of the 1,847 communities surveyed have a “Board-Manager” form of governance, similar to what Oakland Township currently possesses.  The reasons for the increase in popularity of this form of governance are expressed by many of the the Oakland Township Board candidates that support retaining our current form of governance, SEE 2016 CANDIDATE OPINIONS, as well as the Kalamazoo Township Board that is moving to this form of governance, SEE KALAMAZOO BOARD DECISION.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  As previously stated, there are several 2016 candidates that support Supervisor Gonser.  If they get elected, they may be successful in making his position a full time position. There are a few candidates (identified above) that have not provided their position on this critical issue.  Please consider the information that is available when you vote.

Richard Michalski

Legal review underway to determine if Supervisor Gonser had authority to commit Township to significant financial liability without Board knowledge or approval

At the June 14, 2016 Oakland Township Board meeting, Treasurer Langlois disclosed that on September 3, 2014, Supervisor Gonser signed a safety path easement agreement with a property owner to transfer “all responsibility and liability for the safety path and boardwalk to the Township and its residents”.  This agreement was done without any knowledge, or agreement, from the Township Board.  

The agreement could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars of cost to the Township in repair and/or replacement of that badly deteriorated path.  The property involved is on the Southwest corner of Adams and Silverbell Roads.   The parcel is currently owned by a Moceri entity. It was purchased from the church on that corner approximately 90 days after the easement was signed. The easement document that the Supervisor signed indicates that it was prepared by an employee of a Moceri entity.  (The ownership information was corrected after the initial post.   The change in ownership was incorrectly stated as just the opposite of what is now correctly stated.)

Treasurer Langlois stated there is no evidence of a Board review, or a Legal review of this matter (the Township attorney did not appear to have any knowledge of the agreement).  She also stated:

“I do not believe Supervisor Gonser had, or has, the authority to accept easements on behalf of the Township.  Only the Board of Trustees has that authority. The document appears to show an overreach on the part of the Supervisor, and a complete improper action.”

Supervisor Gonser sat silent for almost 3 minutes while others spoke before he stated:

“Unfortunately I don’t remember why I signed it.  I can only state that it certainly did not come in a vacuum.  Someone had to present it to me and indicated it was appropriate to sign, but I don’t remember the specifics of it.” 

He made no attempt at explaining why he did not bring it to the Board for approval, or even for information.

Trustee Ferriolo stated:

“No matter what was involved in the history and rationale for doing it, it should have been brought to the Board.”

The Township attorney has agreed to perform an investigation on this issue and will report out at the next meeting scheduled for June 28, 2016.


Here is a video of the June 14th discussion:


Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  We certainly must wait for the results of the Legal investigation to be complete before we draw any final conclusions, but Supervisor Gonser’s signature, and lack of willingness to inform the entire Board of his actions, is consistent with previous behavior.

This website has reported that Supervisor Gonser has repeatedly attempted to change the governance structure of Oakland Township to one where he would become a full time “Strong Supervisor”. He has taken several unilateral actions without Board approval.  The Board has repeatedly responded by reaffirming Ordinance 97, which limits the Supervisor’s responsibilities, and maintains a professional Township manager who reports to the entire Board.

Here are some key points:

  • This easement agreement will certainly result in significant added costs to our Township.
  • It appears to have been made unilaterally without Board knowledge or agreement.
  • Under normal conditions, Gonser’s action could have resulted in a recall campaign being held.
  • Gonser is currently a candidate for election on August 2nd.
  • The Absentee ballots are going out on June 29th.
  • It is essential that the Legal review be completed by the June 28th Board meeting,
  • It is absolutely essential that we get adequate press coverage immediately after the June 28th meeting, so people can make an informed decision prior to sending in their absentee ballot.

My recommendation is that the Board be prepared to issue a press release on June 29th to the Oakland Press and the Rochester Post informing them of the outcome of the investigation.  If there are acceptable reasons for Gonser’s signature, there may be no need for the press release.  However, the press release may still be necessary since Gonser should have brought it to the Board for information.

The citizens need to have a clear understanding of this situation before they vote!

Richard Michalski

Kalamazoo Township joins the growing number of townships with our form of governance

In December of 2015, the Charter Township of Kalamazoo approved a motion moving their township from a full time Supervisor form of governance to one with a part time Supervisor and a professional manager.  They concluded their community would be better served by having a form of governance similar to Oakland Township’s.

Our current Supervisor, Terry Gonser, has spent three years trying to change our structure to what Kalamazoo is moving away from.  Supervisor Gonser has called our current form of governance “bizarre” and “unworkable” in an Oakland Press article.  

The Kalamazoo Board now understands the wisdom former Oakland Township Supervisor Joan Buser (and the Board at the time) had when our form of governance was changed to it’s current form in 1998.


In a recently published article on this website, Oakland Township Clerk Reilly indicated that other townships in the state of Michigan are moving toward Oakland Township’s current form of governance.  One of our residents, Reg Brown, commented that the Charter Township of Kalamazoo was joining those ranks.  On December 14, 2015, the Charter Township of Kalamazoo voted to hire a professional Township manager and a finance director to take effect in November of 2016.

The discussion that occurred at their Board meeting was similar to the many that have occurred at our Board meetings when Supervisor Gonser repeatedly attempted to change our structure to make his position a full time position.

Here is an excerpt from the approved Kalamazoo Board motion.  It does a very good job of capturing the benefits of our (and soon to be their) form of township governance:

“The positions of the Township manager and Financial director would:

  • provide continuity from election to election assuring a stabilizing effect for the efficient Township administrative operations and procedures,
  • professionally address the complexity and sophistication of urban Township operations including an $8 million general fund budget serving nearly 22,000 residents and
  • would assure the implementation of policies and directives of the Township Board.”

One of their Trustee’s stated:

“This proposal is the best chance for professionally managing Township Operations.”

In 1998 Oakland Township Supervisor Joan Buser (who has a Masters Degree in Public Administration)  worked with the Board to change our governance structure away from the “Strong Supervisor” form of governance to the current form of governance.  She stated in a previous post on this matter:

  • “During my tenure I met with many supervisors in Oakland County. Very few were qualified for their position.
  • The results can be seen most dramatically in the zoning ordinances and ordinance compliance.
  • When you drive through the townships that lacked good supervisors you can see what happened when a supervisor was inexperienced and there was no professional manager to help.
  • Once a development occurs that is not compliant with township ordinances you have that eyesore forever.
  • Before running for office, I had worked thirteen years in various capacities for Oakland Township.
  • Holding a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, I did not need a manager, because I was, effectively, a professional manager and an elected Supervisor.
  • Very few citizens have such qualifications. That is why a qualified manager is needed to make things run properly.
  • The Board sets the goals for the township, and the manager facilitates the implementation of these goals.”

Many of her points are the same as those expressed by the Kalamazoo Board members.  Their current Supervisor, Ronald Reid, was a strong supporter, and champion, for making the change in their community.

I strongly suggest that you watch the following video from Kalamazoo Township’s December meeting.  The proposal passed in a 5 to 2 vote.  Their clerk and one trustee were in the minority.  In the clerk’s comments, he raised a potential concern where he could support the proposal.  It is precisely a reason why we do not want a Strong Supervisor form of governance.


Joan Buser has a great mind and was a visionary! 



Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  This year’s township elections have several candidates who appear to support going back to the “Strong  Supervisor” form of governance. If re-elected, current Supervisor Gonser will continue to push for making his position a full time position, despite the fact that he does not have the training to “professionally address the complexity and sophistication of urban Township operations” as stated in Kalamazoo’s proposal.

Trustee candidate Lana Mangiapane gave a presentation at the recent ‘Meet and Greet’ in which she claimed Joan Buser hired a professional manager because:

“With retirement on the horizon and wishing to become part time, Mrs. Buser hired Mr. Jim Creech to be the Township Manager in 1998.”

Lana failed to either understand, or acknowledge, the wisdom and fore-site Joan Buser had for the needs of our rapidly growing Township.

This website has posted the position and rationale of many Board candidates on this issue. One candidate, Jeaneane Landers, is still studying the issue.

The following candidates have declined to provide their position and rationale on this issue:

  • Terry Gonser – Supervisor Candidate
  • Andy Zale – Supervisor Candidate
  • Judy Workings – Clerk Candidate
  • Jayson Corey – Trustee Candidate
  • Lana Mangiapane – Trustee Candidate

The absentee ballots will be going out on June 29, 2016 in the mail.  Please consider the candidates responses (or their lack of response) when you vote.

Richard Michalski




The editors of this website have reached out to all of the candidates that are running for Oakland Township Board positions this summer.  We have asked for their opinion on an important issue facing our Township.  The issue pertains to the form of governance Oakland Township will possess in the future.  Will it be the “Board/Manager” form of governance that we currently have, or will it be the full time “Strong Supervisor” form that current Supervisor Gonser has been proposing since being elected in 2012?

Responses from 11 of the 15 candidates can be seen by going to the top of this page and clicking on the “2016 CANDIDATE OPINIONS” tab.  A drop down menu will appear where you can click on, and read, each of the candidate’s positions on this matter.  (For hand held devices, click on the ‘MENU’ tab, then the “2016 CANDIDATE OPINIONS” tab will appear.)

You can also view each of their opinions by clicking on their names here:

We have not received opinions from four candidates after repeated attempts (two emails and one phone conversation with each of the candidates who had not provided their opinion). This post is being published on the day each of them was informed the information would be posted.  (Andy Zale’s response came in two weeks after the deadline.)

We have not received responses from:

  • Terry Gonser – Supervisor Candidate
  • Judy Workings – Clerk Candidate
  • Jayson Corey – Trustee Candidate
  • Lana Mangiapane – Trustee Candidate

Please consider the positions of the candidates on this issue when you vote on August 2, 2016.  Also, please share this information with friends and relatives in our community.  So far, this is the only forum where candidate opinions on issues have been shared.

NOTE: If you have another issue that you would like to obtain each candidate’s opinion on, please make that request by adding a comment at the bottom of this page. We will try to get responses from the candidates on the issue you raised.

Richard Michalski

What are the official Facebook pages for Oakland Township and the “Oakland Township Park Protector” candidates?

There may be some confusion in our Township regarding the authenticity of ‘official’ Facebook pages that are on the web. The Oakland Township Watchers editors have received an email from Oakland Township administration requesting that we clarify which sites are the only official sites of the Township.

Here is the official Township Facebook website:

Township Facebook website

Here is the official Township Parks and Recreation Facebook website:

Township Parks and Recreation Facebook website


Similarly, the group of seven candidates for the Parks and Recreation Commission, who are endorsed by the longstanding members of the current Parks and Recreation Commission, and call their group “Park Protectors”, have a website and a Facebook page.  Their rival candidates have a surprisingly similar Facebook name.

Here are the links for the “Real” Oakland Township Park Protectors.

Park Protector website

Oakland Township Park Protector Facebook website

Please visit their website and Facebook page to learn more about these seven candidates, then make every effort to remember their names for the August 2nd election.

Richard Michalski