Author Archives: foulkrj

A Conversation with Andy Zale – Candidate for Oakland Township Supervisor

** EDITORIAL Comment **

Jim Foulkrod

Andy Zale, currently the Chairman of the Oakland Township Parks and Recreation Commission, recently announced his candidacy for the office of Oakland Township Supervisor. Andy and I  recently had a wide ranging conversation about his reasons for running and the goals he wants to pursue if he is elected to the Office.

Our Supervisor must work better with the township staff and the Board of Trustees

Among the first things Andy told me was that he wants to Improve the relationship between the Township Supervisor and the Township staff and employees.  There has been too much turnover among the people who serve the township.  To some degree this loss of experienced talent has been caused by their interactions with the Township Supervisor.  Andy’s goal is to establish a standard of cordiality and mutual respect in working with the staff and consultants.

He would also work to Improve the tone and tenor of the Supervisor’s leadership of Board of Trustee Meetings.  Over the several years Supervisor Gonser’s leadership style has tended towards one of divisiveness, conflict, disrespect and petulance. In one case his remarks were so slanderous that it was necessary for him to publicly apologize at a subsequent meeting.  Andy’s tenure as Chairman of the Parks commission has been a demonstration of professionalism and leadership.

Planning and Zoning is important to our township

Andy said he is concerned that the Township’s current zoning ordinance is out of step with our Master Plan.  Early in 2010 the Planning Commission completed work on a new Zoning Ordinance that was intended to support the 2005 Master Plan.  The Commission forwarded the completed ordinance to the Board of Trustees with a recommendation that the Board vote their approval and put it into effect.  A group of citizens, some of whom were subsequently elected to the Board of Trustees in 2012, were vocal in their opposition to the new Zoning Ordinance and caused the Board of Trustees to delay its enactment. It is still waiting to be approved.  Andy will make it a high priority to get this cornerstone of our ordinances into effect.

Our Parks and Trails need to be supported

Supervisor Gonser, supported by Trustee Bailey who is currently also running for Supervisor, led an attack on our parks and the Parks Commission.  Gonser has opposed the trails plan from the beginning and  Trustee Mike Bailey was very outspoken in encouraging the Board to reject  the $1.7 million of grant money that would have built the Adams Road trail.  As a result of their actions  the nearly three million dollars of our tax money that we have already been assessed since we approved the millage in 2006 has, so far, yielded only 330 feet of completed Safety Path.

To Andy this is an unacceptable failure to respect the voters will as represented by both their approval of the millage and their responses to Township voter surveys .  Andy, an outdoors enthusiast,  has demonstrated his support for our parks and trails.  As Supervisor Andy  will work to see that our trails millage is used in the way that the millage proposal mandates  – “for the construction and maintenance of a network of safety paths, trails and boardwalks to provide healthy recreational opportunities and safe routes to schools, parks and neighborhoods in the Township”.  

Terry Gonser needs to be defeated

This publication has not been shy about saying that Gonser has not served this township well and that he should not be our Township Supervisor.  Voters have an opportunity to make a much needed change.

We are facing a three candidate race for Township Supervisor. Andy Zale has what it will take to win.  He understands that Terry Gonser will again run an aggressive campaign leveling untrue charges against himself and Mike Bailey .  Gonser will  again make vacant promises to special interests.  Andy has the courage, energy, dedication and stamina to take the high road in this campaign and emerge as the winner.

I urge everyone to vote in the August 2 2016 primary election and to vote for Andy Zale for Oakland Township Supervisor.

Jim Foulkrod

 

 

Board of Trustees should follow the advice of attorneys on the Blossom Ridge Settlement Proposal

On Jan 26th the Board of Trustees will discuss and invite public comment on the proposed consent judgment to settle the Blossom Ridge lawsuit.  see our recent post on this topic

Dan Kelly has said that all the attorneys advising the township in this matter recommend approval of the proposal.

Attorneys recommending acceptance:

  • Dan Kelly – Township Attorney
  • Judge Barry Howard – Facilitator
  • Dale Stuart – Township Manager
  • Carol A. Rosatti – Attorney for the Township’s insurer

I urge the Board to follow the recommendations of the attorneys knowledgeable about this case and to be aware that the opinions of people that are not as knowlegable can contain errors about legal meanings.

A case in point: A letter from 18 residents contains legal fallacies

The board has received a letter from Eighteen individuals, all of whom live near the Blossom Ridge property, citing reasons that they are urging the board to reject the proposed agreement. They put forward a very important fallacy regarding legal precedence which they use many times in different forms and contexts.  It  is asserted by them that:

“The precedents established by this Consent Judgment”:

  • “will essentially eliminate building size restrictions for future multi-family (R-M) high density developments”;
  • (will have) “impact on future lawsuits”;
  • (undermine) “the confidence of the Oakland Township electorate in the local government for future zoning decisions”;
  • “will establish a new minimum lot size standard for multi-family (R-M) zoning”;
  • “The precedent set by compromising the zoning ordinance standardwill make it more attractive for non-conforming future high density R-M development in the Township”;
  • “will make it more attractive for non-conforming future high density R-M development in the Township”;
  • “the Zoning Ordinance… needs to be defended and not weakened through this Consent Judgment”.

The fallacy of consent judgment precedence:

The problem with these arguments is that a consent judgment agreement between parties to a lawsuit does not establish legal precedence.  Only published opinions of a judge’s decision in a trial establish precedence. In my 20 years on the Planning Commission and 12 years on the Zoning Board of Appeals I have never seen any alteration,  reduction, weakening or compromising of our zoning ordinance by  consent judgments.  The language, meaning and effect of our ordinance have remained intact and in full force.

If the township loses, the Federal Court could force changes to our Zoning Ordinance:

This is a very real likelihood in that if this matter goes to trial and violations of the Fair Housing Act are found the Federal Court may order changes to our zoning ordinance to force compliance with the Fair Housing Act.  That is when citizens will experience a loss of control.

Jim Foulkrod

 

Board of Trustees Appoints One Planning Commissioner and Planning Consultants

At the 10/27/15 meeting of the Board of Trustees Supervisor Gonser appointed, subject to Board of Trustees’ approval, Dominic Abbate and Lana Mangiapane to fill the commission’s vacancies. You can view their applications using the links below.

Mangiapane PC Application

Abbate PC Application

Mr. Gonser first asked for a motion for the board to approve his appointment of Ms. Mangiapane .  No member of the Board of Trustees spoke to make that motion.  Treasurer Langlois commented that the board had, at their previous meeting, requested,  by a majority vote, that Gonser nominate  applicants who had substantial and applicable experience. Trustee Ferriolo commented that the Planning Commission already has one member who is a real estate agent and that he feels that having another commissioner in that profession would be inappropriate.  He went on to make a motion to approve the appointment of Dominic Abbate.  That motion was approved.

In the next agenda item the board approved the firm Carlisle Wortman to become the township’s planning consulting firm.  They will initially be represented by Mr. Doug Lewan.  The board additionally approved the hiring of Mr. Doug Mendes to fill the vacant township Planning Coordinator position.  Mr. Mendes will serve as an independent contractor.

Having personally served on the Planning Commission I am glad to see this progress on giving the Commission this much needed support.

Jim Foulkrod

EDITORIAL: Has Gonser Willfully Violated the Law? We Need to Know.

In January this year the Board passed a resolution re-affirming the long-time Township ordinance that places responsibility for managing the township squarely in the office of the professional full-time manager hired by the Board of Trustees. It sent a clear message to Supervisor Gonser that he should act in accordance with the law. The Township Manager was directed to inform the Board of any deviance from that ordinance by the elected Supervisor. There has been no public follow up to this resolution. There have been no facts made public that would indicate that the resolved will of the Board of Trustees has or has not been followed.

What there has been is a constant drumbeat of statements, events and indications that Gonser is not following the law. It is Gonser’s sworn duty uphold the law and to perform the duties of his office to the best of his abilities.  If he is not then the facts must come out and appropriate action must be taken.

I call on the Board of Trustees to launch an official investigation to ascertain with documented facts whether Supervisor Gonser has exceeded the authority of his office. They should call for a thorough search of emails, calendars, phone logs, official documents and correspondence to see whether Gonser has exercised illegal authority or claimed improper responsibility for any facet of any of the enumerated duties of the Township Manager.

I hope they will call on me to testify that I  know that he has intentionally violated the ordinance because I had a conversation with Supervisor Gonser earlier this year in which he told me that he was not abiding by the law.  I had gone to his office hours to ask if he had Board authorization to meet with the Road Commission of Oakland County (RCOC) to discuss his proposal to surface some gravel roads with a “chip-seal” material to improve their durability.  Gonser had spoken at a community meeting about this proposal and his intent to work with the RCOC on this project.  This type of township business is clearly  the authority of the full-time Township Manager under our Ordinance 97.  When I asked him if the Board gave him authority in this matter he said no, but it doesn’t matter because the people who voted for him expected him to be the “leader of the Township” and they would not have voted for him if they knew that all he could do was “chair the meetings”.  He said he was doing the will of the voters.

I hope that they will ask Trustee Ferriolo to detail the facts behind his email to the Rochester Post that reportedly said “Our township operates on a similar system of government as Rochester, and Mr. Gonser refuses to accept his limited role under it.”

I hope that Treasurer Langlois and Trustee Buxar will go public with the facts that they described that led them to propose  the above mentioned Resolution that demanded that Gonser act according to the law.

I hope that the Trustees who devised the interview questions that were asked of all the candidates who were interviewed for the Township Manager’s position about how they would handle this disagreement about legal authority in the Township will speak in detail about what they know that made it important to ask those questions.

I hope that outgoing Township Manager Warren Brown will be asked to detail, on the record, any violations of Ordinance 97 that he has knowledge of.  He was informed of the problem during his interview process and he responded clearly about how he would handle the problem.

This is public business and the Board of Trustees must stop relying on toothless Resolutions.  What is going on is not a secret but the hard actionable facts are being withheld from the public, This is not an academic argument.  Gonser has harmed the Township with this behavior and it is truly in the best interests of Oakland Township to put and end to it.   Effective action is required.

Jim Foulkrod

 

Board Resolution – Acts By Rogers, Thalmann “Repudiated” as a “Breach of Trust” . Gonser’s inactions termed “improper”

The Oakland Township Board of Trustees, at their July 28th meeting, voted 6-0 (Gonser absent) to approve a resolution stating “There has been an inappropriate release of privileged and confidential and/or Attorney/Client protected communications which constitutes a Breach of Trust and is hereby repudiated.” and  further “It is improper to fail to disclose any unauthorized receipt of privileged communications prior to entering deliberations pertaining to matters discussed in the communications.”.

Background

The reasons for the resolution are  the April 28th 2015  findings of an investigation,  authorized by the Board of Trustees on March 24th 2015, conducted by Township Staff and the Attorneys for the Township and the Parks Commission that found:

  • Supervisor Gonser improperly received three emails pertaining to Parks Commission Closed Sessions or containing Parks Commission Attorney/Client privileged communications;
  • Trustee Thalmann had  sent three emails pertaining to Parks Commission or Board of Trustee Closed Sessions or containing  Attorney/Client privileged communications to (variously) Commissioner Rogers, Supervisor  Gonser  and/or unauthorized private citizens.
  • Thalmann had received two emails from Commissioner Rogers pertaining to Parks Commission Closed Sessions or containing  Attorney/Client privileged communications.
  • Commissioner Rogers sent six emails pertaining to Parks Commission Closed Sessions or containing  Attorney/Client privileged communications to (variously) Trustee Thalmann, Supervisor Gonser and/or unauthorized private citizens.

The Parks Commission and the Board of Trustees reviewed these findings at a April 28th 2015 joint meeting and forwarded them to the Oakland County Prosecutor. The Prosecutor’s office reported back on July 15th 2015 that “no basis exists for criminal prosecution and…no laws have been violated.”.

Commissioner Rogers and former Trustee Thalmann, who had resigned during this time period, each stated in various public meetings that they had done nothing wrong, were totally exonerated and were owed apologies.  They did not dispute the findings of the investigation that they had violated  Attorney/Client Confidentiality and Privilege.  They dismissed that as unimportant.

The Board of Trustees felt that, criminal or not, the behavior was improper and important and called for Board action which was taken with the 7/28/15 Resolution.

What are we to think about this? 

We all know about Attorney/Client Confidentiality.  Is it really, as Rogers and Thalmann seem to think,  a matter unworthy of their concern when they are doing the citizen’s business?  We must think not. It is not immaterial.  It is not just a detail.  We would not be alone in being concerned with their attitude.  In an Article “What Attorney-Client Privilege Really Means” by the global law firm Smith, Gambrell & Russell LLP I found this:

The attorney-client privilege is the oldest privilege recognized by Anglo-American jurisprudence. In fact, the principles of the testimonial privilege may be traced all the way back to the Roman Republic, and its use was firmly established in English law as early as the reign of Elizabeth I in the 16th century. Grounded in the concept of honor, the privilege worked to bar any testimony by the attorney against the client.

A legal concept grounded in honor that has been fundamental to jurisprudence in Western Civilization for over five hundred years deserves our respect. Public Officials, elected by the people, cannot act as though it does not apply to them.

Perhaps these breaches of trust had their origin in the leadership,  People who lead an organization have the responsibility to set an example for the practice of strong ethics. Gonser did not inform the Board that he had improperly received protected communications about matters which were immediately important to him.  Also, Supervisor Gonser had, until recently, refused to abide by the Township’s Ordinance 97 which limits the elected Supervisor’s authority with regard to conducting Township business.  He made many decisions and did many things for which he had no authority.  In conversation with me last Spring he explained himself saying that he was elected by people who don’t know that the Supervisor’s power is limited and that they expect him to “be the leader of the Township” and that they didn’t elect him “just to chair meetings and ride in parades”.  Rogers and Thalmann may have just been following a bad example.

Taking another step up the chain of responsibility, lets look at ourselves, the voters.  We elected Rogers, Thalmann and Gonser either by voting in the 2012 August Primary or by not showing up.  At that time the Township had over 12 thousand registered voters.  How many votes did it take for these people to get elected?

  • Gonser  – 1784 votes – 14% of the electorate;
  • Thalmann – 1534 votes -12%  of the electorate;
  • Rogers – 1315 votes -11%  of the electorate.

What Can We Do?

The August 2016 Primary Election is 12 months away.  It is an important election because, in Oakland Township, for whatever reason, our local elections seldom attract Democrat candidates, so the November Elections for Local Offices are not competitive contests. Our Local elections are decided in August.

Let’s learn from these events.  Get active, Get informed, Get on the Ballot, Get to know the Candidates and Get Out The Vote in August.

Jim Foulkrod

Gonser Alone. At the Helm?

4/15/15

Last night at the Board of Trustees meeting we saw evidence that Supervisor Gonser’s role has been reduced to one of backbencher.  Two years ago he took office with a newly elected  (with the exception of the re-elected Mike Baily & former Trustee Sharon McKay) Board who voted in lock step with him.  Last night, in every vote that was in any way controversial, the Board voted 5 to 1 against him.

During the meeting, the Supervisor announced the resignation of Trustee Maureen Thalmann who had continued to side with Gonser on many votes in the past.  Several personal and family illness reasons for her resignation were offered.  It should be mentioned that one month ago she was named as one of the subjects of  an investigation into the sharing of confidential, attorney-client privileged documents with un-authorized persons.

For Gonser, it was all downhill from there.  Prior to most of the votes, he spoke his opinion emphatically, even passionately to no avail.  No-one supported him.  From my point of view it seemed that most of the disagreements were not substantial but rather manufactured by either Gonser or one of the Board to insure a 5-1 split.

Here are the highlights:

  1. The resignation of Trustee Thalmann was accepted unanimously;
  2. A proposed change to the rules of order to require a Request for Action Summary sheet for any agenda item was rejected 5 to 1 against with board members arguing that it was an unnecessary restriction and the Supervisor arguing that it would improve communication and order in their meetings;
  3.  A request to appoint a subcommittee to review the Zoning Ordinance to determine if changes are necessary to bring it into compliance with changes to State Law was argued at length.  Mr. Gonser wanted to have the study pertain to the zoning ordinance that is currently effect in effect which was written in 1976.  He wanted to ignore the proposed updated zoning ordinance that was prepared by the Planning Commission and submitted to the Board of Trustees for approval in 2010 but has never been acted upon.  Mr. Gonser pointed out that the proposed ordinance was vehemently opposed by himself and some others who were elected to the Board in 2012.  The Township Attorney informed Supervisor Gonser that State law requires that the Planning Commission has the sole responsibility  to propose changes to the Zoning Ordinance and the Board must, at this time, direct their study and comments to the 2010 proposed version submitted by the Planning Commission.  During the ensuing half hour Gonser repeatedly argued that State Law could be ignored and was repeatedly corrected by the attorney.  A modified plan to have the Township Attorney and the Township Planner do the study was approved 5 to 1 with Gonser voting No.
  4. A request to raise the wages of paid-on-call firefighters and EMS was approved unanimously.
  5. A request to pay monthly incentive bonuses of $50 or $100 to paid-on-call Fire Dept. employees when they responded to more than  20% or 40% of calls respectively was argued at length.   Trustee Buxar proposed that the incentives be adopted for a 5 month trial period so that it could be reviewed and perhaps adjusted to improve its effectiveness.  The motion was passed 5-1 with Gonser objecting only to the trial period feature.
  6. The Board addressed the results of the investigation into accusations that made during a previous Board meeting that one or more Board members and/or Parks Commissioners shared privileged attorney-client and closed session meeting documents with unauthorized persons.  The Board approved the scheduling of a meeting with the Parks Commission to jointly respond to the attorneys’ findings.  The vote was 5-1 with Gonser objecting.  Note: When the accusations were made at a previous Trustees meeting Supervisor Gonser was mentioned as a person who may have improperly received one or more of the documents in question.

This meeting solidifies an important, positive change in the leadership of our Board of Trustees.  Also very important is that the new vacancy on the Board is an opportunity for citizens to come forward and offer to serve the community.

Jim Foulkrod

 

Oakland Township – Now On The National News Stage

Bloomberg News has put the national spotlight on Oakland Township with its Feb 18th Newswire report on Oakland Township’s official response to the lawsuit brought by the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America (MPVA) alleging discriminatory housing practices under the Federal Fair Housing Law.  The Township’s response to the suit claims that the MPVA has no “standing” to bring such a suit against Oakland Township.  The full content of the report is reproduced below

Jim Foulkrod

“Michigan Veterans Vehemently Respond To Oakland Township’s Stance Against Paralyzed Veterans Housing Project

DETROIT, Feb. 18, 2015 /PRNewswire/ —  Michigan veterans issued a vehement and stinging response to Oakland Township’s motion to deny paralyzed veterans fair housing.

“As a Veteran, I find it absolutely outrageous that the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America have to sue an affluent community like Oakland Township in order to get them to approve a senior housing project which would provide some of the needed housing for the more than 2,000 Service Disabled Veterans in the area,” said Keith King, President, Veterans Support Foundation, United States Armed Forces Association. “As the President of a national foundation that provides funding and care for homeless veterans, and funds other foundations supporting Veteran causes, I see no justification for Oakland Township’s cowardly stance.”

The Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America in December filed a lawsuit against Oakland Township in Federal Court contending the Township had engaged in discriminatory housing practices under the Federal Fair Housing Law, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, by aggressively blocking approval of a housing project that would accommodate paralyzed veterans and the elderly.

In responding to the Federal Court complaint of the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America (MPVA), the Township doubled down on its lawlessness, claiming the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of American have no right to protect its members’ rights in court.

“I applaud and fully support the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America (MPVA) in their Fair Housing lawsuit against Oakland Township,” said decorated disabled veteran Army Ranger Frank Campanaro. Campanaro is also the President and Founder of VETPOWER.org, a Michigan-based 501(c)3 charity dedicated to helping veterans transition from military service.

“These are our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, who served our country in the military with honor, and who have returned with service related disabilities,” Campanaro said. “There are more than 36,000 service disabled heroes in Southeast Michigan, with more than 7,600 in Oakland County alone.

“Oakland Township’s contempt against the Fair Housing Act is clearly evident when they denounce the freedom of elderly and disabled persons, which includes many MPVA members’, to choose where they want to live.

“It’s despicable that this community would look for ways to stop, rather than help, these valiant men and women who have protected our country. These Veterans have paid the price for our freedom with their blood, flesh and bones.

“The attempt to use a legal technicality to throw out the MPVA from a “standing” issue is demoralizing and the slightest use of any unintended pun is not humorous.

“Oakland Township should help them create more housing solutions that will accommodate their needs, and not be standing in their way,” Campanaro said.

To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/michigan-veterans-vehemently-respond-to-oakland-townships-stance-against-paralyzed-veterans-housing-project-300037968.html

SOURCE Keith King; Frank Campanaro”