Tag Archives: Trustee Thalmann

Oakland Township’s ‘Manager’ or ‘Superintendent’ form of governance is growing in popularity in State

As many of you are aware, Supervisor Gonser, and former Trustee Maureen Thalmann, made repeated attempts at changing Oakland Township’s structure from a “Manager” form of governance to a “Strong Supervisor” form of governance.  He and Maureen wanted to change the Supervisor position to a full time position and eliminate the full time professional manager position.  The Supervisor would assume all of the day to day operations in the Township with assistance from a part time support person.

At the April 12, 2016 BOT meeting, Clerk Karen Reilly reported that many Township’s in the state are moving away from the ‘Strong Supervisor” form of governance to what we currently have in Oakland Township.  

Here is a video of Karen Reilly’s comments:

There have been many previous articles posted on this website regarding Supervisor Goner’s attempts at changing the structure of our Township.  Many of them cover the reasons why our current ‘Manager’ structure is preferred, and why Supervisor Gonser’s actions are reasons why a “Strong Supervisor” form of governance is not in Oakland Township’s best interest. Other communities are apparently coming to the same conclusion.

Here are links to previous posts on this topic:

2013

2014

2015

The above articles make it clear why other communities are moving AWAY FROM their “Strong Supervisor” structures TO what Supervisor Gonser considers a “bizarre and unworkable” form of governance.  Maybe the ‘bizarre and unworkable’ adjectives apply to Supervisor Gonser, as former Township manager Warren Brown suggested in his resignation statement noted above.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Supervisor Gonser is planning on running for reelection this summer and fall.  Although he did not disclose his desire to change how Oakland Township is structured prior to his election in 2012, his actions over the past few years make it clear what his intentions were and continue to be.

Between now and the primary elections this summer, there will certainly be discussions regarding the advantages and disadvantages of both forms of governance.  I recommend you read some of the previous postings listed above to familiarize yourself with why we have our current ‘Manager’ form of governance.

It is very interesting that other communities are moving away from what Supervisor Gonser is proposing.  Our current structure has helped create our outstanding community.  It appears other communities are beginning to see the wisdom of our ways.

Please consider Terry Gonser’s position on this in the upcoming summer election.

Richard Michalski

Were residents misled by Supervisor Gonser regarding the Parks and Recreation Commission’s legal fees?

This website has recently reported on legal expenses incurred by our Township.  One of our discoveries has resulted in a $9,000 per year savings to our Township.  As we continued our investigation, Bob Yager, the editor for the Oakland Township Sentinel LLC, made a discovery that raised a question regarding what really is covered in our Township’s monthly legal retainer fee.  

During 2014, former Trustee Thalmann repeatedly accused the Parks and Recreation Commission (PRC) of ‘wasting’ Township funds by using a different law firm, since the retainer fee for the Township Board’s law firm allegedly included PRC legal support. Supervisor Gonser never corrected the repeated accusations even though a year earlier, at a PRC meeting, Supervisor Gonser made a commitment that Thalmann’s accusations would not occur.

Here is the chronology of events:

  • On February 26, 2013, the Township Board approved a contract with our current Township legal service firm,  Giarmarco, Mullen and Horton P.C.
  • On February 27, 2013, the Parks and Recreation Commission discussed the Board’s decision regarding legal support.
  • The minutes from the February 27, 2013 PRC meeting state:

“Supervisor Gonser was present and explained that the Board solicited quotes for legal services. They agreed to contract with a firm for a not-to-exceed amount for one year, and that this figure anticipated that the new firm would provide legal services to the PRC. However, the amount would be reduced if the PRC chooses to obtain legal services through a different firm.”

  • At the March 13, 2013  PRC meeting, the PRC decided to keep the legal firm they had been using for years. It was not the same firm that the Township Board was using.
  • Between January 14, 2014 and Ocotober 14, 2014, former trustee Thalmann repeatedly accused the PRC of wasting money by using their own attorney rather than using the Board’s legal firm, which allegedly was covered in the Township’s monthly retainer fee..
  • Not once, after the repeated accusations by former Trustee Thalmann, did Supervisor Gonser challenge the accuracy of her statements, even though he stated on Febraury 27, 2013 that what she said would not occur.

Here are video clips of Trustee Thalmann’s repeated accusations made on:

  1. January 14, 2014 BOT
  2. February 11, 2014 BOT
  3. March 11, 2014 BOT
  4. September 23, 2014 BOT
  5. October 14, 2014 BOT

 

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township? Many citizens still believe that the Township is paying for legal fees that are unnecessary.  The Supervisor has never clarified this issue.

With this documentation, one of three things must be true:

  • The original monthly retainer fee was reduced to reflect the decision the PRC made to keep their own legal support firm, BUT Supervisor Gonser never felt it necessary to correct the multiple erroneous statements made by former Trustee Thalmann.

or

  • The original monthly retainer fee never included the PRC legal services, BUT Supervisor Gonser never felt it necessary to correct the erroneous statements made by former Trustee Thalmann.

or

  • Supervisor Gonser never reduced the monthly retainer fee to reflect the decision the PRC made to keep their own legal support firm, AND we are continuing to pay more for legal services than what is necessary.

We will request the the Board clarify this issue and report on it in a future post.  We are either paying more for legal services than what we need to be paying, or Supervisor Gonser’s ‘silence’ on this matter was an ‘act of omission’.

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

 

Reason for Parks Commissioner Rogers removal from personnel committee now apparent – so why did Schmidt and Rogers storm out of meeting in protest?

The recent findings from the Oakland Township Attorneys’ investigation into the forwarding of Privileged and Confidential material by Parks Commissioner Rogers and former trustee Thalmann shed light on some of the proceedings at the January 14, 2015 Parks and Recreation Commission meeting.  Commissioners Rogers and Schmidt stormed out of that Commission meeting in protest to Ann Marie being removed from Personnel Committee.

At the January 14th meeting, one of the agenda items was the approval of the Chairman Zale’s recommended committee members.  He has the authority to make recommendations, but they must be approved by a majority vote of the Commission.

Chairman Zale recommended that Commissioner Rogers be replaced by Commissioner Perruzi on the Personnel Committee.  Former (in office at that time) Trustee Thalmann attempted to influence Mr. Zale.  However, Mr. Zale indicated he wanted Mr. Perruzi to be on that committee.  Commissioner Rogers objected to the change, and the change was approved in a 5 to 2 vote. Commissioners Rogers and Schmidt were in the minority.

Commissioner Schmidt indicated he did not agree with how the proceedings went, and suggested he would disclose some information that would make visible to the citizens of Oakland Township the reasons for Mr. Zale’s recommendation.

In protest, Commissioners Rogers and Schmidt walked out of the meeting. As they were walking out Mr. Schmidt stated:

“You people are the worst bunch of conniving people that I have ever met in my entire life! “

Earlier he said he wanted to make sure the Commission would be

“accountable for what you have done!”

Here is a video of meeting proceedings as described above:

 

Mr. Schmidt never did present the material that he alluded to in his comment, but the results of the Township Attorneys’ investigation, specifically Ms. Rogers sharing the November 13, 2015 ‘attorney client’ protected documents, gives a very clear indication of the reasons for Mr. Zale’s recommendation.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Chairman Zale had the authority to make subcommittee appointments.  Mr. Zale clearly had reasons for making his recommendations.

Walking out of a meeting in the manner that both Mr. Schmidt and Ms. Rogers did is not only unprofessional, but may have violated their oath of office.

Commissioner Schmidt has aligned himself with Ms. Rogers on many issues.  I trust he feels that same way about ‘accountability’ now that Commissioner Rogers’ actions are being investigated by the Oakland County Sheriff’s office.

Oakland Township would be well served if Commissioner Rogers steps down.

Richard Michalski

Related article:

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

Parks Commissioner Ann Marie Rogers attempts to defend her behaviour

In the May 7, 2015 Oakland Press website posting titled,

Report: Oakland Township Parks Commissioner shared confidential emails’,

Parks and Recreation Commissioner Ann Marie Rogers attempted to defend her forwarding of ‘privileged and confidential’ material to others by saying she never signed anything preventing her from doing that.  Here is a portion of that article:

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

The wording in the ‘Privileged and Confidential’ statements attached to legal documents always makes it clear what is not to be done with those documents. It appears Commissioner Rogers did not believe it applied to her.

Comments made by others involved in this recent Oakland Township issue appear to shed some light on their value systems.

 

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Our elected and appointed official’s actions should be based on a generally accepted value system and must be held accountable for their actions.

It is surprising that Parks Commissioner Rogers, after serving on the Parks Commission for over two years, states she was never asked to sign an agreement stating she not share attorney-client communications.  She apparently does not feel anything wrong was done, and has not read the ‘privileged and confidential’ statements on the documents she received.

In an earlier Oakland Press article, former Trustee Thalmann stated she thought she was ‘collateral damage’ and the issue would all ‘go away’ if she resigned. She too apparently does not feel anything wrong was done, and had not read the ‘privileged and confidential’ statements on the documents she received and forwarded.

Here is that Oakland Press article:

Oakland Township board to send email confidentiality breach findings to sheriff’s office

Finally, the husband of the third party involved in receiving some of the ‘privileged and confidential’ material (including ‘closed session’ material) has attempted to justify at various Township meetings, his wife’s receipt of the material, by claiming since they were emails, they were “on a server”, and therefore not secure. He apparently does not feel anything wrong was done.  He has asked that in the future all ‘privileged and confidential’ material be hand delivered in paper form, no emails.  This individual is also a member of the Oakland Township Zoning Board of Appeals, who occasionally receives legal ‘privileged and confidential’ material. Hopefully he has read and understands the wording in the ‘privileged and confidential’ statements.

It is amazing the logic individuals use when they try to justify their unjustifiable behavior.

Oakland Township deserves the best elected and appointed officials.  We hope Commissioner Rogers steps down and a new Commissioner is selected.  We also hope the Oakland Township Board makes a good selection for the vacant seat on the Board in the upcoming meetings.

Richard Michalski

 

Did Supervisor Gonser commit an act of ‘omission’ regarding the sharing of Privileged and Confidential material?

In the recent documents that the two Oakland Township attorneys disclosed as a result of their investigation into the sharing of ‘privileged and confidential’ material by two of our elected officials, the data confirms that Supervisor Gonser was on distribution for some of those documents as early as April 9, 2014.  Unfortunately, documents continued to be shared as late as November 13, 2014.  

One of our citizens has commented at Board meetings, that this situation may have involved acts of ‘commission’ by some and acts of ‘omission’ by others.  The Sheriff’s investigation will determine if illegal acts were committed by former Trustee Thalmann and current Parks Commissioner Ann Marie Rogers.  

The Sheriff’s Department probably will not find any illegal behavior by  Supervisor Gonser for his lack of taking action after receiving the documents identified in the attorneys’ findings. However, Gonser should have known that the sending of the documents was inappropriate, as well as his reading them, and should have informed the senders that they should not be sharing that information.  It appears that communication did not occur.  

So it is left to the citizens to determine if Supervisor Gonser’s lack of responding to the inappropriate emails were acts of ‘omission’ as described by one of our citizens.  We are also left trying to understand why he did not take action. 

Here are the two attorney’s findings:

Investigation results from Township Board’s attorney

Investigation results from PRC attorney

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Supervisor Gonser’s apparent lack of responding to the inappropriate emails leads the author of this post to the conclusion that he either was:

  • interested in receiving the information,
  • ignorant of the fact that these communications were potentially illegal, or
  • felt no responsibility for stopping the potentially illegal actions.

It is hard to believe the second conclusion, since the communications on October 15, 2015 from PRC Commissioner Ann Marie Rogers dealt with Parks and Recreation “CLOSED SESSION” legal opinions.  Gonser knows that disclosing “Closed Session” material is illegal.

If Gonser did not feel he had any responsibility, as Township Supervisor, to stop the sending of the emails, one might question his understanding of his oath of office. Don’t we all have the responsibility to call out improper and potentially illegal behavior, especially by an elected official?

As previously reported, Gonser was the only Board member to vote against having the joint meeting with the Parks and Recreation Commission to disclose the findings of the investigation.

Trustee Thalmann’s resignation and legal investigation

The citizens of Oakland Township must draw their own conclusions on whether Gonser committed an act of ‘omission’, and his motivation for not having put a stop to the sending of ‘privileged and confidential’ communications.

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