Tag Archives: Abuse of Power

Planning Commissioner disappointed that Gonser did not add much needed experience to Planning Commission

At the September 1, 2015 Planning Commission meeting, Planning Commissioner Danny Beer expressed his disappointment that the Supervisor did not take advantage of the experienced candidates that submitted their applications for the two open Planning Commission positions.  He acknowledged the need for adding people with Planning experience to the inexperienced Planning Commission and said the Supervisor “missed the boat by not putting some experience on this Planning Commission.”

Danny Beer is a Gonser appointment to the Planning Commission.  He was added to the Planning Commission in 2014.  Danny was present at the September 31st Board meeting where two Planning Commission appointments were to have been made.  As previously reported, Supervisor Gonser wanted to appoint two individuals with no Zoning or Planning experience.  The Board did not accept his recommendations.  Gonser refused to nominate other candidates that did have Planning or Zoning experience.

At the September 1 Planning Commission meeting, Danny Beer stated:

“I was disappointed, personally disappointed, that there wasn’t more consideration given to the applicants who had a lot of experience. There were a a couple of people that were very anxious to be a part of this, with a lot of background, and I am new and have less planning experience than you guys that have at least dealt with it in your other workings.  I never have.

In my opinion, we need some experienced help –  some people to fall back on.  Both of you guys have been very helpful, John and Ron, but we are all new at this, and I really feel we missed the boat by not putting some experience on this Planning Commission! “

Other Planning Commission members expressed their hope that the Supervisor would nominate one or two of the candidates that have the much needed experience and have submitted their applications for the openings.

Here is a video of the discussion at the Planning Commission meeting:

Adding fuel to the fire, Gonser was quoted in an article in the 9/1/15 edition of the Oakland Press as saying:

“I have to talk to people around the community and see who’s interested.  Unless they’ve served on the planning commission, they don’t have experience.”

This statement reveals two things:

  • He does not intend to nominate any of the more experienced people who have applied for consideration.
  • He either doesn’t understand the type of experience being sought by the Board members who spoke on the record  on the matter or he is spitefully misrepresenting their opinions in order to present himself as a victim of the Board’s refusal to support him.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  With six of the seven Board members recognizing the need for adding Planning experience to the Planning Commission, with several candidates having the much needed experience, and with a plea for help from the Planning Commission for that help, why would the Supervisor be reluctant to appoint individuals that have submitted their applications and are very qualified to help the Planning Commission?

If Gonser does not take appropriate action at the next Board meeting, I am afraid the Township may get involved in yet another legal issue that will do nothing but hurt Oakland Township.

The Supervisor needs to accept reality, and do what is right for the Township, not his ego!

Richard Michalski and Jim Foulkrod

 

 

Township Board does not approve Supervisor Gonser’s Planning Commission nominees!

At the July 31, 2015 Oakland Township Board meeting, the Township Board did not approve either of the two candidates that Supervisor Gonser brought forward for consideration for replacing Janine Saputo and James Carter on the Planning Commission.  Saputo was the Planning Commission’s Secretary, and Carter was the Chairperson of the Commission.  Their terms of appointment are up on September 1.  The Supervisor refused to consider other applicants that the Board members felt were more qualified to meet the immediate needs of the Township.

The Supervisor indicated his selection of the nominees was based on gender diversity, where the nominees lived in the Township, and whether they lived on large parcels of property.

The reason the Board did not approve the two nominees was that the nominees did not have any Township experience in Zoning or Planning.  The Board pointed out that with the previous changes to the Planning Commission, and other Planning personnel changes, the Township’s Planning experience has dropped below a critical level.  One Trustee referred to the loss of expertise as a ‘hemorrhage’.

There were 13 residents that supported the Board’s position and their concern for the level of experience on the Planning Commission.  There were only three individuals that supported Gonser’s position.  One of the three was former Trustee Maureen Thalmann, who recently resigned from the Board.  Another was Parks Commissioner Roger Schmidt, who is involved in a lawsuit against fellow Township’s Parks Commission members, and whose wife happened to be one of Gonser’s nominees.

Supervisor Gonser refused to  nominate other individuals that had applied.  Several of these do have Planning, Zoning, or Township subcommittee experience.

By State Law, only the Supervisor can nominate individuals for the Planning Commission.  The Board has the authority to approve or reject his nominations.

When asked, the Township Attorney could not ‘shed any light’ on what procedurally will occur if the Supervisor does not appoint an acceptable candidate.

Here is a link to an Oakland Press article on the meeting:

Oakland Press article on August 31, 2015 Special BOT meeting

Here is a video of the Board members’ comments:

 

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  As previously reported on this website, the level of experience on the Planning Commission is critical to preserving the character of Oakland Township.

The Planning Commission is currently faced with two significant challenges.  One is consideration of a change to our Ordinance to limit oil and gas drilling in our Township to the fullest extent allowed by law, and the other is our new Master Plan.  The Supervisor has already gone on record as not supporting any changes to our Ordinance to control oil and gas drilling in out Township.  He also has repeatedly indicated he wants to change the Master Plan.

The Supervisor clearly wants to change the character of our Township.  Continued vigilance is needed by the citizens to make sure he follows our wishes, not just his own political agenda.

A special thanks goes out to all of the citizens that came to the meeting on August 31.  Your presence and comments give the Board the strength to act on your behalf,

Richard MIchalski

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

 

Oakland Township Manager Warren Brown comments on his resignation – suggests Supervisor Gonser follow his example and also resign

At the August 11, 2015 Oakland Township Board meeting, Warren Brown, the current Township Manager, commented on his recent decision to resign.  He did not go into specifics, but indicated it was a personal decision.  He made many positive comments about Oakland Township.  He then made several comments about Supervisor Gonser. 

He commented on the statements Supervisor Gonser’s made in the Oakland Press announcement regarding his resignation.  He saw the Supervisor’s comments as an attempt to take advantage of his (Brown’s) personal decision to leave as a method to advance the Supervisor’s “position”.   Mr. Brown commented on how the Board has been fractured, and how he thought the Supervisor should be trying to bring the Township together, not further fractionalizing the community and the Board by his comments in the press.  He ended by suggesting that the Supervisor should do the Township a “service” and follow his example and resign from office.

Supervisor Gonser was ‘speechless’.

Here are excerpts of  Warren Brown’s statement:

“It is unfortunate that such a negative light (Gonser’s comment in the Oakland Press) has been cast upon the Board of Trustees as a whole, and by way of association, the Township also as a whole.

Board members will always disagree on issues, but out of respect for the process, no individual member should separate oneself from the Board as a whole.

The Supervisor’s comment . . .   was clearly made to personally attack the Board and embarrass the Board as a whole.  He has used my very personal decision to advance his own position, which I consider a personal affront, and to which I take great offense.

This Township has more advantages than most local governmental agencies in this State.  You are financially sound, you have an educated base, you are well situated for someone to offer his or her services in a leadership role.  However, this will not occur as long as the ‘voice of one’ outshouts the ‘voice of the many’.

The comment made (in the Oakland Press) did nothing to bring this Board together. . . . There has been an obvious schism among the Board for a very long time.”

Mr. Warren summarized comments made by car dealer he had spoken to while at home for the weekend. The car dealer said:

“It is obvious that the Supervisor, who should be the catalyst for Board regeneration, has by his comment and actions, succeeded in creating a larger chasm among the Board than what previously existed.”

Mr. Brown concluded by saying:

“If the Supervisor cannot admit the error of his ways, fill the chasm, and become more malleable in his approach to his position, he should follow my lead. . . .   To offer his resignation would be an act of service for the greater good!”

Here is a video of Warren Brown’s comments:

 

Here is an article published on 8/12/15 n the Rochester Post regarding Mr. Brown’s resignation.

Rochester Post article

Here is an article published on 8/14/15 in the Oakland Press regarding Mr. Brown’s resignation and suggestion for Gonser to resign.

Oakland Press article – Brown resignation and suggestion for Gonser to follow suit

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Supervisor Gonser has repeatedly attempted to change the governance in Oakland Township to one where he would be a “Strong Supervisor” in our Township.  The Board has repeatedly rejected his attempts.  Warren Brown made his decision to leave for personal reasons.  Warren Brown’s assessment of Gonser’s comments in the Oakland Press is very telling.  Gonser was attempting to destroy the Board, and push forward his agenda to become the full time (and paid) leader of our Township.

All of the Board members indicated their disappointment with Warren Brown’s decision.  Gonser simply thanked Warren for coming to our Township.

Our previous ‘short term’ manager, Ann Capela, supported Gonser’s philosophy and stated Oakland Township’s form of governance’ is “bizarre” and “unworkable”.  Warren Brown’s statement makes it clear that the form of governance is not the issue, Supervisor Gonser is the issue.

Hopefully, our Township Board takes the time to fill the Township Manager position.  Former Trustee Marc Edwards suggested having the Township contact the Michigan Townships Association, and find a temporary manager to fill the position until a new Board is elected in November of 2016.

Hopefully Gonser will be gone by then by following Mr. Brown’s suggestion, and does us all a ‘service’ by leaving now.

Richard Michalski

 

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

Parks Commissioner Ann Marie Rogers attempts to defend her behaviour

In the May 7, 2015 Oakland Press website posting titled,

Report: Oakland Township Parks Commissioner shared confidential emails’,

Parks and Recreation Commissioner Ann Marie Rogers attempted to defend her forwarding of ‘privileged and confidential’ material to others by saying she never signed anything preventing her from doing that.  Here is a portion of that article:

Rogers noted she was never asked to sign an agreement stating she not share attorney-client communications following her 2012 election to the board.

The wording in the ‘Privileged and Confidential’ statements attached to legal documents always makes it clear what is not to be done with those documents. It appears Commissioner Rogers did not believe it applied to her.

Comments made by others involved in this recent Oakland Township issue appear to shed some light on their value systems.

 

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Our elected and appointed official’s actions should be based on a generally accepted value system and must be held accountable for their actions.

It is surprising that Parks Commissioner Rogers, after serving on the Parks Commission for over two years, states she was never asked to sign an agreement stating she not share attorney-client communications.  She apparently does not feel anything wrong was done, and has not read the ‘privileged and confidential’ statements on the documents she received.

In an earlier Oakland Press article, former Trustee Thalmann stated she thought she was ‘collateral damage’ and the issue would all ‘go away’ if she resigned. She too apparently does not feel anything wrong was done, and had not read the ‘privileged and confidential’ statements on the documents she received and forwarded.

Here is that Oakland Press article:

Oakland Township board to send email confidentiality breach findings to sheriff’s office

Finally, the husband of the third party involved in receiving some of the ‘privileged and confidential’ material (including ‘closed session’ material) has attempted to justify at various Township meetings, his wife’s receipt of the material, by claiming since they were emails, they were “on a server”, and therefore not secure. He apparently does not feel anything wrong was done.  He has asked that in the future all ‘privileged and confidential’ material be hand delivered in paper form, no emails.  This individual is also a member of the Oakland Township Zoning Board of Appeals, who occasionally receives legal ‘privileged and confidential’ material. Hopefully he has read and understands the wording in the ‘privileged and confidential’ statements.

It is amazing the logic individuals use when they try to justify their unjustifiable behavior.

Oakland Township deserves the best elected and appointed officials.  We hope Commissioner Rogers steps down and a new Commissioner is selected.  We also hope the Oakland Township Board makes a good selection for the vacant seat on the Board in the upcoming meetings.

Richard Michalski

 

Trustee Thalmann’s resignation and legal investigation

At the April 14, 2015 Oakland Township Board meeting, Supervisor Gonser announced that Trustee Maureen Thalmann had submitted a letter of resignation.  The Board voted 6 to 0 to accept her resignation.  Supervisor Gonser commented that Thalmann resigned for family reasons and that she is spending time promoting a book that she recently had published.

It should be mentioned that one month ago Maureen Thalmann was named as one of the subjects of an investigation into the sharing of confidential, attorney-client privileged documents with un-authorized persons.  At the April 14th meeting, the attorney’s findings prompted a motion by Treasurer Langlois to schedule a joint meeting between the Township Board and Parks and Recreation Commission (PRC) to review the results of the investigation and determine what action, if any, needed to be taken.  The Board voted, 5 to 1, to schedule a Township Board closed session meeting, followed by a joint meeting with the Parks and Recreation Commission.  Supervisor Gonser was the sole objecting vote.

Here is some additional background on this topic:

    • At the March 10, 2015 Board meeting, Parks Commission member Ann Marie Rogers used ‘personal, private and/or confidential’ phone records when making several accusations against Trustee Buxar.
    • At the March 24th Board meeting, Trustee Buxar presented the results of an investigation into how Parks Commissioner Rogers obtained the phone records.  Here is a summary of her findings:

–  Because Anne Marie Rogers is involved in a lawsuit against the Township, in October of 2014, Ann Marie Rogers was informed that ANY request she made for Township documents MUST be made in writing, so the Township Attorney can review them prior to them being provided to her.

–  Email records confirmed that Commissioner Rogers and Trustee Thalmann were both informed of the requirement for written requests from Ann Marie Rogers for Township documents.

 –  In review of Township records, the only individual that had requested Trustee Buxar’s Township phone records was Trustee Thalmann.  There were no written requests for phone records from Commissioner Rogers, yet Commissioner Rogers used the phone record information in her March 10th accusations against Trustee Buxar.

–  Buxar’s findings also identified a much more serious issue :   Attorney-Client Privileged information had been shared inappropriately between Thalmann, Gonser and Rogers.

  • Treasurer Langlois commented on the severity of this situation:

“The magnitude of this breach simply cannot be overstated. The Board chose Supervisor Gonser and Trustee Thalmann as the two person subcommittee charged with representing the Board in good faith negotiations with the Parks and Recreation Commission. The fact that they shared privileged and confidential information prior to these meetings is extremely troubling and obviously, given the phone records, this isn’t the first time we have seen this.”

  • Treasurer Langlois then made the following motion, that was supported by Trustee Bailey.  The motions was unanimously approved.

“Secure all confidential communications and emails, including all communications and emails pertaining to closed sessions, and all attorney client privileged communications and emails, by and between the Oakland Township Board of Trustees and the Oakland Township Parks Commission for review by the Oakland Township Attorney.  To authorize the Oakland Township Manager to retain IT consultant, I.T. RIGHT, for assistance, if necessary.  To authorize the Oakland Township attorney to work with the Oakland Township Parks and Recreation attorney if necessary.”

  • At the April 14, 2015 Board meeting, the Board was given a memo from the Oakland Township attorney with the findings of his investigation.  The results were not shared with the public.
  • After a brief recess for Board members to review the memo, Treasurer Langlois commented:

“Given that the information contained in our review, and presumable their’s (the Parks and Recreation Commission’s), does affect both Boards, I would like to see this Board agree to the joint meeting (proposed by the PRC).”

  • The Board agreed, in a 5 to 1 vote, to hold a closed session meeting and then an open session joint meeting (at least for now) with the Parks and Recreation Commission, where the results of the investigation and potential actions will be discussed.  Supervisor Gonser was opposed to the meetings.

Here is a video supporting the statements made above:

 

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  The Board and Parks and Recreation Commission members swear to adhere to an oath of office.  Three of our elected officials may have violated their oath, and possibly the law.  There may be efforts made to prevent the facts on these allegations from being made public.  The citizens of Oakland Township deserve to understand what really took place. We do not need to know the content of any “privileged and confidential” letters, but we do need to know “who” sent “what” to “whom” so the citizens can consider the facts when voting in 2016.

Hopefully the joint meeting between the Board and the Parks and Recreation Commission will be an open meeting, and the facts will be made public.  The public deserves to know if our elected officials violated their oath of office.

Richard Michalski