Tag Archives: Board vs. Parks

Civility will return to Oakland Township! Our reputation restored!

Congratulations! Our collective efforts have been successful!

Voting_icon

Here are the names of the unofficial winners of the Oakland Township Board positions for 2016-2020 – pending the results of the November election:

Supervisor – Mike Bailey

Treasurer – Jeanne Langlois

Clerk – Karen Reilly

Trustee – Robin Buxar

Trustee – Frank Ferriolo

Trustee – John Giannangeli

Trustee – Lana Mangiapane  (only member of Terry Gonser’s ‘ticket’)

Here are the names of the unofficial winners of the Oakland Township Parks and Recreation Commission positions for 2016-2020 – pending the results of the November election:

Emily Barkham

Craig Blust

Dan Bukowski

Colin Choi

Cathy Rooney

Daniel Simon

Hank Van Agen

In addition, both the Parks renewal millage and the OPC transportation millage were approved.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?

With these public servants:

  • Civil, ethical and professional behavior will be restored at both the Board and Parks Commission level.
  • Turmoil regarding the form of governance in Oakland Township will be eliminated.
  • The certainty of the position of Township Manager will enable us to have the most qualified professional municipal manager run the day to day operations in the Township.
  • Conflicts between the Board and the Parks and Recreation Commission will be eliminated.
  • The great reputation of our Township will be restored.

Will there be difficult and contentious issues our community will have to deal with?  Absolutely!  Will there be differences of opinion on how to resolve the issues?  Absolutely!

However, we have seen how the returning Board members have developed and worked together as a team over the past few years.  Our future looks bright!

Thanks to all the great candidates that chose to run for office!  Thanks to the retiring Parks and Recreation Commission members for ‘vetting’ the new Commission’s candidates, so their legacy will continue!  Thanks to the countless others that helped get the new officials elected! Thanks to all those who have been following this website!  Thanks to all of those who contributed to the ‘Oakland Township Watchers Action Committee’ for helping to make the election results a success!

BUT, most of all, thanks to all those who voted!

YOUR VOTE COUNTED!

Richard Michalski & Jim Foulkrod

 

 

 

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

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

Background

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

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

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

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

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

What are we to think about this? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Can We Do?

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

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

Jim Foulkrod

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

Parks Commission action may have prevented Township Board from violating Michigan’s Elliott-Larson Civil Rights Act

As reported recently, the second lawsuit against Oakland Township over the Blossom Ridge Development was filed on December 11, 2014.  One of the claims made in the filing is that:

“The Township’s disregard of and seeming inability to comprehend its FHA obligations is systematic and pervasive”

The above claim is based  a Board decision at the December 10, 2013 Board meeting to have the Parks Commission ‘refrain’ from making an offer to a potential caretaker for the Lost Lake Park.  This individual was the choice of the Parks and Recreation Commission.  The Board’s concern was the potential liability of extending this job to the recommended person since the family had young children.    

Fortunately, the Parks Commission had performed their ‘due diligence’ in getting input from the Township’s Insurance company as well as the Park Commission’s Attorney, and proceeded with their selection.  Had the Park’s Commission rejected the selected caretaker based on the Township Board’s concern, the Township could have been charged with violating the Elliot Larson Act for using familial status as a reason for not hiring the caretaker.

Here is the information included in the Moceri/DM investment LLC and Joan Buser vs. Charter Township of Oakland filing – 12/11/14:

  1. The Township’s disregard of and seeming inability to comprehend its FHA obligations is systematic and pervasive as evidenced by the following illustration.
  1. The Township owns a park with a house on a lake.
  1. For years the Township leased the house to a caretaker who lived in the house and maintained the house and park.
  1. In 2013 the Township Parks and Recreation Department hired a new caretaker and as usual agreed to the caretaker’s occupancy of the house.
  1. On December 10, 2013, twenty minutes after voting to deny a reasonable accommodation for the disabled prospective residents of Blossom Ridge, Board of Trustees Member and Township Treasurer Jeanne Langlois moved to set aside the Parks Commission’s hiring of the caretaker because the caretaker has a family including two young children, starting the following exchange:

Treasurer Langlois:   Move that the Board make a review of that potential situation [a lease of Twp property to a Family with Minor Children]…and make a motion to authorize the Township Supervisor to formally request that the Parks and Recreation Commission refrain from entering into a caretaker contract until the liability issues can be reviewed by the Township insurance agent and Township legal counsel.

Trustee Bailey:  Is this the first that you’re aware of that we have done such a thing [lease to a family with minor children]?

Treasurer Langlois:  Yes, I understand there was a caretaker in the past, there were no minor children that I know of and then the initial approval recently was for a new caretaker that did not involve a family with minor children and when that fell through this apparently prompted the Parks [commission] to look at family with 2 very small children.

Trustee Bailey:  How small are they?

Treasurer Langlois:  Six and two.

  1. The Langlois motion was approved unanimously.
  1. No Board Member mentioned the protection of families with children against housing discrimination under Federal and Michigan law. No one ventured a thought as what this action’s impact on the caretaker and his family. The caretaker would be deprived of both housing and employment. The Board wondered whether their insurance rates might be affected. They did not consider that children play in the park everyday. The Board thoughtlessly assumed that landlords of properties fronting Michigan’s 11,000 inland lakes and thousands of miles of Great Lakes shoreline are exempt from Federal and Michigan laws prohibiting discrimination against families with children.
  1. The foregoing episode illustrates the current Township Board’ impenetrable indifference to its fair housing obligations. To its credit the Parks Commission ignored the Board.

Here is a copy of the Michigan Elliott-Larson Civil RIghts Act.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Only the court will determine if the example shown above will have an impact on the final decision regarding Blossom Ridge.  However, another conclusion can be made from this example.

Ever since early 2013, the Township Board and the Parks and Recreation Commission have had separate law firms providing legal guidance.  The decision by the Parks Commission to retain their own counsel was based the Board’s confrontational actions toward the Parks Commission (some of which are involved in legal actions BETWEEN the two elected bodies).

Examples of the Board’s confrontational actions against the Parks and Recreation Commission can be seen by scrolling through the articles in the following link (this article is the first one shown, so please scroll through the entire list):

“Board vs. Parks”

Trustee Thalmann consistently points out, during her “Trustee Comments” at Board meeting, the legal expense that the Parks Commission has incurred for the month.  The contract with the Board’s legal team technically includes legal support for the Parks and Recreation Commission. She claims that the Park’s legal expenses are not necessary, since they would be covered by the contract with the Board’s legal team. It should be pointed out the the Board’s legal team did not advise the Board against making their December 10, 2013 motion.

It appears that the Parks Commission’s legal counsel, and the decision by the Parks Commission to proceed with extending the offer to the family with children, may have prevented the Township from a lawsuit involving a Elliott-Larson civil rights violation.

Oakland Township’s legal expense has increased dramatically since the new Board has come into office.  The legal fees incurred by the Parks Commission are totally eclipsed by the legal fees incurred as a result of lawsuits our Township is involved in since the new Board took office.

The Township should be grateful for the actions taken by the Parks and Recreation Commission based on the legal advice from their separate legal counsel.

Richard Michalski

 

 

 

We need your help! Supervisor Gonser does it again!

If you have been following the information we have been sharing regarding the behavior of Supervisor Gonser, the information included in this post will come as no surprise to you. However, it has now reached the point where the citizens of Oakland Township need to express their opinions on his inappropriate, unauthorized decisions.

The most recent incident involves a decision he made on the possible use of park land.  His action is consistent with his desire to control the, separately elected, Parks Commission.

After reading this, if you find his behavior unacceptable and are concerned about the impact of this pipeline on our park, we invite you to the December 9th Oakland Township Board meeting at 7 PM and let the Board know your position.  It is not officially on the agenda, but some Board members may add it.  If it is not placed on the agenda, you will still be able to provide your input during the ‘citizen comments’ section of the meeting.  

Here is the background on this issue:

  • At the November 12, 2014 Parks and Recreation Commission (PRC) meeting, Chris Hawthorne, an employee of EnSite who represents Vector Pipeline, gave a presentation describing a proposal to install a 42 inch diameter high pressure gas line (up to 1000 psi) through our Township.
  • This pipeline is intended to transmit natural gas from Illinois, through Indiana and to Canada.
  • 95% of the pipeline route through the state is intended to follow an existing pipeline and utilize the currently approved rights-of-way (ROW’s already going through our Township).
  • Vector Pipeline wants to deviate from the existing right-of-way in one area of our Township by putting the pipeline through Draper Twin Lakes Park.
  • The stated reason for the deviation was that installing the pipe through the existing right-of-way was “extremely tight”.
  • They were asking permission from the Parks Commission to survey the land to determine the feasibility of routing the pipeline through the park.
  • During questioning, the representative stated that all Supervisors in the affected communities had previously been contacted regarding this project.
  • The Parks Commission members were not aware of any previous communication on this issue.
  • When PRC chairman Zale asked if any Commission members would like to make a motion to approve the request, there was silence. As a result, the request was denied.
  • The Parks Commission did not approve the request on the basis that the park land has deed restrictions that prevent the pipeline from going through it.
  • A few days later, parks personnel observed individuals from EnSite USA surveying Draper Twin Lakes Park.
  • Upon further investigation, Mr. Harthorne indicated that after he did not receive permission to perform the survey from the PRC, he contacted Supervisor Gonser, and Supervisor Gonser gave him permission to do the requested work.

Here is a copy of the map showing the proposed path for the pipeline through Oakland and Macomb Counties.

Proposed gas line route

 

Click on the map to see a larger version of it.

Here is a copy of the map showing the proposed route for the pipeline through the Draper Twin Lakes park: (The yellow line is the existing pipeline and approved ROW.  The red line is the proposed path through the park.) 

Proposed gasline route vs. existing gasline ROW

Click on the map to see a larger version of it.

Here is a video showing the typical impact of the installation of this type of gas line:

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Supervisor Gonser did not have the authority to authorize the surveying work.  He appears to not be concerned about the impact of a gas pipeline through our Parks.

Gonser unilaterally made this decision, totally disregarding the PRC’s stance on this matter.  The park land is the PRC’s responsibility, not the Supervisor’s.  He did not have any public communication on this matter with other Township Board or PRC members.

His lack of knowledge regarding the impact gas lines can have in a community is exemplified by his total disregard for the location of a gas line near his home. As part of an settlement agreement in a personal protection order (PPO) request made by his neighbor against him, he agreed to move a tree that he planted on his neighbor’s property.  When Gonser had a company move the tree, a gas line was ruptured.  He did not utilize ‘mis-dig’ to locate the line prior to attempting to move the tree.

It appears that when Gonser wants to get something done, he does not consider the correct process to be followed, or the potential consequences of his actions.

Gonser’s personal experience with gas lines

This recent action by our Supervisor is yet another example of his arrogant, authoritarian style.  Please click on the words “Supervisor Gonser” in the right portion of this webpage to scroll through and read the many previous posts regarding Supervisor Gonser’s actions.

If you find his behavior unacceptable or are concerned about he impact of the pipeline on our park land, please attend the December 9 Board meeting, and express your displeasure with his actions and decision.

 

Richard Michalski

Park’s Commission Treasurer Roger Schmidt violates his oath of office

At the February 25, 2013 Oakland Township Board meeting, Parks and Recreation Commission Treasurer Roger Schmidt complained about how he and the other newly elected commissioners were constantly being outvoted.  He went on to accuse the Parks Commission for using the Land Preservation Fund as a ‘slush fund’.  At the March 12 Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, he tried to explain his ‘slush fund’ comments.  He concluded by saying:

“There are some things I’m sure that if the residents knew it was being used for they wouldn’t approve of that.”

Treasurer Schmidt never gave supporting facts for his accusations.

As the Treasurer of the Parks Commission, it is his responsibility, along with the other members of the Parks Commission, to make sure the funds are used properly.  By his admission that he believes the fund is not being used properly, and has never identified the “things” he infers, he has failed to follow his oath of office.  He had challenged the spending of $250 for the taxidermy of an owl from the land preservation fund, but he challenged it AFTER he had already approved it!  The use of fund money for that project had been explained and justified. His actions (or inactions if his allegations are true) are grounds for a recall.  His behavior has been a dereliction of duties.

Why would an elected official make these accusations without providing the facts to support them?   He and others have filed a complaint against other Commission members that Open Meeting Act violations may have occurred.  That issue surely will be sorted out in the legal system.  He accuses the other Commission members of ‘attacking our character’, again without providing factual examples.  His unsubstantiated accusations are outside the bounds of what Oakland Township citizens should find acceptable.

Here are videos of his comments from the two meetings mentioned above.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  The Treasurer of an elected Board has the legal responsibility to challenge anything he/she finds inappropriate regarding expenditures.  To make accusatory comments, without the supporting facts, is inappropriate, and rapidly becoming the ‘new reality’ in Oakland Township.  Please get involved in making sure our elected officials perform their duties and not make false accusations.

Richard Michalski

Township Board finally agrees with Oakland Township citizens’ desires

Over the past year, some members of the Township Board have wanted to take over the responsibility for managing the Land Preservation Fund.  This fund has been managed by the Parks Commission since the creation of the Fund.  At the March 11 Board Meeting, the Board finally agreed to have the Parks Commission continue to manage this fund.  It was not a unanimous vote.  Supervisor Gonser and Trustee Thalmann wanted to have the Township Board take over the management of the Fund.  Treasurer Langlois, Trustees Bailey and Buxar supported having the Fund managed by the Parks Commission.

Some additional background on this issue has been previously reported on this website.  On April 1 of 2013, Supervisor Gonser had authorized a memo to be written by then Superintendent Creech to have the Land Preservation Fund taken over by the Board.  During the course of this past year, the facts came out that this was a unilateral decision by Supervisor Gonser, and not one that the Board had approved.  Fortunately due to the persistence of many citizens who have supported our Parks programs, the Board finally resolved this issue with the vote on March 11th.

At the March 11th meeting, one of our citizens gave a very clear and direct explanation why the Parks Commission should continue to manage this fund.  Here are her comments and the vote on this issue.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Due to the multitude of citizens that supported the Parks Commission on this issue, we were able to get enough Board members to recognize that the many initiatives  the Parks Commission has undertaken over the years is not part of what Terry Gonser considers a global United Nations conspiracy called ‘Agenda 21’.  Continued citizen involvement is critical to preventing our Township from being taken over by a group of radical ‘Tea Party’ individuals.

For additional background information see:

Supervisor Gonser’s REAL views on trails, pathways, bike paths and environmental protection 

Trustees seize Land Preservation Assets

RIchard Michalski