Tag Archives: Open meeting act violation

Supervisor Gonser denies any wrongdoing regarding Open Meeting Act allegations – Prosecutor’s letter tells another story

As previously reported on this website, there was an Oakland County Prosecutor’s investigation into possible violations of the Open Meetings Act by our Township Board.  On February 27, 2014, a letter was written to our Board regarding the results of their investigation.  At the March 11 BOT meeting, Supervisor Gonser stated that no charges were going to be issued, and no reprimand was made by the prosecutors office.  However, the details of the letter from the Prosecutor’s office paint a slightly different picture.

The author of this post filed allegations that the Board had committed Open Meeting Act violations regarding the Paint Creek Cider Mill Concessionaire’s contract, as well as with Supervisor Gonser’s April 1, 2013 authorized memo regarding the takeover of the Land Preservation Fund.  Former Trustee, Judy Keyes, also filed allegations that an Open Meetings Act violation occurred when the Board had inappropriate discussions during a Closed Session Meeting.

Over the past many months, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office performed an investigation into these allegations. Both Judy and I told the investigator that our intent was not to have any Board member fined or arrested.  Our intent was to have the Board change their behavior so it was consistent with the Open Meeting Act requirements.

On February 27, John Slevin from the Prosecutor’s office sent a letter to the entire Township Board and the Township Attorney with the results of the investigation.  Supervisor Gonser announced at the March 11 Board meeting that “no charges were going to be filed” and that “there was no reprimand in the letter.”

However, here is some of the content of the letter sent to the Township Board by John Slevin:

“Most of the allegations were not violations of the Open Meetings Act.  However, two of the matters may have been violations and therefore I am bringing them to your attention.”

“In the contract, the term length of the agreement was changed from what was contained in prior contracts.  Some citizens wanted to be heard on that issue.  After the contract was drafted, it was signed without additional approval by the Board at an open meeting.  This amounts to the delegation of decision-making by the Board which circumvents the intend of the Open Meetings Act.  The better procedure would have been to require that the proposed contract be submitted to the Board for final approval at an open meeting prior to execution.”

Continuing:

“Closed sessions are restricted to very limited purposes under the Open Meetings Act.  The intended subjects for the closed session appear to be appropriate. – – – The subject matter was then changed to areas of discussion that may not have been allowed under the OMA.  When this occurred, and if the subject matter was questionable for a closed session, the better course of action would have been to cancel the closed session and proceed in an open meeting.”

“Neither of the aforementioned OMA issues was found to be intentional. There will be no action taken by this office concerning these matters.  However, you should know that of these OMA concerns so as to avoid future actions that may lead to complaints by citizens.

Here is a copy of the Prosecutor’s memo:

February 27, 2014 memo from Prosecutor’s office

The underlined wording in the attached document is as I received it from the Township Office.  Their emphasis on the underlined wording, as well as Supervisor Gonser’s comments at the March 11th BOT meeting, indicate that they feel that nothing wrong was done and they do not intend to change their behavior in the future.

Webster defines a “reprimand” as ” an expression of disapproval”.  Since Gonser appears to think nothing wrong was done, ironically the Prosecutor’s letter may only have served to embolden him.

In a previous meeting, Supervisor Gonser referred to the allegations as ‘frivolous pursuit of minutia!”  If having important decisions that affect our Township take place outside an open meeting, and inappropriate topics being discussed in Closed Sessions are considered ‘frivolous’ by our Supervisor, the future of our Township is in peril.  This from a person that ran on a platform of transparency!

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township? It is clear that our current Supervisor does not recognize that inappropriate actions had been taken by the Board in the past.  As a result we should not expect behaviors to change without the intense scrutiny of our citizens.  In order to prevent inappropriate actions in the future, please get involved in watching our Township leadership.

Richard Michalski

UPDATE: Judge Langford-Morris decision will be appealed

As stated in a recent post, Judge Langford-Morris was going to provide her written decision regarding the case between Mark Edwards and the Township of Oakland for alleged Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Open Meeting Act violations.  Her written decision was provided today.  She determined that there were no FOIA or OMA violations.  Here is a copy of her written decision:

Processed-edwardsoaklandtwp.pdf

Marc Edwards has reviewed the decision, and will be initiating an Appeal to this decision.  He feels strongly that the citizens of Oakland Township have not properly been served by this decision.  He will continue his efforts to ensure that Justice is served regarding the facts in this case.

Richard Michalski

Judge’s written decision forthcoming on charges against Oakland Township

On January 8, 2014 there was a hearing in the Honorable Judge Denise Langford-Morris’ courtroom regarding the allegations made by Marc Edwards against Oakand Township for violating Freedom of Information and Open Meeting Act requirements.  Those allegations have been reported previously on this website.

After hearing the arguments made by both Mr. Edward’s attorney, and the Township’s attorney, Judge Morris commented:

“I have read the supplied documents on this case, and have heard the verbal arguments.  I will be providing a written judgement on this matter in the near future.”

There was a hearing on November 13 on this matter in Judge Langford- Morris’s court room.  At that time, she suggested that the Township and Mr. Edwards attempt to come to a mutually agreeable solution to this matter.  After several attempts, it became clear a settlement could not be worked out.  As a result, the matter returned to her courtroom on January 8th.

As soon as a written decision is provided, the results will be posted on this website.

Richard Michalski

A “behind the curtains” view of Oakland Township

A recent recording of a conversation between the Township Clerk and a Trustee gives some insight into how our Township Board continues to operate “behind the curtain” of secrecy.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Department is investigating whether our Township Board’s recent actions on the Mill Race Project violated the Open Meetings Act.

Details on both of these topics are included in this post.

DECEMBER 10TH COMMENTS PRIOR TO BOARD MEETING

Prior to the December 10 Oakland Township Board meeting,  a discussion between Clerk Reilly and Trustee McKay was recorded and posted on the Township website. Trustee McKay expresses concern over the lack of content in the Closed Session minutes.  She is familiar with what the previous Board and Township Attorney had approved.  This change in record keeping has been approved by our new Attorney as stated by Clerk Reilly in the video.  Here is the video of that conversation:

This recorded conversation gives some insight into how our new Board operates and gives them the cover of secrecy for behind the scenes decisions.  The following incident supports that statement.  It is currently part of an investigation by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department into alleged Open Meeting Act violations by our Board.

POSSIBLE OPEN MEETING ACT VIOLATION

A recent decision by our Board to move the Engineering work for the Mill Race from Wade Trim to ECT began during discussions that occurred in a September 24th Closed Session. The decision to have Wade Trim share Engineering data and possibly engage ECT on the Mill Race project was not discussed or voted on in public.  The Supervisor gave direction to the Superintendent without official Board approval after the September 24th Closed Session meeting.

The evidence of these assertions occurred at the October 8th Board meeting.  Here is a video of excerpts of the October 8th Board meeting:

In the October 8th meeting:

  • Trustee Keyes points out that she objected to the proceedings that were taking place at the September 24th Closed Session meeting, since they were not what was stated on the posted agenda. September 24, 2013 Special Meeting Notice
  • Trustee Keyes indicates that she refused to sign the minutes of that Special Meeting, because the minutes did not reflect what actually occurred.
  • Trustee Thalmann confirms that a decision had been made to have Wade Trim share data.  She realized later that her statement was a violation of the OMA, and tries to explain how a decision had not been made.

This is yet another example of an Open Meeting Act violation by our Board.  Here are the reasons this action violates the Open Meetings Act:

  • The reasons given for having the meeting on the posted agenda were not the same as the discussion that actually occur in the Closed Sessions. September 24, 2013 Special Meeting Notice
  • There was never a vote in open session to authorize the sharing of the data between Wade Trim and ECT.
  • A decision to have Wade Trim ‘share data” with ECT was not disclosed in the Open Meeting after the Closed Session.

One of the reasons Trustee Keyes resigned a few weeks later was because of the pattern of Board behavior that she saw while “behind the curtain”.

It appears that only through a Court decision that Open Meeting Act violations DID occur will our Board recognize that their behavior is illegal and more than the “baseless” actions as claimed by Trustee Thalmann!

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  The ongoing disregard by the Board to follow the Open Meetings Act requirements places all of us at risk if we are not allowed to participate in the decisions that affect us.  The Open Meeting Act laws were created to protect citizens from unbridled government behavior.

Richard Michalski

Strong Evidence that an Open Meetings Violation Occurred Nov 20th

In my post yesterday I outlined how it appeared that the Board was likely to commit a violation of the Open Meetings Act when they went into a closed session to review resumes for the Township Superintendent position.  I had planned to speak during ‘citizens comments’ prior to the closed session to try to prevent this from happening by reminding them that The Open Meetings Act  says that:

 “it is permissible to go into closed session To review and consider the contents of an application for employment or appointment to a public office if the candidate requests that the application remain confidential.”

Unfortunately they had changed the agenda so that citizens comments were not allowed before the closed session.  During the rest of the open meeting an audience member commented the Board had received 30 resumes. Treasurer Langois said they had reviewed “many many” resumes in the closed session.  I took the opportunity to give them a “heads-up” about the potential problem during citizens comments near the end of the meeting.

Note that Supervisor Gonser replied “The resumes requested confidentiality under the law.”  I asked if every one requested confidentiality and he replied “I’m not going to say every one because I can’t speak to that.”.

Now the Board understands that  if one or more oversights did occur they have the simple remedy of re-doing their reviews of any resume where the applicant did not request that their application remain confidential in open session.   I hope that they will double check their records and, if they made any mistakes,  they admit them and correct them.

This is not trivial. This part of the Open Meetings Act was enacted so that we could know what our government is doing.  Our Board of Trustees is already facing two legal actions that allege violations of this Michigan statute and they need to  act accordingly

Jim Foulkrod

Township’s alleged FOIA and OMA violations reviewed in Circuit Court

EthicsIcon

On November 13th, there was an Oakland County Circuit Court hearing on a civil suit raised by Mr. Marc Edwards, a former Township Board Trustee, against Oakland Township. The suit alleges that the Board of Oakland Township violated Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) legal requirements in their response to Mr. Edwards’ request for documents.  The suit also alleges that there was an Open Meetings Act (OMA) violation that occurred during the development of the terms and conditions included in the Paint Creek Cider Mill concessionaire’s agreement signed earlier this year. 

Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Denise Langford Morris was the presiding Judge at this hearing.  She approved a motion to give the attorney’s representing the Township and Mr. Edwards 30 days to come to some settlement agreement.  If no settlement agreement can be agreed upon, the case will come back to the court.

The results of the negotiations and possible court proceedings will be reported on this website.

There is a separate criminal investigation underway by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department regarding Open Meeting Act violations by our Township Board.  This website will also report on the status of that investigation as it unfolds.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Civil and Criminal charges against the governing body of our Township are serious matters.  The judicial system will determine the merits of the allegations.  However, one wonders – Why would a Judge recommend that an out of court settlement be attempted if there was no evidence supporting the claims?

Richard Michalski

Another Open Meeting Act Violation or a Dictatorship in Oakland Township??

As we continue to review the documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act request made by Mr. Marc Edwards, we find discrepancies in some the statements made by our Township Board and written, audio or video documentation.  

What follows is a timeline of events (with supporting documentation) that indicate there are discussions, and Township policy decisions made by our Board outside the public eye.  If these discussions and decisions are not made in Open Public meetings, the decisions are violations to the Open Meetings Act.  If they are not decisions the Board is making, then our Supervisor is making unilateral “dictatorial” decisions.

A previous possible Open Meeting Act violation is under review by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Special Investigation Unit.  The information on that issue is discussed on this website under the ‘Ethics’ page as ‘Open Meeting Act Violation’.

Here is the information on this issue:

  • On April 1, 2013 James Creech, the Township Superintendent, issued a memo to the Chairman of the Parks Commission (a separately elected Body from the Township Board) indicating that the Land Preservation Fund would now be administered by the Township Superintendent and the Board of Trustees. Here is that memo:

Land Preservation takeover letter – April 1

  • On April 3rd, a Township Citizen sent an email to Trustees Bailey and McKay asking if the Board of Oakland Township met to discuss the action taken by the Supervisor in authorizing the memo.
  • On April 4th, Trustee McKay sent an email to Trustee Bailey indicating she had no knowledge of the April 1 directive, and questioned whether it had been brought up by the Board.
  • Trustee Bailey then sent an email to Supervisor Gonser, with copy to Trustee McKay,  explaining how the Land Preservation Fund had been managed in the past.  He goes on to say:

“I don’t remember discussing this takeover at the (March 18th) Monday evening Budget meeting……  At any rate, I don’t have a problem with us taking this over if Legal has told us that we should be doing this and not the Parks and Recreation Commission.”

  • Supervisor Gonser responded to Trustee Bailey by saying:

“I forgot you weren’t at the Budget Workshop.  I brought this up at the time and the Board supported the change.

  • Treasurer Langlois responded to Supervisor Gonser’s email by stating:

“Interesting that someone is forwarding inter office communications to (a citizen).”

  • On April 6th, Supervisor Gonser responds to Treasurer Langlois by stating:

“While I am for transparency, there are policy decisions and strategies that must not be shared until after they have come to fruition. —-  I think we have to be careful as to what we circulate in emails.  Phone calls may be in order.”

A review of the minutes of the March 18th meeting indicate that Trustee Bailey was present  and that no decision had been made by the Board.  Also, in listening to the audio tape of the March 18th Budget meeting, although the Land Preservation fund was discussed for almost 19 minutes (Audio file BoT 3-18-13.m3u from 2:47:00 to 3:06:00) there was no discussion or decision about having the Board take over the administration of the Land Preservation Fund.  The audio file also confirmed that Trustee Bailey was present at the meeting.

However, on March 21st, Supervisor Gonser sent an email to “Friends” (the Township Board members) stating:

“We need to rethink our approach to the budget process for right now………. The last change would be that we announce that the Land Preservation millage will be managed by the township administration as it should have been from its inception.”

This decision was either agreed to by the Board outside a public meeting, or Supervisor Gonser implemented it unilaterally.

  • On April 5th, Trustee Bailey responded to the resident who wrote the April 3rd memo  inquiring about the Board’s decision process by stating:

“The Board of Oakland Township agrees this change made sense to do.”

  • Later that day, the citizen responded to Trustees Bailey and McKay by stating:

“I hope Terry (Gonser) and the Board of Oakland Township has an understanding that there will be very few, if any, other groups like the Parks and Rec and Trails group that will not feel like they are outsiders in their own township if this dictator type of management continues.”

When the Parks Commission received the April 1 letter, there was obvious consternation regarding the fact that the Township Board was planning on taking over the administration of the Land Preservation fund, since the Parks Commission has administered it since its voter approval in 2001.

  • On July 15, 2013, a joint public meeting was held between the Township Board and the Parks Commission to come to some understanding between the two groups on this, and other, issues between them.
  • At the July 15th meeting, Trustee Bailey states:

“It (how the Land Preservation Fund was administered by the Parks Commission) seemed to be working for a long time nicely.  I do not understand why it became an issue.”

How does this statement compare to his comment in the April 5th email that the change “made sense to do”?

  • At the same meeting, Parks Commissioner Colleen Barkham asked for clarification on how the Board came to the decision to take over the administration of the Land Preservation Fund.
  • Trustees Keyes and McKay indicated that they had not seen the memo until after it was issued, and did not participate in any discussion on this subject.
  • Trustee Thalmann did not answer the question, but tried to change the subject by asking a question of her own.
  • Treasurer Langlois indicated that:

“The Board did not take up this issue.  It would be on video if the Board made a decision.”

  • Supervisor Gonser then stated that it had been discussed at the Budget Workshop. (Note previous comments on the accuracy of that statement.)
  • Here is a short video segment from the July 15th Joint meeting:

At the August 13 Township Board Meeting, Supervisor Gonser states:

“Process is Everything”

It appears that Supervisor Gonser only follows the Process when it suits his desires.

  • If the decision to authorize the April 1 memo did occur with Board concurrence, as Trustee Bailey indicated in his April 5th email and Supervisor Gonser indicated in his April 4th email, the Board violated the Open Meetings Act.
  • If the decision to authorize the April 1 memo was a unilateral decision by Supervisor Gonser, it was outside any process for such action to have been taken.  Gonser violated the trust that the citizens have placed in his hands.
  • In either case, THE CORRECT PROCESS WAS NOT FOLLOWED!

Here is the documentation for the above:

Pre April 1 correspondance on Land Preservation takeover

Post April 1 correspondance on Land Preservation takeover

ALL OF THIS FROM A GROUP THAT RAN ON A PLATFORM OF TRANSPARENCY!

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  The Open Meetings Act is intended to make sure our leaders do not make ‘behind the scenes’ decisions that affect us.  Unilateral decisions can be made in a ‘dictatorship’ (using another resident’s phrase), but have no place in our form of government.

Do you think that Supervisor Gonser made his decision with input from others on the Board as both he and Trustee Bailey indicated?

Do you agree with Supervisor Gonser’s statement that our elected officials should not share decisions and strategies until “after they have come to fruition”?

Do you think that Supervisor Gonser has the right to make unilateral decisions that have significant impact on the Township without input from others on the Board and the citizens?

Do you think Trustee Bailey’s April 5th email comment is consistent with his July 15th comment?

Do you agree with Treasurer Langlois’ concern over having an ‘inter office communication’ shared with the public, even though it authorizes a significant change in how the Board and the Parks Commission operate?

Do you think an Open Meetings Act violation occurred?

Is Supervisor Gonser’s leadership style taking us closer to the vision he himself fears is being driven by a United Nations conspiracy called “Agenda 21”? (See Supervisor’s Views – UN Global Conspiracy).
Watch the Video.

RIchard Michalski