Tag Archives: Mike Bailey

Township subsidizing developers? Board identifies accounting error – reduces retainer fees for legal services in Oakland Township – still many unanswered questions

At the July 28, 2015 Oakland Township Board meeting, the Board revised the contract with the Township’s legal firm, Giarmarco, Mullins and Horton P. C.  The monthly retainer fee was reduced by $750.  Treasurer Langlois stated the reduction was done for a ‘more proper’ allocation of expenses regarding legal services.  Trustee Bailey indicated that there were some legal service fees that were put ‘erroneously’ into the General fund that should have been billed to ‘other people’. 

The change to the contract is welcomed. As previously reported on this website, the legal service fees for our Township have almost doubled since the new Board was elected in 2012.  This recently discovered error explains a portion of the reason for the higher expenditure, but does raise several questions regarding whether the Township has been subsidizing developers, and whether we can retroactively recover those costs.

The Board also missed an opportunity to clarify an issue that had been repeated raised by former Trustee Thalmann regarding ‘double coverage’ for legal services for the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Treasurer Langlois proposed the change in the contract to:

“facilitate a more proper allocation of the expenses regarding the legal services to the accounts and funds that make use of those.”

Trustee Bailey stated:

“One of the advantages of what you are proposing is that we’ll be billing appropriately the people that should be billed for these legal services. Whereas before, they were kind of all,  much of them, or some of them at least were put into the General Fund erroneously or not correctly, and were funded by our General Fund.”

The author of this post raised several questions at the meeting.  They are restated here:

  • Have all the charges that should have been charged to the developer’s escrow funds been identified?
  • If they have been identified, have they been correctly charged to those accounts?
  • If they have not been identified, will they be identified?
  • If not, have the Township citizens essentially been subsidizing the developers?
  • Are there other consultant fees, beyond the legal fees, that have improperly been charged to the Township?

The Board did not respond to any of the questions raised.

The author also pointed out a missed opportunity to clarify an issue regarding the legal fees for the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Former Trustee Thalmann repeatedly complained that the legal retainer fee includes legal support for the Park’s Commission, but that the Parks Commission continues to use Joppich’s firm resulting in double payment for services.  The Board members never corrected her repeated claims. As a result, the citizens were left to believe that the monthly retainer fee WAS intended to cover the Parks Commission.

Based on that assumption, an analysis was undertaken to look at the historical expense for legal fees for the Parks and Recreation Commission prior to the Board changing law firms.

The six year average for Parks and Recreation legal services, prior to this Board taking office, was approximately $5,000 per year. As a result, the monthly retainer fee with Giarmarco, Mullens & Horton, P.C. should be further reduced by $416 per month, or $5,000 for the year, to reflect that they are not providing Park’s Commission legal support.

Once again, the Board refused to respond to the question and suggestion.

Here is a video of Treasurer Langlois and Trustee Bailey’s comments at the meeting.

 

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  As previously reported, the legal expense for our Township has almost doubled since the current Board took office.  The following graph shows this historical and projected trend.

Oakland Township Legal expense

(click on graph to enlarge)

The recent discovery, that we have not been charging developer’s escrow funds for legal services, is a direct result of the inquiries raised on this website.  The Board needs to address the questions raised in THIS posting, so the citizens understand how much we may have subsidized developers and if the fees can retroactively be recovered. They also need to clarify whether the retainer fee is intended to cover Parks and Recreation legal support, as had previously been claimed by former Trustee Thalmann, and not challenged by the Board.

There are a number of other financial ‘transparency’ issues that will be brought up in later posts.  The Board still needs to make a case for why legal service fees have almost doubled during their tenure.

Here are some previous posts on this subject:

Attorney bills out of control in Oakland Township?

July 14th UPDATE: Attorney bills out of control in Oakland Township? Accounting error found!

 

Richard Michalski

Good news and bad news for Oakland Township?

THE GOOD NEWS – At the January 13, 2015 Oakland Township Board meeting a positive step was taken in improving the relationship between the Township Board and the Parks and Recreation Commission (PRC).  There was an agreement made regarding the employment status and unionization efforts of PRC employees.

THE BAD NEWS – Contrary to what Supervisor Gonser stated, Trustee Bailey confirmed that unionization efforts by the Parks Commission employees occurred after the current Board was elected.  Unionization efforts are typically initiated by employees to protect themselves from  administrative’ actions and decisions.  The Parks Commission employees are considering joining a union. The Fire Fighters joined a union after the current Board came into office.

At the January 13, 2015 Oakland Township Board meeting, the Township Board agreed to a Tentative Settlement Agreement between the Oakland Township Board, the Oakland Township Parks and Recreation Commission and the Michigan AFSCME Council 25, AFL-CIO.  This agreement states that the Township Parks and Recreation Commission employees are co-employed by the Parks and Recreation Commission as well as the Township.  It states that both parties (PRC and Township) ‘have the right to participate in bargaining with the proposed bargaining unit’.

This tentative agreement was negotiated as a result of a December 16, 2014 State of Michigan Employment Relations Commission Hearing. This Tenatative agreement was approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission at their December 17, 2014 meeting after the hearing.

The issue of who the Parks and Recreation employees ‘work for’ has been a contentious issue ever since the current Board of Trustees came into office in 2012.  Several members of the Board had taken the position that the PRC employees were under their control, not the Parks and Recreation Commission.  The issue had escalated to the point where legal action had been taken between the Board and the PRC.  Taxpayer money has been spent on arriving at the Tentative Agreement.

At the January 13th Board meeting, Supervisor Gonser stated that the unionization efforts by Township Staff was started under the former Board (the Fire Department is now unionized and the PRC employees are considering joining a union).  Trustee Michael Bailey corrected Supervisor Gonser indicating that the unionization efforts were started after this Board was elected.

Here is Gonser’s statement:

“Both the unionization of the Fire Department, and unionization of the Parks Department began under the previous administration, so that was already in place when this Board took office.  It has simply progressed from there to this point.”

One of Oakland Township citizens questioned Gonser’s choice of words asking:

“Is that a technical point?  Are you saying before you “took office”, but was it after you were elected?  Because I had understood, or heard, that there was (employee) fear based on (new Board member) positions taken.”

Gonser replied by stating:

” I don’t know if I can draw that distinction, but I do know it took place before this board took office.”

Trustee Bailey (a Trustee of the Board under the previous administration) responded by saying:

“I do not recall any discussion about unionization of Parks Commission during our tenure on previous Board.

As far as the Fire Department unionization, there were preliminary discussions, but no real action taken until after this Board came on board.”

Here is a video of that exchange:

There have been many issues between the Board and the PRC since the Board came into power in 2012.  The most egregious was Terry Gonser’s April 1, 2014 memo, sent by former Superintendant James Creech, attempting to take control of the Land Preservation fund from the PRC.  Other documented issues are referenced here:

Board vs. Parks issues

Here is a copy of the agreement.

Tentative Settlement Agreement

Unionization efforts were discussed on this website in July of 2013

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  The approval of the agreement can be construed as a ‘bury the hatchet’ action by both the Township Board and the PRC.  Hopefully future actions the Board takes will keep the positive direction taken in this first step.

The only reason we were dealing with this issue is because of the attacks that Supervisor Gonser, and several other members of the Board, have taken against the Parks and Recreation Commission and employees.  Employees seek union protection when they fear actions that their ‘management’ may take.

The potential unionization of Township employees does not benefit the Township or ultimately the employees if a good working relationship with ‘administration’ can be maintained.

Supervisor Gonser’s denial that unionization efforts started when this Board was elected in 2012 is another example of him trying to distance himself from the consequences of his actions.

Hopefully the majority of the Board will continue to improve the relationship with the PRC and eliminate any further legal expense associated with asking the court system to resolve issues.

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

 

 

 

Supervisor Gonser and Trustee Thalmann attempt (once again) to have a “Strong Supervisor” structure in Oakland Township

The October 9, 2014 Rochester Post had an article about the termination of the former Oakland Township manager’s contract.  In that article, Supervisor Gonser made comments that indicate he wanted to reconsider Oakland Township’s governance structure. Last year, he lobbied for having a full time “strong supervisor” structure vs. the current system (a part time supervisor and a full time professional manager).  

At the October 14th Board meeting, Trustee Thalmann indicated she wanted to revisit the “strong supervisor” proposal.  She made this comment after Trustee Bailey made a motion to have our current assistant manager, Jamie Moore, temporarily fill that position until a new manager was selected.  Gonser and Thalmann’s proposal was met with thoughtful objections from other Board members and citizens.  After considerable debate, the Board approved the temporary position for Jamie Moore, and authorized a search for a full time manager.

In the October 9th Rochester Post article, Supervisor Gonser is quoted as saying:

“The Township Board will have to discuss hiring –or not hiring– a new Township manager”

In the article, he went on to argue that Oakland Township is in the minority of Townships since we have an elected part time Supervisor and a full time manager or superintendent.

At the October 14th Board meeting, Trustee Bailey made a motion to have the current Township assistant manager fill the manager position until a permanent full time manager is selected.  He specifically included the designated statutory responsibilities “A through O” as part of her responsibilities.  He stated that he felt it was inappropriate for the Supervisor to assume those responsibilities.

Trustee Thalmann challenged Bailey’s comment and indicated that she wanted the Board to revisit the “strong Supervisor” structure.  She said:

“The Supervisor’s job is designed for all but 42 of the 1200-and-something charter townships in the state.  I still hold the opinion that a ‘strong supervisor’ and a deputy perhaps is a better way to go.”

Trustee Bailey and Treasurer Langlois expressed strong objection to revisiting this issue.  Bailey commented:

“We certainly debated that ‘ad infinitum’ and we concluded we do want to retain a township manager.”

Langlois commented:

“I like the idea of having a township manager that reports to the board.”

Several citizens expressed their objection to Thalmann’s proposal.  Reg Brown challenged Gonser and Thalmann’s comparison to other communities by saying:

“The statement that a small number of the 1240 townships do this (a part time Supervisor and a full time professional manager rather than a full time strong Supervisor) is a faulty comparison.  A great number of those townships have 200 to 300 people in them, so what does that have to do with what Oakland Township would do?”

Frank Ferriolo strongly objected to the proposal by stating:

“We spent 3 months last year going over, nitpicking if you will, this whole process of ‘strong supervisor’ vs. township manager having the “A through O” responsibilities.  We concluded our best interest is that the current form that we have is a good form.

The other thing I found a little bit curious is that both Mr. Gonser and trustee Thalmann were the champions of a ‘strong supervisor’ without a township manager.  Yet they were the only two that voted to keep the township manager (Capela) in the vote.

There would be great difficulty dismissing a ‘rogue’ supervisor and deputy.”

Gonser has previously stated that he spends over 50 hours per week in the Township Office, yet the Supervisor position is a part time position.

The Board ultimately voted on Bailey’s motion and approved it in a 6 to 1 vote.  Thalmann was the only negative vote.

There was also an issue raised whether Gonser should be the one offering the temporary position to the assistant manager.  After much discussion, the Board agreed to have Gonser extend the offer with the express statement that “the Board was making the offer”, not Gonser.

The Board voted on having Gonser extend the offer.  It passed in a 6 to 1 vote.  Thalmann was once again the exception.

Here is a video of the October 14th proceedings:

We should have seen this coming with Gonser’s post on Linkedin.  The responsibilities he states exceeds his statutory responsibilities.  The ENTIRE Board has those responsibilities and they delegated those to the Township Superintendant/ Manager – Jim Creech at that time.

Here is Gonser’s post to Linkedin:

Supervisor – Charter Township of Oakland, Oakland County, MI – (November 2012 to present)

Chief elected officer of the Township. Responsible for budgets, personnel, and all aspects of township government and Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Also a member of the Board of Directors of the tri-municipality Older Persons Commission.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  The majority of the Board members are beginning to recognize and exercise their statutory responsibilities.  They are no longer acting as the formal approvers of Gonser’s opinions and agendas.  The Board, collectively, is more important than the supervisor.  For their recent actions and votes, the citizens should be grateful.

The fact that Gonser admitted spending 50 hours per week, on what should be a part time position, is evidence that he is doing more than what he is authorized to do.  In essence, he is managing the Township as a “Strong Supervisor”.  Could that be why both he and Thalmann did not support terminating our former manager’s contract? Was he doing her work, and she was not opposed to him doing it?

Time will tell if the Board is able to ‘restrain’ the Supervisor from using his position in inappropriate manners.  It looks like the majority of the Board is beginning to recognize the issue and hopefully will ensure their authority is not usurped by Gonser. The Board’s motion that explicitly states the Board is extending the temporary offer to the assistant manager clearly is intended to let the temporary manager know that she reports to the entire Board – not just the Supervisor.

Here are some related articles previously posted on this website:

Former article on “strong supervisor’ structure

Can we trust Supervisor Gonser with more authority

Richard Michalski

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

On January 24, 2014, the Oakland Township Board submitted a proposal that would commit $431,875 of Township funds as part of a proposed Grant application for funds to restore the Millrace at the Paint Creek Cider Mill.  This proposal was never discussed or disclosed in any public meeting. A portion of this money would be spent on improving the millrace that exists on private property.  This is yet another action our Township Board has taken that may have violated the Open Meetings Act.  It may have been another unilateral decision made by our Supervisor to proceed on a project outside the ‘public eye’.  A request has been made to the Oakland County Sheriff’s office for further investigation on this matter as a possible Open Meeting Act violation.

Several years ago there was a project supported by the DNR, the Clinton River Watershed Council and Oakland Township to remove the Paint Creek Dam to allow fish passage and improve the natural habitat in Paint Creek.  The dam historically diverted a portion of Paint Creek’s water to the Millrace that powered the water wheel at the Paint Creek Cider Mill.  The removal of the dam, as well as the sediment that had built up over many years, now prevent water from flowing down the millrace to the Cider Mill.  A significant portion of the millrace land is owned by private citizens.  The Township has been attempting to find a solution to get water flowing back through the millrace to get the Cider Mill wheel turning again.

In reviewing the minutes of previous meetings, the Township Board never officially made a motion to establish a subcommittee to work on this project.  However, Supervisor Gonser, Trustee Bailey and Trustee Buxar apparently worked as an ad hoc committee on this project.

Originally, the Township used the Engineering services of Wade Trim on this project.  The Board later changed the Engineering firm to ECT (Environmental Consulting and Technology, Inc.).  On January 24, 2014, John O’Meara P.E., from ECT, submitted a proposal for a grant application to the Clinton River Watershed Council for their consideration on behalf of Oakland Township. The proposal was then forwarded to the Michigan DNR for their consideration.

The total cost for the project is $863,750.  Oakland Township’s portion for this project is $431,875.

There were no public meetings or public discussions regarding the Township committing over $400,000 for this project.  At the April 22, 2014 BOT meeting, Supervisor Gonser indicated that there was no need for a public announcement.

ECT will be making a presentation at the May 13, 2014 BOT meeting where this project will now be discussed.  We expect our Board to provide answers to:

  • why they did not feel it necessary to obtain citizen input on this proposal prior to submission to the Clinton River Watershed Council,
  • who authorized the request be submitted, and
  • why they feel it is appropriate to spend public funds on private property.

Here is a copy of the grant request and the associated letters:

ECT request on behalf of Oakland Township

Here is a video of comments from Trustee Buxar, Trustee Bailey and Supervisor Gonser regarding the ECT submission.  Please take note of Supervisor Gonser’s comment that a public notice for the meeting discussing this proposal was not necessary:

Correspondence from Board members after the April 22nd meeting occurred.  Treasurer Langlois responded by saying:

“Not revealing this (the grant request) does not help citizens and does not meet my definition of transparency”

Trustee Buxar responded by saying:

“I was not informed of this until after the correspondence with the Clinton River Water Council.  I believe this matter was handled by the Supervisor.  The only matter discussed by the subcommittee were the SAW grant applications that were approved by the Board in November.”

So did the ad hoc subcommittee discuss this proposal and approve it outside the public eye, or did Supervisor Gonser make a unilateral decision to submit the proposal?  In any case, our Township leadership is acting either illegally or inappropriately.  Supervisor Gonser’s comment that the discussion did not need to take place in a publicly noticed meeting is yet another display of his arrogance and dictatorial leadership style. It is consistent with his previous definition of transparency.  (Click on link to read his previous statement)

Supervisor Gonser and the members of the ad hoc committee may claim that they were only trying to determine if the various approval groups (CRWC – Clinton RIver Watershed Council, Public Advisory Council (PAC) and DNR) would support the requested grant request.  This approach is contrary to the procedure for submitting a grant request according to the CRWC. The PAC is a 25 community member advisory council for the Clinton River Watershed area. The DNR is the State agency that controls the rivers and streams in our State.  Asking those groups to “weigh in” on their support prior to obtaining the requesting community’s agreement to pay for the improvements on private property is outside the process. Besides, why would you ask for support for a grant request before you ask the citizens of the Township if it is appropriate to spend tax dollars on private property improvements?  Only in Oakland Township!

Last year at a Board meeting on another subject, Supervisor Gosner commented:

In an email he sent to Board members last year, he said;

“While I am for transparency, there are policy decisions and strategies that must not be shared until after they have come to fruition.” 

So it appears Supervisor Gonser uses “process” as a defense to not do something he does not want to do, but uses his definition of “transparency” to do things he wants to get done outside the public eye.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township? Having the Supervisor, or an ad hoc Board committee, develop and submit a proposal that would cost the Township over $400,000 outside any public meeting is inappropriate and possibly illegal.  Supervisor Gosner’s denial of any wrongdoing in previous Open Meeting Act violation investigations indicate that the Board is not willing to change their behavior and listen to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s office reprimands.

Since much of the potential cost for this project would be on private property, why would our Supervisor feel that it was not necessary to disclose the cost to the citizens in an Open Meeting?  Is it because some of the benefactors of this proposal were contributors to his campaign?

The citizens of Oakland Township need to understand what is occurring in our Township and demand the ‘transparency’ that Gonser claims to be providing.

Please attend the May 13th Board meeting to hear how the Board justifies their behavior.

Please review the following previous posts regarding similar actions by our Board and Supervisor Gonser.

 Supervisor Gonser’s definition of “transparency”

Another Open Meeting Act violation being investigated by Oakland County

Supervisor Gonser’s request for Attorney General Opinion

Gonser’s actions define his leadership style

Another Open Meeting Act violation or dictatorship in Oakland Township?

Gonser denies any wrongdoing – Prosecutor’s letter tells another story

 

Richard Michalski

Supervisor Gonser demonstrates his lack of knowledge of Oakland Township Zoning

At the April 8th Oakland Township Board meeting, Supervisor Gonser commented on the current zoning of Oakland Township.  He commented that Oakland Township Zoning not only drove the agricultural businesses out of the Township, but that it allows Oakland Township to be developed like Rochester Hills and Troy.   Supervisor Gonser indicated that the Board needs to ‘change the zoning so it does not develop into Rochester Hill and Troy’.  Trustee Bailey, who was on the Township Planning Commission for many years, corrected Gonser’s mis-statements. 

During the April 8th Township Board meeting discussion about the Rochester Cider Mill, Supervisor Gonser made comments about the existing zoning in Oakland Township.  He stated that the zoning that has been in place for many years has caused the agricultural uses to disappear in our Township.  He went on to say:

“Right now, the zoning is set up to develop Oakland Township just like Rochester Hills and Troy.”

Trustee Bailey challenged Gonser’s comment as not being factual.

Gonser continued by saying:

“I am suggesting that the way it has been zoned does not preclude significant development.  It is up to this Board to change that so it does not develop into Rochester Hills and Troy.  RIght now, that is not necessarily true!”

Trustee Bailey responded by saying

“I beg to differ.  I looked at the Master Plan and it does not resemble Rochester Hills.”

For Gonser to suggest that it would have been better for the Township to not have rezoned the land from Agricultural to Residential, when the inevitable growth was coming, is irrational and quite frankly poor planning. Developers could have bought the land and then asked for all kinds of zoning.  That is precisely why Rochester Hills and Troy are the way they are.

One need only drive down Rochester Road from Oakland Township and witness the dramatic change in land usage as you travel South.  The prior Township Boards and Planning Commissions have provided our Township a great service by protecting our Township’s natural beauty through the existing zoning and Master Plan.

Attached are copies of the Zoning maps for Oakland Township, Rochester Hills and Troy.  Supervisor Gonser needs to take a close look at these to recognize that what he said is not true.

Oakland Township Zoning map

Rochester Hills Zoning Map

Troy Zoning map

Here is a video of the discussions at the April 8th meeting:

Why is this important to Oakland Township residents?  Supervisor Gonser clearly has intentions of changing the zoning.  As he has opportunities to place people, with like thinking, on the Planning Commission and the open position on the Board, he may have enough support from his followers that inappropriate changes will be made.  The citizens of Oakland Township need to understand what his zoning intentions are.  He needs to exhibit the transparency that he speaks so often about and share his vision of the zoning changes he wants to see.

Richard Michalski

Township Board members’ testimony to Oakland County Sheriff investigator are not consistent with Treasurer Langlois’ recorded message

During the investigation into the alleged Open Meeting Act violations by our Township Board, Detective Sergeant Cole, from the Oakland County Sheriff’s office, interviewed Trustee Bailey, Trustee McKay, Supervisor Gonser and Treasurer Langlois. One of the alleged violations pertained to how the Board arrived at the 18 month duration for the concessionaire’s agreement at the Paint Creek Cider mill.  Those interviews were documented in a case file that was then forwarded to the Prosecutor’s office for their consideration.

On the morning of April 15, 2013, Treasurer Langlois left a voice message on then Trustee Keyes’ answering machine informing her of the subcommittee’s recommendation they would be making at that evening’s Board meeting regarding the concessionaire’s agreement.  Treasurer Langlois’ voice message not only is inconsistent with what she and Trustee Bailey told the investigator as part of their official testimony,  but also reveals the motive for why they wanted an 18 month duration on the agreement – to enable their preferred concessionaire candidate to take over the facility in the future.

Here is a copy of Trustee Bailey’s April 18th email that indicated a decision had been made by a quorum of the Board outside an open meeting.

Mike Bailey’s April 18th email

Here is a statement Trustee Bailey made to Detective Sergeant Cole on October 11, 2013 as recorded in the case file:

  • Bailey stated he misspoke in his email when he said it was the belief of the subcommittee (along with Supervisor Gonser) to change the contract from 24 to 18 months.  Bailey intended to say it was only his desire to alter the contract duration.

Here are statements Supervisor Gonser made to Detective Sergeant Cole on October 4, 2013 as recorded in the case file:

  • Gonser said the Board realized they did not want the contract to end in the high season so they took action to change it.
  • Gonser said that the contract was going to be either 1 1/2 or 2 1/2 years in length, and the Board opted for the former because they could cancel it at any time.  Gonser said the subcommittee had nothing to do with the end date of the contract and if they did, he was not aware of it.

Note: Gonser’s above references to Board “actions” never took place in an open public forum.

Here are statements Treasurer Langlois made to Detective Sergeant Cole on October 17, 2013 as recorded in the case file:

  • She (Langlois) said the term of the concessionaire’s contract was discussed in the subcommittee, however she said the subcommittee agreed that the length of the contract was outside the “purview” of the subcommittee.
  • Langlois said that she was not in favor of changing the concessionaire’s contract from 24 to 18 months and the  subcommittee agreed that this  was not an issue the that the subcommittee should address.
  • She stated the subcommittee never agreed to address the issue of duration of the contract.
  • Langlois was asked if she was aware when she saw the email from Mike if she knew it was an Open Meeting Act violation and she said yes.
  • Langlois said she called Mike and informed him that his email was not correct and to confront him with the fact that the subcommittee reached an agreement.

HOWEVER:  On April 10, 2013 Treasurer Langlois sent an email to two other subcommittee Board members suggesting that they determine if the previous owner of the Cider Mill was still interested in pursuing his offer, since he would not immediately be able to use all the floor space he wanted. She also suggested that if a shutdown for a new concessionaire was to occur due to building modifications, “do we want to make sure that only happens in the winter months?”

April 10th emails

The above statements are what the Board members told the investigator in their investigation.  However, on the morning of April 15, 2013, the day the Board was going to take action on the concessionaire’s agreement, Treasurer Langlois left a message on Trustee Keyes’ answering machine. The following is a transcription of a portion of the message:

“We talked extensively over the weekend and met last night (April 14th) …..

We are going to conclude that based on the fact that the two timing issues of required shut down in the summer, which Jerry ( Jerry Mancour was one of the concessionaires who applied for the using the facility), as well as time for implementation which he (Jerry) would also need, which we can’t even address since we don’t have the community center space set up and running, and we don’t have final plans to get water in the millrace (which Jerry was going to use in his proposal).  So based on that, Ed Granchi’s proposal scored higher than Jerry’s.

Our recommendation is going to be Mr. Granchi’s proposal be renewed in a similar fashion to the existing concessionaire’s agreement which is actually an 18 month lease (NOT TRUE) with various and differently worded options for renewal.”

As reported in Detective Sergeant Cole’s report, when Trustee Keyes (while still in office) and Trustee McKay forced our Township Attorney Dan Kelly to listen to the message in his office, our Township attorney’s response was:

“The phone message will not help the situation!” (The alleged OMA violation)

In subsequent conversations the author of this post had with John Slevin from the Prosecutor’s Office, John stated that the verbal testimony given by the Board members outweighed Mike Bailey’s April 18th, 2013 email where he stated that the subcommittee and Supervisor Gonser agreed to have the concessionaire’s agreement specify an 18 month duration.  He stated that is why formal charges were not being issued to the Board members.

Here are copies of the entire case file:

Detective Sergeant Cole’s case file report on OMA investigation

Here is the entire audio recording of Treasurer Langlois’ message:

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  We expect our officials to be truthful.  The discrepancies between what the Board members told the investigator and what Treasurer Langlois stated in her message to then Trustee Keyes indicate that our Board members are not meeting that ethical standard or adhering to the Open Meetings Act.

Treasurer Langlois’ message clearly documents how the Board uses their power to implement their objectives outside the public eye. Here are the Motive, Means and Methods that they used:

  •  Motive – Make it possible for the other potential concessionaire to takeover the Cider Mill space as soon as practical.
  • Means – Concessionaire’s agreement duration
  • Method – Change the duration of the agreement to 18 months so their preferred candidate could have access to the facility.

All of this accomplished while ‘covering their tracks’ by making inaccurate statements to the investigator!

Is this the type of honest and ‘transparent’ governance our Township residents expect?  If not, please get involved in watching our Township leaders by either coming to meetings, watching cable Channel 17 or by continuing to monitor this site.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION PREVIOUSLY POSTED ON THIS SUBJECT READ:

Open Meeting Act violation regarding Paint Creek CIder Mill Concessionaire’s agreement

Another Potential OMA violation being investigated 

Supervisor Gonser denies any wrongdoing

Richard Michalski