Tag Archives: Board of Trustees

Oakland Township Board approves Oil and Gas Drilling ordinance

At the February 9, 2016 BOT meeting, the Oakland Township Board approved the proposed Oil and Gas drilling ordinance for Oakland Township.  The Board passed it in a unanimous 6 to 0 vote (Trustee Ferriolo was not at the meeting).  It was very clear from Board member comments that the Board was in favor of approving the Ordinance.  The purpose of the ordinance is to minimize the impact of oil and gas drilling operations in our Township.

Supervisor Gonser commented that his questions regarding the ordinance had been answered by MDEQ’s response to his request for clarification.  He concluded MDEQ “did not have disagreement with the ordinance.”  Others who read MDEQ’s response interpreted their response differently, but we are grateful for the unanimous support from the Board for the ordinance.

Thanks go to the the citizens that commented on the ordinance. Special thanks should be given to Erin Howlett, from Rochester Hills’ ‘Don’t Drill the Hill’s’, and Denise Demak, from Shelby’s ‘Citizens Against Residential Drilling’. Both helped Oakland Township learn from their community’s’ experience on this issue.

Here is a copy of the ordinance (an earlier agenda is included)

Janaury 12, BOT meeting agenda and Oil:Gas draft ordinance

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  With the passage of the ordinance, Oakland Township is now protected, to the fullest extent under the law, from oil and gas drilling operations in higher density residential portions of our Township.  We thank the Board and the Planning Commission for moving rapidly on this issue.

Richard Michalski

Blossom Ridge (and Carillon Creek) development approved by Township Board

On February 2, 2016, the Oakland Township Board voted to approve a proposed Consent judgment settlement regarding the Blossom Ridge Senior development. The agreement also included a second parcel on the corner of Adams and Silverbell (by the Church). The Blossom Ridge issue has had many posts on this website over the years. It has been a contentious issue during this Board’s entire administration. In fact, every member of the Board played a role in having this issue proceed to a referendum vote in the summer of 2013.

The legal advice from our Township Attorney, and Judge Howard, clearly played a role in having the majority of the Board vote to approve this Consent Judgment. The vote was five to two, with Treasurer Langlois and Clerk Reilly being the dissenting vote.  Their objections centered on the fact that they did not think that the agreement should have included the second parcel (Carillon Creek parcel), even though our Township Attorney stated that a mutually agreeable solution to the Blossom Ridge parcel was not possible without consideration of the second parcel due to demands made by the Board on the Blossom Ridge parcel.

Most of the Board members shared the rationale for their decisions in great depth (exception being Clerk Reilly), and can be seen by visiting the Township website link included below.

Trustee Buxar summarized her decision by using a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King:

“Cowardice asks the question – Is it safe?

Expediency ask the question – Is is political?

Vanity asks the question – Is it popular?

Conscience asks the question – Is it right?

And there comes a time when one must take a position that is not, safe, political, or popular, but must make it simply because it is right!”

Here is a link to the Township’s website:

http://vp.telvue.com/player?id=T02627

Once you go to the website:

On Playlist tab, click on Board of Trustees 2016
On Video tab, click on February 2, 2016 BOT meeting
On Chapter tab, click on Chapter 3

The following link to a press release provides additional information on the agreement

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/settlement-agreement-provides-expanded-housing-152100205.html?soc_src=mediacontentstory&soc_trk=ma

So what does that Township get out of this agreement?

  • A Senior Assisted Living development that meets our ordinances and community needs.
  • A Senior Health and Wellness Center that meets our ordinances and community needs.
  • Eliminates the burden of Township having to prove it has provided ‘reasonable accommodations’ to a protected class of citizens.
  • Eliminates the potential $17M in delayed damage.
  • Eliminates the loss of being covered by our Insurance Company.
  • Decreases the potential density on the Research Laboratory zoned parcel.
  • Eliminates the potential for oil and gas drilling and cell towers on the parcels.
  • Accessible parkland available to the public in the portion of Township with the highest residential density.
  • Protects the Township against future similar lawsuits if the Carillon Creek parcel gets rezoned to the zoning districts as proposed by our attorney.
  • Township continues to have Engineering Control over the proposed developments.
  • Plan includes a restaurant in our community that our recent survey indicates is a desire of our residents.
  • Developer contributes $400,000 for a water storage facility to help improve seasonal water pressure issues (location will be determined by County water resource commission.)
  • Developer contributes $200,000 for an Advanced Life Support vehicle.
  • Developer contributes up to $125,000 in matching funds for a Veteran’s Memorial facility.

Finally, the biggest win for our Township is that we get this divisive issue behind us and heal the rift in our Township.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  The passage of this consent Judgment puts this contentious issue behind us.  The five Board members who voted to approve the agreement made their decision concluding that it was in the best interest of the Township.  Their decision was made in spite of their earlier concerns over the initial proposed development.  They need to be commended for taking that action.

Citizens should consider whether the decisions made by two of our top Township officials, (Treasurer Langlois and Clerk Reilly), really were made in the best interest of the Township.

Richard Michalski

 

Key Blossom Ridge Consent Judgment information discussed at January 26, 2016 BOT meeting

The January 26, 2016 Oakland Township Board meeting was very informative regarding the proposed Blossom Ridge Consent Judgment that the Board is considering. There were many facts and opinions shared.  Our Township Attorney also corrected many inaccurate claims that have been shared by some of the citizens opposed to the development.

Because the issue is so complex, it is difficult (and almost impossible) to accurately summarize the points made by the Attorneys, Consultants and citizens at the meeting.  As a result, I recommend that citizens who have an interest in this issue, and are willing to spend time understanding the many complexities involved in this decision, visit the following Township website and watch the meeting proceedings.

Once you go to the website,

  • On Playlist tab, click on Board of Trustees 2016
  • On Video tab, click on January 26, 2016 BOT meeting
  • On Chapter tab, click on Chapter 5

It will take you to the 4:50 (minute:second) point in the meeting.

http://vp.telvue.com/player?id=T02627

  • The Former Oakland County Chief Judge Barry Howard, who was the arbitrator in this case, gives his presentation until the 27:40 point in the meeting.
  • Between 27:40 and 52:20, Oakland Township Planning Consultant, Dick Carlisle, discusses the proposed development from a planning perspective using our zoning ordinance as a guide.
  • Between 52:20 and 96:00, Township attorney Dan Kelly give his report on the legal implication of this case.

The rest of the meeting primarily shares citizen inputs on this issue – some in support and some in opposition.

As I stated, it is complex and not easy to simplify for this post, but only by watching the reports will you understand the legal and planning issues our Board must consider.

The Board is scheduled to make a decision on this matter on February 2, 2016 at a 5 PM meeting at the Township Hall.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  This issue has been a divisive one in our Township for years.  I apologize for not being able to give you a ‘Reader’s Digest’ version of this issue, but I feel it is important for those who want to form their own objective position on this issue to watch the video.

Richard Michalski

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

 

Blossom Ridge consent judgment proposal up for review

As many of you know, there has been a significant legal issue that our Township has been dealing with for over 3 years.  That issue is the Federal case against Oakland Township regarding the Blossom Ridge Senior Development proposed at the corner of Adams and Dutton (see tab at top of page for more historical information). 

A Federal court requested ‘facilitation’ took place in the hopes that an agreement could be achieved eliminating the need for a trial. A proposal that involved just the Blossom Ridge parcel was not achieved, so the developer offered an option that included more than the original Blossom Ridge property.  Judge Howard, the negotiation facilitator, supported the proposal and asked that the proposal be reviewed by the entire Board and made available to the public.  

A final decision by the Board IS REQUIRED by January 26, 2016, or the issue will go to trial in July. Specific information on the proposal has been made available to the public.  The plans are available for review at the Township Hall, on the Township website, and in the two links shown below on this website. This topic has been added to the January 26 BOT meeting agenda.

Here are the various iterations of the Blossom development that had been previously publicly considered and rejected:

  • 282 total units including 126 congregate units with building having > 2 stories (original proposal)
  • 238 total units including 126 congregate units with building having > 2 stories
  • 228 total units including reduced number of  congregate units with building having 2 stories

THE PROPOSED CONSENT JUDGEMENT INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:

ON ORIGINAL PROPOSED BLOSSOM RIDGE PROPERTY:

  • 189 total units including 100 congregate units with building having 2 stories

ON 30+ ACRES SURROUNDING OAKLAND CHRISTIAN CHURCH (ADAMS AND SILVERBELL)

  • Downzone the property from current “Research Laboratory” zoning to one that is more restrictive
  • 6,800 square foot ‘fine dining’ restaurant on Southwest corner of Adams and Silverbell on two acres
  • Single story Health and Wellness residence with 56 studio apartments on northwest  portion of property on 6.33 acres per site plan
  • 84 two to three bedroom units in a two story structure on 14 acres
  • Donation of 8 acres along Adams road to Township
  • Moceri would build a fire/ambulance facility on the site 
  • Moceri would donate up to $200,000.00 for the purchase of a new emergency (ALS) vehicle
  • Matching contribution of Moceri of up to $125,000.00 toward the construction of a Veteran’s Memorial on the property

OTHER AGREEMENTS:

  • No damages will be pursued by the developer (estimated at $17million)
  • Lawsuit will be dropped eliminating potential court finding that Township’s zoning violates Federal Law & potential federal fines

OPTIONS DISCUSSED BY BOARD MEMBERS:

  • Agree to the proposed consent judgment settlement
  • Reject the proposed consent judgment and go to trial in July accepting all the uncertainties of potential outcomes
  • Agree that Oakland Township has violated Federal laws, with the resulting approval of original proposed plan and exposing Township to damages claimed by developer.

Here is video of the lengthy report given by Township Attorney, Dan Kelly:

 

Here is the Township’s summary of the proposed consent judgment posted on Township website

BLOSSOM RIDGE AND CARILLON CREEK DEVELOPMENT SUMMARY

Here are the proposed plans for both the Blossom Ridge property as well as the property around the Church:

Blossom Ridge Consent Judgment Plans

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  This issue has been a divisive one in our Township for years.  The consequences of making the right decision will have a long term impact on our Township.  If the Board agrees with the consent judgement, it will restrict the Township in their ability to review the proposed developments being proposed on the parcel near the Church.  However, the developer has demonstrated through the years that his developments are compatible with our Township, and we hope that the developer will consider any site concerns the Township raises if that is the Board’s decision.  The potential financial implications of making the wrong decision by the Board are VERY SIGNIFICANT.

We encourage all citizens concerned about this issue to visit the Township Hall prior to January 26th and review the proposed plans.  After viewing the plans, make your views known by either attending the January 26th meeting, or sending a letter to the Board members.

Richard Michalski

 

 

Oakland Township and Clinton River Watershed Council agree to a Settlement regarding Millrace lawsuit

As many of you are aware, there has been a legal dispute between Oakland Township and the Clinton River Watershed Council regarding the lack of water flowing down the millrace that leads to the Paint Creek Cider Mill.  On October 6, 2015 an agreement was reached between the parties. A copy of the agreement is attached to this post.  Some of the key items in the agreement are spelled out in this article.

Millrace sign

CIder Mill Wheel copy

When the dam that was upstream of the Paint Creek cider mill (and the millrace) was removed in 2012, the flow of water down the millrace had stopped.  The dam removal was an initiative of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.  The Clinton River Watershed Council was the fiduciary on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funded by EPA.

The millrace property is owned by the Township and 7 property owners.  The lack of water flow in the millrace  was a political issue in the 2012 elections, since the previous Board had agreed to the dam removal.  The property owners asked the new Township Board members to help them get the water flowing again in the millrace because their property values had been negatively impacted.  The Board has been working on this issue for 3 years. In 2014, a breach of contract lawsuit was filed against the Clinton River Watershed Council.  Additional background information can be seen in the attached ‘Mutual Release and Settlement Agreement’.

Mutual Release and Settlement Agreement

Here are some of the major elements of the agreement that was approved in a 5 to 2 vote by the Oakland Township Board (Supervisor Gonser & John Giannangeli were dissenting votes) and the Clinton River Watershed Council:

  • The Parties have agreed to settle their disputes and all related claims without further litigation.
  • Hubble, Roth & Clark, Inc. (an Engineering Consulting firm) has determined that certain of the structures that are part of the Project (the original dam removal project) might be modified to increase the flow of water from the Paint Creek through the millrace, and possibly meet Oakland Township’s expectations of flows following completion of the Project.
  • The Clinton River Watershed Council (through Hubble Roth & Clark) will undertake a further design/construction review.
  • The review (or Memorandum) will include articulating the flows Oakland Township desires and identifying modifications that may achieve those flows and may be acceptable to the MDEQ/MDNR.
  • The Design review is to be complete within 60 days.
  • If the Parties agree upon and approve the Modifications, Clinton River Watershed Council shall facilitate a meeting with MDEQ and any other necessary governmental agencies to review the modifications, if needed.  Oakland Township shall be solely reponsible for seeking agency approval of the Modifications.
  • Within the next 12 months, the Clinton River Watershed Council will seek to identify 2 grants for the clean-out and restoration to the millrace by Oakland Township, if available and eligible.
  • Clinton River Watershed Council shall be solely responsible for any and all costs and expenses, of any kind, nature or type whatsoever, associated with the consultant(s) review.
  • Oakland Township shall be responsible for all costs and/or fees associated with MDEQ and/or other governmental agency review of proposed Modifications; any plans necessary for implementation of the Modifications; any design or analysis over and above that provided in the Memorandum; permitting, and any other additional pre-construction, construction or post-construction costs incurred, or to be incurred, should Oakland Township move forward to undertake to perform any Modifications; and any additional or further cost or attorney fees which may be incurred by Oakland Township.

The agreement also includes the typical legal ‘boiler plate’ wording.

A review of the previous bills that have been submitted to the Township for the various aspects of the millrace issue was undertaken.  Financial documents were obtained from the Township  using the Freedom of Information process (FOIA). The total amount the Township has spent on this issue from May of 2013 to September of 2015 is $89,226.  (An additional $3,112.50 for legal services will be approved at the October 13, 2015 BOT meeting).  This amount includes legal, consultant and engineering expense.  Here is a chart that shows the amount spent in each category:

Cumulative costs for Millrace Issue

It is clear, based on the agreement,  that as we proceed with this effort, additional expenses will be incurred by the Township.

Here is a copy of the minutes of the September 27, 2011 BOT meeting where the Board approved the dam removal:

September 27, 2011 BOT motion on dam removal

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?   The millrace issue has been a divisive issue in our Township for several years.  The lack of water flowing down the millrace appears to be due to several things.  The fundamental reason is the loss of elevation of the water feeding the millrace due to the dam removal.  Another reason is that the sediment buildup in the millrace, after years of operation, prevent the water from flowing ‘uphill’.  The sediment issue was raised many times by the Clinton River Watershed Council prior to the dam removal, but nothing was ever done about it.

The settlement agreement appears to be a fair and equitable one.  Regarding the sediment in the millrace, the millrace is used by our community for storm water drainage from the basin on the northeast side of Orion Road in front of Baldwin Elementary School.  That water has contributed (in part) to the sediment buildup in the millrace.  As a result, the community does have some responsibility to clear the millrace.

However, the return of water flow in the millrace is contingent upon:

  • engineering work that results in a design that will provide enough water flow down the millrace to satisfy the Township and the residents desires,
  • the proposed project being acceptable to MDEQ,
  • available grant funding for the dredging & clean out of the millrace.

These are three significant hurdles.  It appears we now have a plan that MAY get us water in the millrace.  The real test will come if the Township Board must make a decision to use public funds to remediate the problem, created on private property (no water in the millrace), as a result of the decision made by the previous Board to remove the dam.

Here are some previous post on the Millrace issue:

Oakland Township files lawsuit against Clinton River Watershed Council

UPDATE: Oakland Township Board (CORRECTION – SUPERVISOR GONSER) potentially commits $431,875 of Township funds to improve private property outside ANY public meeting

Oakland Township Board potentially commits $431,875 of Township funds to improve private property outside ANY public meeting

Richard Michalski

Township Board selects new Township manager

At a special Oakland Township Board meeting held on September 28, 2015, the Board interviewed and selected Dale Stuart as our new Township Manager for a term through March of 2017.

The Oakland Township Board extended an offer to Mr. Dale Stuart for the position of Oakland Township manager through March of 2017.  Mr. Stuart accepted the offer and agreed to start immediately. Mr. Stuart will be the 4th manager in 3 years in that position.  The previous 3 managers all resigned.

Mr. Stuart is familiar with Oakland County and lives in Clarkston. His resume includes:

  • Elected Township Supervisor of Charter Township of Independence for 12 years.
  • Elected Township Trustee in Charter Township of Independence for 8 years.
  • Appointed City manager of Keego Harbor for 4 years
  • Appointed City manager of Cheboygan for 3 1/2 years
  • Lead negotiator for AFSCME and POLC labor contracts
  • Served as DDA Director
  • Served as Zoning administrator
  • Oversaw DPW operations in various communities
  • Oversaw reconstruction of 20% of the roads in Keego Harbor
  • Has a BS in Management from Lawrence Tech
  • Has a Law degree from Detroit College of Law and is a licensed attorney

Here is a copy of his complete resume:

Dale Stuart resume

The interview process was similar to previous interviews.  Each Board member asked the applicant questions.  Supervisor Gonser was not present at the meeting.  Trustee Ferriolo wanted to make certain the the applicant was familiar with the issue Supervisor Gonser has with the ‘strong manager’ form of governance in Oakland Township.  Mr. Stuart was familiar with the Supervisor’s position on this matter, but responded by expressing how he would handle any potential disagreement.  He then asked the Board to express their position on Ordinance 97 and the ‘strong manager’ form of governance, since he would rely on their support if needed.  All 6 Board members expressed their support for the ordinance and our form of governance.

After deliberations, the Board extended an offer to Mr. Stuart.  Mr. Stuart accepted the position.

Here is a video of portions of the interview:

 

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  We have gone through 3 Township managers over the past 3 years.  The day to day operation of our Township has not been taking place as it should.  Supervisor Gonser argues the lack of progress is due to the form of governance in our Township.  However, the constant ‘churning’ of managers, due to the Supervisor’s personal desire to run the Township himself as a ‘strong supervisor’, is the reason for the lack of progress.  Mr. Stuart is extremely familiar with what needs to get done in a community since he has been city Manager and a Supervisor of a Township.  His experience and local knowledge will allow him to ‘come up to speed’ very quickly and get us back on track.

The only risk is that Supervisor Gonser may attempt to subvert Mr. Stuart’s effectiveness in order to create the appearance that our form of governance does not work.  It worked very well for years prior to his election.

If you have not already done so, please read the other article that was posted today.  It provides some further insight into the challenges that Mr. Stuart will have with Supervisor Gonser.

Did Supervisor Gonser mislead voters in 2012 election, or did he not understand the job of Supervisor in our Township?

Richard Michalski

Did Supervisor Gonser mislead voters in 2012 election, or did he not understand the job of Supervisor in our Township?

Several things occurred at the September 22, 2015 Oakland Township Board meeting that highlight the need for clear understanding of expectations when we elect our officials. Candidates running for office need to have an understanding of the structure and role for the position they are attempting to fill. If they want to change the structure or role, they should communicate their intentions during the campaign. Similarly, the voters that support the candidates need to have a clear understanding of what to expect from the candidates they support.  The Board’s events at the September 22 meeting indicate we had neither in the election of Supervisor Gonser in the 2012 election. 

At the September 22nd meeting, the Board was forced to make a motion to remove Supervisor Gonser from having a private office.  Shortly after taking office in 2012, the Supervisor got the Board to agree to convert a conference room into an office that all of them could use as a ‘drop in office’.  Over time, the Supervisor has taken over control of that room as his private office.

At the July 14, 2015 Board meeting, the Board approved an office rearrangement that had been under study for some time.  It was unanimously approved by the Board members present.  Gonser was not present at that meeting.  The plan comprehended the increased needs of the Township.  In that plan, the Supervisor and all Board members were provided a desk location that any could use to accomplish business while at the Township Hall.  Since the Supervisor position is a part time position, not a full time position, historically, our Township has not had a dedicated office for the Supervisor (contrary to what Gonser claimed in his Sept 15th email).

As the office rearrangement was ready to begin, Warren Brown, our former Township manager, asked the Supervisor to remove his personal belongings from the office he had taken over.  The Supervisor refused to do so, disregarding the Board’s direction from the July 14th meeting.  The manager’s request, and the Supervisor’s response are shown in the following emails.

Gonser’s demand for personal office

Our Township Attorney advised the Supervisor that he does not have a statutory right to a private office, given the structure of our Township.  Here is a quote from our Township attorney  from the September 22 meeting:

” In this circumstance, given Ordinance 97 and the fact that we are a ‘manager run’ government, I have given the opinion, and I have spoken with the Supervisor about this directly, that I do not believe he is entitled to an office.”

In order to protect our Township’s interim manager Jamie Moore (Warren Brown has resigned) from having to deal with this contentious issue, the Board felt in necessary to make a formal motion to have Gonser remove his things from the room he had been using as his office.  The motion was approved 6 to 1, with Gonser being the dissenting vote.

Gonser responded by saying:

“I guess if the Supervisor chooses to reside back there, I guess Lieutenant Spencer is going to have to be pressed into duty to call the Oakland Press and haul out the Supervisor- not a good scenario!”

Treasurer Langlois responded by saying:

“That’s your choice whether or not that be the scenario.”

Trustee Ferriolo added:

“Absolutely!”

Gonser concluded by saying:

“The Board’s choice.”

Later in the meeting, the Supervisor indicated that until recently, he had been spending 50 to 60 hours per week at the Township Office.  He said he had provided Warren Brown a list of things that he had been working on shortly after Mr. Brown started work in the Township in March of this year.  Gonser went on to say that he was disappointed with the lack of progress on the items during the 5 months that Mr. Brown was here.  Many of these items have been issues long before Mr. Brown came to Oakland Township.

Gonser’s  acknowledgment that he had been working on these items was a clear admission that he had violated Oakland Township’s Ordinance 97.  This behavior is consistent with his repeated personal desire to be a “Strong Supervisor”.  He went on to say that his actions were in response to what he believes are the desires of the people who voted him into office.

So, we have a Supervisor who:

  • disregards the July 14 Board decision regarding his office arrangements (just because he disagrees with it),
  • purposefully violates Ordinance 97 (just because he disagrees with it),
  • bases his actions on what he ‘believes’ the voters want him to do (even though it is contrary to the structure of the position he was elected to fill),
  • flagrantly disregards an Ordinance that he swore to uphold when he took his oath of office (even though he is legally obligated to follow and uphold the Ordinance).

Supervisor Gonser did not make clear, when he was running for office, that he wanted to change the structure of Oakland Township (i.e.. Strong Supervisor, private office, full time job for Supervisor, increased salary), yet he strongly believes that the majority of the citizens who voted for him agree with him.  The Board, by a 6 to 1 vote, have repeatedly indicated they do not agree with him.

Here are video excerpts from the September 22, 2015 BOT meeting:

 

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Expectations for change when a person is running for office need to be clearly communicated by the candidates.  Gonser truly believes that his mandate was to change the structure of Oakland Township’s governance, but he never made his intentions known to citizens during the campaign.  Many citizens, including Board members and previous supporters, have changed their opinion of Supervisor Gonser over the past few years based on his actions.  He is not what they ‘bought into’ when they voted for him.

I guess it is possible that Gonser did not understand the job of Supervisor in our Township prior to being elected.  If that is the case, an argument can be made that his lack of understanding of the position is precisely why a ‘Manager’ form of government is good for our Township.  If he did understand the job of Supervisor, and neglected to communicate his desire to change it, a deception occurred that we cannot let reoccur in 2016.

Our political system relies on our elected officials following through on the things they promised when campaigning.  Having a personal agenda that is hidden from the voters, does not serve the community well.  Ignorance over the job responsibilities does not serve our needs either.  The chaos in our Township over the past three years is due to one of these occurring in our Township.

Richard Michalski

Reasons why Oakland Township’s legal expense has doubled under Supervisor Gonser and the current Board

Since Supervisor Gonser and the new Board took office in 2012, the legal expense for our Township has doubled. Shortly after being elected, the Board changed law firms.  In the 29 months that the new law firm has served the Township, our cumulative legal expense is at $513,000. The legal expense for 29 months under the previous Board was approximately $255,000.  So in 29 months, we have spent $258,000 more than the previous Board.

An analysis was undertaken to determine the reasons for the increase.  A video has been created that shows the results of that analysis, as well as some conclusions and recommendations.  It is rather long, but it gives the detailed background for the conclusions and recommendations.

Here are some key graphs from the analysis:

(click on graphs to expand)

LEGAL FEES OVER TIME

Oakland Township Legal expense

REASONS FOR LEGAL FEES OVER PAST 29 MONTHS

Pareto of legal issues

CURRENT BOARD’S LEGAL FEES vs. PREVIOUS BOARD’S LEGAL FEES

Comparison of legal expense

Here is the video:

The Conclusions from the analysis:
– The primary reason for Township’s legal expense doubling is labor negotiations, employment issues and litigation costs.

– The Township Board is directly responsible for many of the labor, employment and litigation costs.

– Questions exist over Gonser’s authority and justification for increasing the retainer fee without disclosure to fellow Board members or citizens.

– Township published records make it impossible to understand the reasons for litigation costs without using the FOIA process.

Recommendations:
– The Supervisor and the Board need to change their behavior to eliminate what some considered a “hostile environment” that warranted efforts to form unions.

– The Board needs to understand the total cost (legal and associated) before making litigious decisions.

– Supervisor Gonser should explain why he increased the retainer fee from $90k to $108k per year without Board approval or citizen knowledge.

– The Township Manager, with Board approval, needs to Improve the ‘transparency’ of Board packet information by being more descriptive of reasons for litigation.  We should follow what the city of Hamtramck does  (they are also represented by Giarmarco and Mullin). (example shown below)

Hamtramck Legal expense in their Board packets

– The Board should request our Law Firm publish quarterly legal status report like the city of Troy (example shown below)

CIty of Troy 2015 first quarter Litigation report

Reference Material

Legal RFP

Original legal contract- 2013

Revised legal contract- 2015

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Each taxpayer in Oakland Township is now paying twice as much for legal services than they did a few years ago.  This Board ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility, yet they have not questioned the reasons for the higher expense.  Their actions have actually contributed to the higher costs.  Most notably the expense incurred as a result of creating a work environment that drove the unionization of some of our Township staff.

The Oakland Township Watcher website raised the issue of  high legal expense earlier this year.  It was only after we raised the concern, that the Treasurer and/or Clerk discovered an accounting error that resulted  in the Township inappropriately paying for legal services that should have been charged to developer’s escrow accounts.  That action will save our Township $9,000 per year.  It appears our elected officials ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility and transparency, but when it comes to doing the work, citizen involvement is necessary to make sure they do what they said they would do.

As the Board considers the tax rate that we will be paying next year, lowering the tax rate is only one element of fiscal responsibility.  Controlling costs is the other element.  Behavior needs to change and questions need to be asked and answered.

Richard Michalski

Do Gonser’s actions suggest he places his political agenda above the needs of the Township?

Supervisor Gonser appears to be placing his own political agenda over the critical needs of the community.  His two planning commission nominees at the August 31, 2015 Special Board meeting do not have the critical skills that members of the Board and the Planning Commission feel are needed.  He also failed to nominate qualified candidates at the September 8, 2015 Board meeting.  He is choosing to ignore individuals with Township planning experience that have applied for the open Planning Commission positions.

Oakland Township’s Planning Commission currently has only five commissioners.  Their combined planning experience level is less than 8 years.  There should be seven members of the commission.  As reported previously, Supervisor Gonser’s two nominees for the vacancies were not acceptable to the other six members of the Township Board.   Neither of his nominees had enough Planning Commission or Township experience to fill the voids created by Gonser’s previous nominees to the Planning Commission.

At the special August 31, 2015 Board meeting, Gonser nominated two individuals who had no experience in Oakland Township Planning, Zoning or other subcommittee events.  The Supervisor had received a total of 5 applications for the open positions well before the August 31st special Board meeting.  Two of the applicants have significant Planning, Zoning, or even Township Trustee experience.  Another applicant has been very involved in Oakland Township activities, and is a member of the Safety Path and Trails subcommittee.  Two of the  three individuals with Township planning, zoning or subcommittee experience live on large parcels in the Township.

Gonser claimed his selections were based on a need to have women on the Planning Commission, and that he wanted to nominate individuals who live on acreage.  Based on Gonser’s stated reasons for his nominations, he did not find the experience of the 5 early applicants to be a compelling reason to justify their nomination.  He therefore solicited applications from the two individuals he nominated at the August 31, 2015 meeting.  Their applications were submitted on August 27th and 28th, just days before the meeting.

During citizen comments, an individual commented that he thought Gonser’s appointments were political.  Gonser responded by saying:

“These are not political appointments.  These are not political people.”

Later in the meeting, Parks and Recreation Commission member Roger Schmidt, husband of Barbara, one of Gonser’s nominees stated:

“When THEY got me in, I came home from my first (Parks and Recreation) meeting, I was not very happy, and my wife said why did one individual dislike me so much to get me on this Commission (Gonser laughs in background).  Well, I did not run to be on this Commission.  I ran to help people get elected on the Board because things were not going well..”

The other nominee Mrs. Landers stated:

” . . . and I think the biggest thing that I did. . . . I did have faith in a lot of people.  I single handedly brought together the first ever big community ‘meet and greet’ that we had that allowed people to meet all the people that are on our Board and everything now.”

Here is a video of portions of the August 31st meeting:

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  The Supervisor is disregarding the desires of the other Board members, and the seated Planning Commission members.  They have indicated a need  to have additional Planning experience added to the Commission.  Gonser appears to be placing his own political agenda over the needs of the community, the request from his previously appointed Planning Commissioners and fellow Board members.

His two nominees may not be political people, but clearly based on the comments made at the August 31 meeting, the husband of one of them got involved in politics in order to help Gonser get elected, and the other nominee sponsored a political get together to help Gonser (and others)  get elected.  To Mrs. Landers credit, she did agree to serve on the Safety Path and Trails Subcommittee after it was clear her nomination was not going to be accepted.

The Board and the citizens of the community must continue to place the needs of the community over any political agenda of the Supervisor.  We have qualified individuals ready and willing to serve.  Let’s move forward!

Richard Michalski

P.S.  Next year, we need to remember Roger Schmidt’s statement expressing his lack of interest in being on the Parks and Recreation Commission, and why he really ran for office.  We need to have Parks and Recreation Commission members who are motivated for the right reason.