Tag Archives: Oakland Township Parks

Your vote for these candidates will help “Preserve our Parks for the Next Generation”

Parks Commission sign

The seven positions for Oakland Township’s Parks and Recreation Commission will be on the August 2nd ballot.  Since none of the longstanding members of the Commission are running for re-election, a group of concerned citizens have come together to build upon what those Commissioners and their predecessors have accomplished.  The seven candidates call their group the “Park Protectors”.  This group is endorsed by the four longest standing current members of the Parks Commission – Colleen Barkham, David Mackley, Alice Tomboulian and Joe Perruzi.

Oakland Township is recognized for the great park system that has been created in our community.  It is the envy of many surrounding communities.  The seven candidates who are part of the “Parks Protectors” are dedicated to ‘Preserving our Parks for the Next Generation’.  As one candidate has stated, he will work to have the Park system “grow and flourish while making the past practice a future reality”.

The seven candidates are:

  • Emily Barkham
  • Craig Blust
  • Dan Bukowski
  • Colin Choi
  • Cathy Rooney
  • Daniel Simon
  • Hank Van Agen

You can learn much more about each of these candidates by visiting the ‘Park Protectors’ website at:

www.parkprotectors.org

Here is a copy of their campaign literature (click on images to enlarge):

Parks Commission candidates

Flyer front

Flyer back

Remember to vote on August 2nd!

Please share this information with your friends and neighbors!

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Since 2012, the Parks Commission has been plagued with internal divisiveness. Two current members, who are running for re-election, as well as a third person who is running for the commission, have been the source of this divisiveness.  Many of their actions have been reported on this website.

If you like what you have seen in our park system, on August 2nd please consider voting for the seven candidates who are endorsed by the retiring commissioners you know and trust.

Remember to vote on August 2nd, since the seven positions will be decided at that election since their are no Democratic candidates on the August or November ballots.

Richard Michalski

 

 

Please attend September 9th Parks and Recreation meeting if you want to help restore integrity in Oakland Township

Please attend the Wednesday September 9, 2015 Parks and Recreation Commission meeting that will be held at 7 pm at the Township Hall on Collins Road. The Commission will be considering a motion to censure Commissioner Ann Marie Rogers for a breach of ethical and honorable behavior. Citizen support is needed if we want to maintain ethical behavior in our elected officials. It is hoped that the Commission will move this agenda item near the beginning of the meeting.

Here is the agenda for the meeting (see item 13):

Sept 9, 2015 PRC agenda

As previously reported on this website, it was discovered that Park’s and Recreation Commission member, Ann Marie Rogers, as well as former Trustee Maureen Thalmann had shared privileged and confidential material with others. The findings were forwarded to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office and Prosecutor’s office to determine if any illegal actions had taken place. Their investigation determined that no criminal actions had taken place.

In the July 27, 2015 Oakland Press article, describing the issue and the Prosecutor’s findings, Ann Marie Rogers is quoted as saying:

“The fact of the matter is that the (Oakland County) prosecutor found that I did not commit any crime nor did anything improper. Maureen Thalmann and myself have been completely exonerated of any wrongdoing.”

Here is comment made in the May 7, 2015 Oakland Press article on this subject, where Ann Marie Rogers attempts to defend her actions:

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

It appears Ann Marie Rogers believes since sharing of privileged and confidential material was not illegal, it was not wrong or improper behavior. It appears that others on the Parks and Recreation Commission may think otherwise, and may be censuring her for her actions.  The Parks and Recreation Commission will be considering officially censuring Ann Marie Rogers’ behavior.

The Township Board had previously passed a similar resolution indicating that sharing of Privileged and Confidential material was “breach of trust” and that a failure to report an unauthorized receipt of correspondence marked Privileged and Confidential was ‘improper”.

Here is a copy of the Township Board’s Resolution 15-15:

Resolution 15-15

Here is a copy of the draft resolution being considered on September 9th:

Parks and Recreation censure motion

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township? Oakland Township has now established a new standard for ethics in government. Sharing of information marked ‘Privileged and Confidential’ will now become the acceptable standard for elected officials – unless the Park’s and Recreation Commission make it clear that such behavior is unacceptable.

An individual’s moral values are the basis for one’s behavior. Ethical behavior is therefore in the “eyes of the beholder”. Laws are written to protect society from significant unethical behavior. Laws do not restrict ALL unethical behavior. Sharing Privileged and Confidential material has now been determined not to be illegal or criminal, and, in the eyes of one of our elected Parks Commissioners, acceptable.

The issue of whether the information HAD been shared by the two elected officials was never contested. The issue the Sheriff and Prosecutor had to determine was whether sharing the information constituted a criminal act. To be clear, the prosecutor DID find that Ann Marie Rogers did not commit a crime. However, they DID NOT conclude, as Ann Marie stated to the Oakland Press, that there was not ANY ‘improper’ behavior. It appears her value system is based on only following the laws on the books.

The Park’s and Recreation motion will parallel a similar motion the Township Board took following Maureen Thalmann’s actions and the County’s findings. Both actions will make it clear to our elected officials that sharing of Privileged and Confidential material IS considered a breach of ethics and honorable conduct in our Township.

Here are some previous posts on this subject:

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

Parks Commissioner Ann Marie Rogers attempts to defend her behaviour

Former Trustee Thalmann and Current Park’s Commissioner Rogers DID forward “Privileged and Confidential” material!

Trustee Thalmann’s resignation and legal investigation

Richard Michalski

Parks Commissioners’ lawsuit against fellow Commission members rejected by Judge for second time

On May 14, 2015, Circuit Court Judge Honorable Leo Bowan rejected, for the second time, the lawsuit filed by Oakland Township Parks Commissioners Ann Marie Rogers and Roger Schmidt, as well as resident Beth Markel, claiming that fellow Parks Commission members had violated the Open Meetings Act.  The original lawsuit was filed in February of 2014.  Hopefully this issue is now behind us.

As previously reported on this website, and in the Oakland Press, Ann Marie Rogers shared ‘Privileged and Confidential’ material with co-plaintiff Beth Markel, former Trustee Thalmann and Supervisor Gonser.  These communications occurred during the litigation period. The matter is being further investigated by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office for possible legal action against Commissioner Rogers and former Trustee Thalmann.

Here is some background on this lawsuit:

  • On February 28, 2014, two Parks and Recreation members, Ann Marie Rogers and Roger Schmidt, along with Beth Markel, the wife of Zoning Board of Appeals member John Markel, (the plaintiffs) filed a lawsuit claiming that PRC members Dave Mackley, Colleen Barkham, Alice Tomboulian and Joseph Peruzzi (the defendants) violated the Open Meeting act through email correspondence.
  • On December 2, 2014, the defendants filed for ‘summary disposition’ of the case.
  • On December 3, 2014, the plaintiffs filed a cross motion for ‘summary disposition’.
  • On February 13, 2015, Circuit Court Judge Honorable Leo Bowan granted the defendants request for summary disposition and dismissed the case. He also dismissed the plaintiff’s request for cross summary disposition as “moot”.

Here is a copy of the February 13, 2015 legal ruling for the lawsuit:

20150213_opinion_fld_ord-grnt_dft_mtn_sd_100867059

  • On March 4, 2014, the plaintiffs made a motion for reconsideration in the decision.
  • On May 14, 2015, the Judge found:

“This Court finds that plaintiffs’ present motion fails to demonstrate a palpable error by which this Court and the parties have been misled.”

The Judge goes on to say:

“This Court finds that the defendants’ reasoning and arguments in their response to the motion for reconsideration accurately states why this Court granted their  – not plaintiffs –  summary disposition.”

Here is a copy of the May 14, 2015 legal ruling for the lawsuit:

20150514 50_Opinion and Order re Motion for Reconsideration

During this time period, Ann Marie Rogers shared a number of ‘Privileged and Confidential’ documents with Beth Markel, Maureen Thalmann, and Supervisor Gonser.  Some of this information pertained to ‘Closed Session’ legal matters.  Here are copies of the Township Attorneys’ discoveries regarding inappropriate sharing of “Privileged and Confidential” material.

Investigation results from PRC attorney

Investigation results from Township Board’s attorney

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township? The Judge’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit raised by Commissioners Ann Marie Rogers, Roger Schmidt and private citizen Beth Markel, vindicate the other Parks Commission members.  This lawsuit has cost the Township in the form of legal fees and reputation.

Ann Marie Rogers disclosure of ‘Privileged and Confidential’ material with a fellow plaintiff and others is under review by the Oakland County Sheriff Office.  This matter appears to be much more serious than the alleged open meeting act violations that she claimed occurred.  The Judge made his decision on the open meeting matter.  It is now up to the Sheriff’s Office to determine if there is sufficient evidence to warrant prosecutorial action.

Hopefully our citizens will consider the actions of our current Township officials when we vote in 2016.  Oakland Township deserves better!

Richard Michalski

 

Former Trustee Thalmann and Current Park’s Commissioner Rogers DID forward “Privileged and Confidential” material!

At the April 28, 2015 joint Oakland Township Board and Oakland Township Parks and Recreation meeting, the attorneys for both bodies presented their findings regarding the investigation into whether any Township Officials had improperly, and potentially illegally, forwarded “Privileged and Confidential” material to others.  Their findings indicated that both former Trustee Maureen Thalmann and current Parks and Recreation Commission member Ann Marie Rogers had forwarded multiple documents.  In some cases this information had been shared with an individual who is part of a lawsuit against the Township, the wife of one of our Zoning Board of Appeals members.

The Board and the Commission agreed that the attorneys’ findings would be made public, and that the information would be forwarded to the Oakland County Sheriff’s office for possible further investigation and legal action.

As previously reported, Maureen Thalmann resigned from the Board a few weeks after the investigation was initiated by the Board.  Park’s Commissioner Rogers continues to hold her seat as one of our seven elected Parks Commissioners.

Here are video excerpts from the April 28th joint meeting:

 

Here is a copy of the results of the investigation by Township Board’s attorney:

Investigation results from Township Board’s attorney

Here is a copy of the results of the investigation by the Parks and Recreation attorney:

Investigation results from PRC attorney

Here is a link to an Oakland Press article published on April 30.  The article states that Thalmann claims she was told the issue would “all go away” if she resigned.

Oakland Press article dated April 30, 2015

 

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  This website has been reporting on many inappropriate actions by some of our Board members.  This most recent confirmation of inappropriate actions certainly indicates that “all is not well” in Oakland Township.  The elected officials of Oakland Township need to pursue potential legal charges, to the full extent of the law, so we demonstrate that Oakland Township has a governance body that obeys the laws.

Former Trustee Thalmann apparently feels that there was no wrongdoing, since she believed the issue would “all go away” if she resigned.  Really??

Former Trustee Thalmann has resigned!  Current Parks Commissioner Ann Marie Rogers should do the same!

Here is an earlier post pertaining to this subject:

Trustee Thalmann’s resignation and legal investigation

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

Supervisor Gonser knew about Gas Pipeline proposal but refused to inform the Park Commission

Supervisor Gonser knew about a proposed gas pipeline through Oakand Township more than a month before the Parks and Recreation Commission was informed that the pipeline was proposed to go through one of our Parks.  Gonser chose not to inform the Parks Commission about this project.  He later approved the survey work on the park land even though he knew the Parks Commission had not approved the request.  

As reported previously on this website, Vector Pipeline, a representative of DTE, met with the Oakland Township Parks and Recreation Commission on November 12, 2014 to request approval from the Parks Commission to proceed with a survey through Draper Twin Lakes Park to potentially install a 42 inch diameter gas line.  This proposed path is an optional path Vector Pipeline wanted to consider rather than using an existing right of way adjacent to the Park property.  There was no good reason given for why Vector Pipeline preferred to use the parkland.  This line would traverse our entire Township.  The Parks Commission did not grant approval to proceed with the survey work.  However, a few days after the meeting, a survey company was seen surveying the parkland.  Upon investigation, it was discovered that Supervisor Gonser had given approval to survey the land without the Parks Commission’s knowledge or approval.

Information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) indicates that Supervisor Gonser met with DTE, knew about the proposal, had a map of the proposed path, and sent a letter to the Board members informing them of project more than a month (October 2 and 3) before the Parks Commission meeting.  Supervisor Gonser apparently did not feel it necessary to inform the Parks Commission since they were not included on his email.

Gonser’s letter also included a draft letter that Vector Pipeline planned to send to all affected landowners prior to doing any surveying.  The Parks Commission never received a copy of the letter.  Gonser must have felt that since he had seen the letter, he felt it acceptable to approve the survey request even though he knew the Parks Commission had not approved it.

A discussion of Gonser’s actions on this issue is on the agenda for the January 13 BOT meeting.  Please come to the meeting or watch the discussion on your computer or TV.

Here are the documents obtained through the FOIA process:

Gonser’s prior knowledge of pipeline project

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  The Township Board, and particularly Supervisor Gonser, has had a number of confrontations with the Parks and Recreation Commission.  Some of these confrontations have escalated to formal legal proceedings.  Gonser’s obvious “in your face” decision to approve the survey work without having shared his prior knowledge of the project is yet another one of his ‘attacks’ on the Parks Commission.  He approved the request without having valid reasons given for why the existing right of ways could not be used.  His underhanded withholding of information from the Parks Commission is yet another example of his leadership style and ethics.

He claims to spend 50 to 60 hours per week on Township work, yet he could not take 30 seconds and include the Parks Commission on distribution on his October 3, 2014 email?

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