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.