Category Archives: Attacks on staff

Trustee Thalmann makes false statement about Township Planning Consultant

At the September 9, 2014 Board meeting, there was an agenda item to initiate a Request for Proposal to possibly replace the current Township Planning Consultant.  Trustee Thalmann made a number of false statements that were refuted by four fellow Board members.  Fortunately, the Board rejected the proposal in a 5 to 2 vote.  Supervisor Gonser and Trustee Thalmann were the two minority votes.

There have been other posts on this website dealing with the Request for Proposal to replace the Township Planning Consultant firm.  This topic was finally discussed at the September 9th Board meeting.  A motion was made by Trustee Thalmann to request an RFP.  It did not receive a ‘second’, so Supervisor Gonser seconded the motion himself.

During the discussion, Trustee Thalmann made a number of accusations and statements about our current planning consultant.  Trustees Bailey, Buxar, Treasurer Langlois and Clerk Reilly all refuted the accuracy of Thalmann’s statements.  Thalmann and Gonser appeared to want to have a ‘local’ supplier for that service, even though the service provided by the current consulting company has been outstanding for many years.

Here is a video of the discussion at the meeting.  Please watch the Trustee’s responses to Thalmann’s accusations:

Contrary to Gonser’s comments, the Township Planning Consultant, Larry Nix, has contracts with four, not two communities.  The four communities are Harbor Springs, Elk Rapids, Frankenmuth and Oakland Township.  All of these communities are outstanding planned communities.  He is well respected throughout the state.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  The current planning consultant has a very clear understanding and love for our Township.  He has been the consultant for years, and desires to continue supporting our Township.

As reported earlier on this website, Supervisor Gonser wants to change the direction of the Township. He plans to influence the direction the Township by appointing new members to the Planning Commission, and terminate the relationship with the Planning Consulting firm that has been instrumental in creating the beautiful Township we live in.

Gonser and Thalmann clearly want to dramatically change our Township.  Do you believe our Township needs to change dramatically?  If so, you probably support Gonser and Thalmann.  If you love what we have in our Township, you must stand together and fight to prevent Gonser and Thalmann from destroying our Township.

Richard Michalski

Trustee Thalmann implies Clerk’s office is ‘politicized’ – her solution WOULD make that true!

The September 9th Oakland Township Board meeting had an agenda item “Oakland Township Staffing Allocation and Organizational Chart”.  The agenda item has been delayed to a future meeting.  Trustee Thalmann gave her reason for delaying the discussion in light of the recent announcement that the Township’s Deputy Clerk was retiring.  Thalmann’s solution would further politicize our Township.

At the September 9th meeting, it was announced that our Deputy Clerk was planning on retiring.  Trustee Thalmann commented that since she was retiring, she thought the agenda item to discuss the Township’s organizational structure should be deferred to a later meeting.  Her stated reason for deferring the discussion was:

“I think the recent notification of the retirement opens us up a bit to looking at the actual deputy position.  Do we need to have that as a full time position it is?  Or can it be, as it is in the statute, someone who is not a full time Township employee, but is a political appointment. And then the person handling, more of the day to day activities of the Township itself is not an employee who could possibly be a victim of political vagaries – that you would have a continuum of someone experienced and professional in that position.”

Note:   Dictionary definition of vagary – ” An erratic, unpredictable or extravagent manifestation, action or notion”

Thalmann’s statement implies the following:

  • Thalmann thinks that the Clerk’s office has been involved in political vagaries or that it is vulnerable to political vagaries.
  • Thalmann thinks that an individual that is a ‘political appointment’ is LESS likely to be influenced by political vagaries.
  • Thalmann thinks that having a part time appointed person will provide a continuum of someone experienced and professional.

Her rationale is totally without merit.

  • There is no evidence that the Clerk’s office has been influenced by politics.  Is it possible that some of the EXPERIENCED staff expressed objections to the direction they were given by the INEXPERIENCED elected officials, and Thalmann and Gonser now want someone on staff that will ‘tow the line’? 
  • A ‘political appointment’ by definition IS a POLITICAL APPOINTMENT
  • A part time appointed person can never provide a continuum of experience, especially since the Clerk’s position can change every 4 years (along with the politically appointed Deputy Clerk) in the election cycle.

As you may recall, Clerk Reilly refused to participate in a State sponsored training session for Township Clerks.  Reilly sent her staff since she did not feel the need to understand the details of running the Clerk’s office.  How would a part time, politically appointed Deputy Clerk provide the ‘continuum of experience’ Thalmann is referencing?  On the contrary, it would ADD an “erratic unpredictable action” (i.e. vagary) into the operation of our Township!

Here is a video of Thalmann’s comments:

Here is video of  Clerk Reilly’s refusal to attend Clerk Training:

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Oakland Township has been politicized more under the current administration than ever before.  The logic and strategies that Thalmann believe would de-politicize the Township are totally counterintuitive and would make the situation worse.

The Township staff, boards and commission members are being purged, and are being replaced with people that Gonser and the Board see as helping them move the Township in a ‘new direction’.  Are the citizens of Oakland Township ready to embark on a path that has yet to be clarified?

2016 cannot come soon enough for many of us in Oakland Township.

Richard Michalski

Gonser suggests a $16,000 annual cap on employee health benefits

8/26/14 Update After receiving thoughtful comments and email from several people I believe Gonser may have misspoke about a potential hard cap on the employee benefit plan.  He probably intended to say that the Township’s liability for the premiums for the plan may be limited to $16,000/yr.

Thank you Patricia, Marty, Thomas and Phillip for your willingness participate in our efforts to inform our community about our local government.

Jim Foulkrod


At the August 12, 2014 Board meeting Supervisor Gonser suggested that, in its search for a less costly employee health plan, the board could consider a plan that caps the amount of annual benefits at $16,000.  No member of the board spoke against his idea even though it could mean financial ruin for any employee of average means who had even a moderately serious health problem.  I was struck by how his meager $16,000 cap would have served a member of my immediate family who,  in June, fell, broke her leg and required surgery.  Her hospitalization, surgery and rehabilitation has, as of 7/29,  cost over $141,000.   If an Oakland Township employee had sustained this accidental injury and was subject to Gonser’s proposed $16,000 annual cap, the employee would need to pay over $125,000. 

This is another example of why, months ago, the Board of Trustees wisely refused to delegate any administrative responsibilities to Supervisor Gonser.  Township Manager Ann Capela retains  responsibility for all the administrative duties enumerated in state law.  So where does Gonser come up with  the authority and audacity to embarrass the whole Township with such mean-spirited, insensitive and draconian pronouncements?

It is time for the Board of Trustees to enforce their decision and reign-in the Supervisor.  He, by law and our Board’s actions, should only chair the meetings, do photo-ops and ride in the Christmas Parade.  Manager Capela, under direction of the entire Board, should  have full authority over the Township administration.

Jim Foulkrod

Here is the video containing Gonser’s remarks and discussion by the Board.


PRC Commissioner Rogers accuses a “cabal” of Open Meeting Act violations

Early in December Parks Commissioner Anne Marie Rogers forced Parks Director Mindy Milos-Dale to allow her to log on to the Director’s computer and read and copy her emails..

At the Dec. 11 2013 Parks and Recreation Commission meeting Commissioner Rogers  accused Commission members Mackley, Peruzzi, Tomboulian and Barkham of being a “cabal of four people who work in secret to develop policies”.    She also claimed that Parks and Recreation Director Mindy Milos-Dale illegally directs this quorum. In her 6 minute presentation (see below) she alleged that the following examples of the Directors  emails indicated Open Meeting Act Violations:

  1. “in one instance Ms. Milos Dale asks the four offending Commissioners which of them will be attending a Planning Commission meeting”
  2. “in another they discuss parks rezoning”
  3. “in another they are prepping for a BOT meeting”
  4. “in another the cider mill vendor is discussed”
  5. “it appears these members script for one another ideas and statements to be made at PRC meetings as well as Board of Trustee meetings and Planning Commission meetings”

Webster’s defines “cabal” as “a small group of secret plotters, as against a government or person in authority.”

The Open Meetings Act requires that:

  1.  All decisions of a public body shall be made at a meeting open to the public.
  2. All deliberations of a public body constituting a quorum of its members shall take place at a meeting open to the public except as provided in this section and sections 7 and 8. (note: Sections 7 & 8 do not apply to the PRC.)
  3. Also, The act defines a decision as a determination, action or disposition… on which a vote by members of a public body is required and by which a public body effectuates or formulates public policy.

Let’s take a layman’s look at each of Rogers’ accusations with the OMA language in mind:

  1. The OMA does not forbid the planning of attendance at meetings.  It is  a good idea for the Director to help the Commissioners avoid having a quorum at a meeting of another body where PRC matters would be discussed.
  2. The PRC had decided that it wanted the 7 park properties rezoned and had applied to the Board of Trustees for a decision.  The PRC was working through the process of obtaining an approval.  There was nothing to deliberate or decide except how to get it done by making appeals and presentations to the Board.  There was no formulation of public policy.
  3. The PRC’s business before the Board of Trustees was about three topics: 1. the rezoning (see above); 2. the site plan for the Orion Rd. Parking Lot; 3. the Supervisor’s spending of Parks funds without authorization.  in each of these The Parks Commission was participating in Board of Trustees deliberations.  They were not deliberating or deciding Parks business.  No vote by the PRC was required for them to discuss these with the Board.
  4. The PRC is a tenant in the Paint Creek Cider Mill building and are subject to the decisions made by their landlord, the Board of Trustees.  The PRC has no authority over any of the other tenants in the building.  Any communication about other tenants could not be deliberations or decisions regarding Parks business.  No vote by the PRC was required.
  5. As discussed above the PRC members’ preparations for presentations and statements at meetings of other public bodies is not deliberation about or decision making of PRC business.

In my layman’s opinion each of these five accusations of Open Meetings Act Violations is false.

If, after a day of searching the Park Director’s emails, this is all she has to offer I think her use of the pejoratives “cabal”, “illegal”, “inappropriately”, “secret”, “unethically”, “devious”, “poisonous”, “unscrupulous” is unwarranted.  It is Commissioner Rogers statements that are inappropriate,  devious, and poisonous.

Jim Foulkrod

Supervisor Gonser “oversteps” his authority once again!

Please read the attached article published in the Oakland Press on November 26, 2013.  It reflects yet another example of how Supervisor Gonser makes decisions without Board approval.  

Supervisor Gonser announced that Jim Creech would not be “coming back” to work days before obtaining any authority from the Board to terminate his employment with the Township.  Here is one paragraph from the article:

“Creech said in a memo that Gonser called township staff together Oct. 14, two days before the board directed the township attorney to negotiate a separation agreement, and told them Creech wouldn’t be returning.”

Here is the link to the Oakland Press article:

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  The continued authoritarian style of Supervisor Gonser is not what the citizens of Oakland Township desire in our leadership.  Township Employment decisions are the purview of the Board NOT the Supervisor!

Richard Michalski

Superintendent Jim Creech leaves. What’s Next?

Our Township Superintendent Jim Creech, a professional municipal manager who has been responsible for the day-to-day running of township operations for fifteen years signed a Separation Agreement ending his time with the township effective at the end of the Oct. 22nd Board meeting where it was announced.  The details of events leading up to that event are unclear and we will try to shed some light on them soon.  We have watched the relationship between Superintendent Creech and Supervisor Gonser get off to a rocky start and deteriorate from there.  We saw members of the Board of Trustees and Supervisor Gonser blame Superintendent Creech for virtually every misstep and embarrassment that has come their way.

Trustee Thalmann spoke up saying that the Superintendent’s duties now fall to Supervisor Gonser and maybe that is a good thing because he is elected and not an unelected bureaucrat.

She speaks of the elected Supervisor potentially sharing the duties “a. through o”.  The duties she refers to are specified in the State of Michigan Charter Township Act and are shown below.

42.10 Township superintendent; appointment; delegation of powers and duties of township supervisor.

Sec. 10. The township board in each charter township shall have power to appoint a township superintendent and may delegate to him any or all of the following functions and duties which functions and duties, unless so delegated, shall be exercised by the supervisor:

(a) To see that all laws and township ordinances are enforced;

(b) To manage and supervise all public improvements, works, and undertakings of the township;

(c) To have charge of the construction, repair, maintenance, lighting and cleaning of streets, sidewalks, bridges, pavements, sewers, and of all the public buildings or other property belonging to the township;

(d) To manage and supervise the operation of all township utilities;

(e) To be responsible for the preservation of property, tools, and appliances of the township;

(f) To see that all terms and conditions imposed in favor of the township or its inhabitants in any public utility franchise, or in any contract, are faithfully kept and performed;

(g) To attend all meetings of the township board, with the right to take part in discussions, but without the right to vote;

(h) To be a member, ex officio, of all committees of the township board;

(i) To prepare and administer the annual budget under policies formulated by the township board and keep the said board fully advised at all times as to the financial condition and needs of the township;

(j) To recommend to the township board for adoption such measures as he may deem necessary or expedient;

(k) To be responsible to the township board for the efficient administration of all departments of the township government;

(l) To act as the purchasing agent for the township or, under his responsibility, delegate such duties to some other officer or employee;

(m) To conduct all sales of personal property which the township board may authorize to be sold;

(n) To assume all the duties and responsibilities as personnel director of all township employees or delegate such duties to some other officer or employee;

(o) To perform such other duties as may be prescribed by this act or required of him by ordinance or by direction of the township board, or which are not assigned to some other official in conformity with the provisions of this act.

We, the citizens of the township, must carefully consider what this means.

Supervisor Gonser has spoken publicly about “working fifty to sixty hours a week” in just his duties as township supervisor.  He has made mistakes that have caused the township to be facing three legal actions in less than a year:

  • The Federal HUD investigation about allegations of housing discrimination.
  • A lawsuit alleging violations of the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act.
  • A criminal investigation by the Oakland County Sheriffs Office into alleged violations of the Open Meetings act with regard to the leasing of space in the Paint Creek Cider Mill.
  • Also, upon her resignation Trustee Keys made many allegations of improper decision making, usurping of the powers of the Board of Trustees and personal intimidation.

Do we want him to be responsible for (a) To see that all laws and township ordinances are enforced;

The Township has lost three important and trusted employees for reasons that included conflict with Supervisor Gonser:

  • Building Director -Bill Benoit;
  • Recording Secretary – Ingred Kliffel;
  • Superintendent – Jim Creech.

Should Gonser be responsible for (n) To assume all the duties and responsibilities as personnel director of all township employees?

The Supervisor announced his “Good News” trail that would need to be constructed on a very steep, clearly unbuildable, bank of the Paint Creek.   He could not have even looked at the property before announcing that it would be built.

Should we hire him to be responsible for (b) To manage and supervise all public improvements, works, and undertakings of the township?

Please come to the meetings or watch them on the Township Website and let your voice be heard about whether this is the path our township should take.

Jim Foulkrod


At the October 22 Oakland Township Board meeting, Trustee Keyes resigned her position as a Trustee of Oakland Township.  This came after months of significant differences between Trustee Keyes and Supervisor Gonser and  other members of the Board. 

Here are excerpts of the speech she gave when announcing her resignation:

“I have been threatened, intimidated, berated and demeaned on more than one occasion as a tactic to try to silence, control and force me into line and have been told, more than once, that I, as a Trustee am on a ‘need to know’ basis. These tactics have permeated my personal life and that of my family as well.

It is time for me to end my time as a servant to the community and return to the people’s podium where my hands can stay clean and where the ultimate authority and ability to hold the Board accountability lies. Ultimate authority does not lie behind these seven microphones.”

Here is a video of her total resignation speech:

Please read the following post to learn more about the most recent attack by Supervisor Gonser on Trustee Keyes.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  If you have been watching what has been going on in our Township since the new Board was elected, you probably have concluded that Trustee Keyes is a very principled person and had the Township’s bests interests in all of her actions.  Losing a person of principle on the Board, for what appear to be ethical issues by other Board members, makes one wonder “Who will become the conscience and ethics guardian on the Board?”

Supervisor Gonser attacks Trustee Keyes for doing her job!

At the beginning of the October 8th Board of Oakland Township meeting, Supervisor Gonser spent seven and one half minutes attacking Trustee Keyes for doing her job.  He accused her of wasting the Board’s time by raising issues that he thought were “trivial to trite and insignificant”.  He refused to allow her to respond to his attack.  He told her she could respond at the end of the meeting.  Five hours later, when she was allowed to respond, after almost all of the residents present at the beginning of the meeting had left, he tried to limit her comments to 2 minutes.

Supervisor Gonser attacked Trustee Keyes for challenging the accuracy of two vote counts from previous meetings that were confirmed to be wrong. 

He attacked her for raising issues because  he is not following the outdated Township Bylaws.  Yet earlier this year, Trustee Keyes made a motion to perform a review of all Township policies and procedures.  That motion was not approved by the Board.  Her intent was to identify issues, and update the policies and procedures as needed.

He attacked her for challenging several bills in public, and wanted the Board to raise billing questions outside the Board meeting and the public eye.  Yet Trustee Keyes’ previous questions went unanswered by Supervisor Gonser and Clerk Reilly for a month,  only to find out that Supervisor Gonser had indeed inappropriately authorized the work that was in question.

In Supervisor Gonser’s closing comments during the attack, he stated:

“I hope and pray that future meetings will be conducted professionally without attacks and the bludgeoning of consultants, staff and residents in a public forum.”

Supervisor Gonser violated his own statement by his treatment of Trustee Keyes in the October 8th meeting!!

Here is a more detailed review of the events described above:

Supervisor Gonser stated that Trustee Keyes questioning the vote count for the first reading of the parks rezoning at the September 10 meeting was “much to do about nothing”.

  • Supervisor Gonser stated that the vote count was 4 to 3.  Trustee McKay confirmed at the October 10th meeting that she had voted in favor of the motion making the vote count 5 to 2.
  • Even though the outcome did not change, Trustee Keyes was correct, and Supervisor Gonser was wrong.  It is the Chair’s (Gonser’s) responsibility to make sure the recording secretary gets the proper vote count.
  • Proper vote counts are very important in our governmental processes.
  • Trustee Keyes was trying to correct the error.

Supervisor Gonser accused Trustee Keyes of “bludgeoning” the auditor and questioning the accuracy of the vote count for the approval for filing the audit at the September 24th meeting.

  • Trustee Keyes had made requests to accept the auditor’s offer to provide training to the Board on the audit process.
  • The auditor failed to respond to her written requests.
  • Clerk Reilly indicated that her staff was “too busy” to schedule the requested training session.
  • One of the reasons Supervisor Gonser voted against approving the audit for filing was that he was unfamiliar with the audit process. (training??)
  • Once again, the recorded vote count was wrong.  Supervisor Gonser announced in the meeting that the motion had passed, but did not state the count.  He asked the recording secretary “Did you get the votes?”
  • The following day, at Trustee Keyes request, the staff reviewed the video of the meeting, and determined that the motion had actually failed in a 3 to 3 tie vote, contrary to what Supervisor Gonser had announced at the meeting.
  • Once again, proper vote counts are important in our governmental processes.  Trustee Keyes was trying to fix an error.

Supervisor Gonser accused Trustee Keyes of raising bylaw procedural issues since the bylaws were outdated and not being followed.

  • Trustee Keyes recognized that the bylaws were not being followed.
  • That is why earlier this year, she requested an audit of all of the Township’s policies, practices and procedures.
  • The Board did not support her initiative.
  • Trustee Keyes offered copies of the bylaws to all of the Board members several months ago.  Only Trustee McKay accepted her offer.
  • Apparently, the Board members (with the exception of Trustees Keyes and McKay) have been operating for almost one year without having either a copy or an understanding of the Township bylaws.
  • By having outdated bylaws, Supervisor Gonser feels empowered to make unilateral decisions, as evidenced by his October 8th assertion that:

“Meeting protocol is established by the Chair!”

Supervisor Gonser accused Trustee Keyes of having a ‘gotcha’ mentality because of her desire for public viewing of the bills.

  • Fiduciary accuracy is a major responsibility of the Board.
  • Supervisor Gonser indicated that questions by Trustees on billings should be raised and resolved prior the meetings.
  • However, at the August 13th Board meeting, Trustee Keyes asked a question regarding several bills.
  • Supervisor Gonser, Treasurer Langlois, Clerk Reilly and Superintendant Creech sat silent for 20 seconds.
  • Trustee Keyes had followed up with e-mails to Clerk Reilly asking for an answer to her question.
  • Clerk Reilly did not respond to her e-mail.
  • Clerk Reilly then sent a letter to the Board, the day of the following month’s meeting, asking the Board to approach the staff if they have any questions on billings.
  • It was not until after questioning by Trustee Keyes, in that Board meeting, that her question from the previous month had been answered.
  • The answer to the question was that Supervisor Gonser and Clerk Reilly had approved the actions that Trustee Keyes had questioned the previous month.
  • The approvals that Supervisor Gonser and Clerk Reilly had made were not appropriate, since those approvals should have been made by the Parks and Recreation Commission (Marshview Connector Park parking lot).
  • In the October 8th meeting, Supervisor Gonser stated

“All questions on bills have been satisfactorily answered!”

  • It was not made clear for whom, besides Supervisor Gonser, had the questions been satisfactorily addressed.
  • Questions on the appropriateness of the Township paying for Supervisor Gonser’s legal advice for his personal request for an Attorney General opinion on the Blossom RIdge matter still existed when Gonser made this statement.

Why is this important to the Citizens of Oakland Township?  Having accurate vote counts is a fundamental necessity for a governmental body. Considering their accuracy as “trivial and trite”, is not something we should expect from our Supervisor.   Making sure our Township is governed by a set of established procedures is critical.  We cannot have them established by the “whims” of the Supervisor.   The outdated bylaws should be updated as Trustee Keyes attempted to do earlier this year. The Supervisor’s efforts to “cover up” his own deficiencies by attacking a Trustee for raising good questions is totally unacceptable.  Supervisor Gonser appears to be attacking those who point out his own leadership deficiencies.  This from a leader who ran on “transparency”.

Richard Michalski

Gonser hears from former Zoning Board of Appeals members

Recently several people who have served our township for many years on the Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Commission were not notified when their terms were about to expire.   They were not asked if they wanted to continue their service.  They were not told that they were being replaced, largely by contributors to Supervisor Gonser’s campaign.  Two of them spoke up about this at the Sept. 10th Board of Trustees meeting.

  • George Platz, chairman of the ZBA for 15 years, a professional Land Surveyor and
  •  Carolyn Phelps, member of the ZBA for 12 years  and formerly Township Clerk for 28 years.

Their remarks, as recorded in the publicly available video of the meeting, are shown below.

Jim Foulkrod