Tuesday, October 25, 2011

SURPRISE...Is the Township Board Hiding Something?

Hi All,
Well, well, well. A SURPRISE at Monday's Board of Trustee meeting.
The Township attorney said it was legal.

An agenda item was added without previous notice to the public:
  •  "Adjourned to closed session to discuss attorney opinion regarding contract with the City of Sylvan Lake." 
With the Nov. 8 election coming soon, the Township apparently needs to review a potential contract for police and/or dispatch with the City of Sylvan Lake. What if Sylvan Lake does not pass their millage? Do they get cheaper service from the Township? Just asking.
  • My blog from Sept. 23 has some power point information found on the Sylvan Lake website concerning the proposed police and dispatch contract that was shown to their citizens.
It will be interesting to see how Sylvan Lake's power point and the Township's closed-door session Monday night are similar. When and how will township taxpayers find out?   Will Township citizens need to click on Sylvan Lake's website to read their minutes or newsletters for more information?
  • First, the Township provided planning, inspections, permitting. Second, assessing.  Third, police and dispatch? Stay tuned. Can a Township annex a City? The City of Sylvan Lake should be paying our millage rates.
The most frustrating part of all this "sharing services" is the LACK of COMMUNICATION between the township trustees and its own taxpayers. When are WE going to hear about these contracts? At a UHOA meeting in September, guest speaker Leo Savoie was asked if the Township is continuing to pursue more agreements with other cities.
  • Mr. Savoie indicated that conversations are still occurring at this time with other communities and believe it or not, he declined to name the other cities/towns/villages/townships  or the services being considered.  That is not open and transparent.  The Township apparently won't even put an agenda item for "closed session"  about these issues. Why no advance notice to the taxpayers?  Are they hiding something?
Oh, by the way, the new Birmingham city manager was quoted in Crain's Detroit Business:   http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20111002/AWARDS40/110929898/robert-bruner-35#   in an article about the new Birmingham city manager:
  • "But the new post comes with financial challenges of its own, and Bruner said he is in discussions with newly appointed Bloomfield Township Supervisor Leo Savoie about consolidation of the “Public Safety Answering Point” or emergency dispatch service between police departments."    
Apparently Birmingham doesn't have a problem telling their constituents about what their city is considering as far as "shared services"  might be concerned.  Why?  Would it be because Birmingham might get the real savings?
  • Past rumors have the dispatch occurring in the Township buildings...with dispatchers on the Township payroll...with the Township collecting a "fee" from Birmingham.  Again, the cost of buildings, software and hardware needs, health and pension costs, etc. will be the Township taxpayers responsibility....just rumors...but not a win situation for the Township....my opinion.
At the Board of Trustee meeting (10/24) I sat through a presentation by the Senior Services department for a grant for under $63,000 total funding for repairs to low income residents homes. This presentation was presented tonight as a "courtesy". The real public hearing isn't until sometime in November.  
  • Hello....How about taking MORE IMPORTANT ISSUES and giving the taxpayers some of that "courtesy and public hearings" concerning sharing services?
The Township has one neighborhood of about 1000 residents....about the same residential size as the entire City of Sylvan Lake (the City also has commercial).  That area of the Township is known as Bloomfield Village.  
  • Those residents pay ALL Township millages, including all Public Safety millages, plus those citizens voluntarily ask for a special millage to be assessed for a separate police service and separate volunteer fire department.  The "Village"  owns the buildings and equipment for their special police and fire services and they pay the employees of this extra police and fire service.  I don't recall the exact total amount the residents of the Village collect for those extra services...but I want to say it was over $300,000.  This is above and beyond the regular police and fire service.
The reason I mention this is because the proposed "fee" for Sylvan Lake....is less than $300,000....yet Sylvan Lake residents would get the full benefits of the entire REGULAR employees of the Township police and dispatch.
  • Township Budget: Police expenses:$12,120,500.00  Dispatch expenses: $1,206,900.00 
  • Again, the Township taxpayers buy and replace the special vehicles, pay for the gas and maintenance, own the buildings and related office equipment, pays the Union employees wages, health and pension costs.  
  • No one has yet been able to convince me that the Township taxpayer has either saved or reduced costs with these kind of existing or potential "shared services".
The Oakland Press was at the Township to video the meeting. I believe they were streaming live. The Township cameras were there, too, but were not live. As far as the permanent cameras promised at Township Hall? Probably not until January 2012. Gee, the township can permit a brand new restaurant in less than a month, but it takes 4-plus months to get cameras bought and mounted in one room. Go figure.
  • As usual, I was in "watchdog" mode and I used my three minutes to comment about many of the agenda items. You will not see any of what I said nor if the board responded in the written minutes.
  • I sometimes write my own version of Township meetings minutes and post them on: http://bloomfield-mi.patch.com    News>Local Voices
Please take time to watch the video of this meeting. I think it is important to learn of all the township issues. It will take about two hours at: The Oakland Press, or Comcast Channel 15 programming, or video on demand from the township website on your computer. View the meeting, listen for my questions, and see if the board answered what was asked.

Correction to an earlier blog: Leo Savoie is an Appraiser.  I was incorrect when I identified his profession as an Assessor.  Savoie has announced he will not do appraisal work in the Township while he serves as Supervisor.  While the mandated role of the supervisor is administering assessing, that department director for the township is Bill Griffin.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Twp. Attorney Needs to Explain Township Laws and Rules

Hi All,
I find it ironic that the necessary topic of this blog:  "Township Attorney needs to Explain Township Laws and Rules",  comes at the same time that the long time Township attorney, Bill Hampton, is on the Monday, October 24 agenda with the following resolution (in part):

WHEREAS, William (Bill) Hampton has been named Detroit Municipal Law “Lawyer of the Year” for 2012; and
WHEREAS, Bill received this recognition from Best Lawyers, the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession; and
WHEREAS, the 18th edition of The Best Lawyers in America (2012) is based on more than 3.9 million detailed evaluations of lawyers by other lawyers; and.......

........NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees proudly recognizes this outstanding accomplishment by Bill and extends its sincere congratulations.

I'm sure there are many outstanding accomplishments and congratulations for Mr. Hampton, but today I need to know more about the laws and rules of government...and if they are being adhered to at Bloomfield Township.

When should the Township attorney speak up at a meeting and clarify a legal issue?
When should the Township attorney advise the Board that they should make a decision on an issue?
Why do I feel that something important is missing in Township government?
What is missing?  
Compliance with all the laws and rules...
and sometimes just making the right decisions for the citizens of the Township.....
my opinion.
Some examples:
  • Why were the "appointments" to the various citizen boards never posted before now? Should the attorney advise that vacancies need to be posted ...for all job openings...even the ones given to employees' children?  How many "related"  people work in the Township? How did relatives get the jobs? A friends and family place to work? What about the "advisory board" at the Senior Services department? Who, where and when did those people get "appointed'? All questions would make an interesting FOIA subject.
  • Has the attorney ever advised the Board that an employee can't be a member of the ZBA and the Planning Commission?   How do the elected officials learn what is and is not permitted by law? Shouldn't the elected officials know the Township laws...did they?...but failed to act?  Action was taken after some of my writings on the employee/ Board membership problem. An employee resigned after learning of the law. 
  • Then, is it the attorney's responsibility to encourage/demand that the Board also address the issue of whether or not Mr. Robert Taylor, currently on the ZBA and also an employee of the Township resign?  The attorney was present at a meeting discussing this exact issue of Mr. Taylor.  Why ask one part time employee to resign, but not another?  Shouldn't Mr. Taylor also resign? What is the legal answer?
  • Township law states that there are several mandated functions. One is: assessment administration is the mandated responsibility of the Supervisor.  Yet our new Supervisor, Leo Savoie, who is a qualified assessor, announced at a meeting that he would do no assessments at the Township to avoid a "conflict of interest".  However, isn't that his mandated responsibility?  Where is the attorney in explaining this to the citizens and/or to the Board?   Parts of the mandated jobs of the Supervisor, Treasurer and Clerk...are being assigned to other employees while those same elected officials take on other responsibilities not necessarily required.
  • Township laws also seemed to assign Planning Commission responsibilities and ZBA responsibilities to appointed groups of citizens, with one Board member sitting on each committee.  I did not read in the Township law that there should be a Design Review Board made up of the three top elected employees: Supervisor, Treasurer and Clerk with elected Trustees as alternates making decisions and making recommendations to the ZBA and Planning Commission on certain issues.  Where is the attorney opinion on this Design Review Board, that was created by ordinance by the Township employees?  Can/should this Board be eliminated?  I think yes. Those three elected officials have mandated responsibilities that need their attention.
  • from : http://www.michigantownships.org                                                                                   "There are, however, significant differences that are important
    to the people charged with administering township affairs and
    deciding township policies. Townships and counties are statutory
    units of government, having only those powers expressly provided
    or fairly implied by state law
    . Cities and most villages are vested
    with home rule powers, meaning they can do almost anything not
    prohibited by law."
  • Where is the attorney opinion when the Board of Trustees vote to give money to non-profits, which, by the way,  the Township Board members are given positions as board members on those non-profit boards?  Shouldn't  the township attorney say something about conflict of interest? It is interesting to note that it seems that the "appointees" to Township positions are often people who are members of those same non-profits that get Township taxpayer money.  What if I don't want my tax dollars going to the non-profits that the Township Board chooses?
  • What happens when the Township is involved in an issue with the City of Bloomfield Hills where Mr. Hampton is also their counsel?  I feel the Township may not have gotten the best deal on an issue with the City and the  Bloomfield Hills School district concerning the "farm" land and a potential required purchase of that land by the Township.  IF and when the school district wants to sell a certain portion of the "farm", the Township shall have 30 days to pay cash....price to be determined....and must allow the existing non-profit buildings and school to remain.  The Township taxpayers will get to call this newly purchased special 5-6  farm acreage ... a "park". 
  • Why did the Township join other communities in a Comcast lawsuit?  Was that a wise decision for the Township citizens?  How did the Township taxpayers benefit?  How much did that cost in attorney fees?
  • Can a Township legally use its employees as "independent contractors" for other municipalities for a "fee", but make the taxpayers of the Township responsible for the pensions and other costs? Can the Township leaders send vehicles and other items that Township taxpayers bought for use in the Township....to another community for them to use?
  • Why do Township minutes of a Public Hearing not state what the public speaker said? Isn't that required by law for public hearings?  Should the attorney advise the Board that those public comments be written? Also, can't regular minutes reflect the basic comment or intent of the speaker?  The answer is yes...but the minutes as written by the Township apparently are legal...but not done "right" for the best interests of the Township citizens.
  • I can go on.... but I am not an attorney....nor have I  had any training in legal matters.  I sit at meetings and wonder why issues proceed in the way they do....and whether or not someone should speak up and correct or clarify what is being done.  I can only speak at certain times, otherwise  I'd be ruled out of order.
  • I am asking here....I want answers....the legal ones. 
 Monday night, October 24 at 7 pm.....agenda item number 6 
....deals with the Design Review Board that was created by ordinance...not Township law.
The Township cancels the Planning Commission meetings for "lack of agenda items"   but gives items to the Design Review Board....which, in my opinion, those agenda items should be the responsibility of the Planning Commission.

I would like to hear from the Township attorney on this issue.  I have repeatedly questioned the purpose..the membership...and the legality of this Design Review Board.

Meanwhile:  in the Board of Trustees board packet for agenda #6:
.....a note from Leo Savoie calls for the appointment of another alternate member for the Design Review Board.  Regular members are Savoie, Roncelli, Devine.  Neal Barnett ( a Trustee ) serves as an Alternate Member.  Mr. Savoie wrote in his note that: "Trustee Corinne Khederian has expressed an interest in this Alternate Member position. I am confident Corinne will be committed to preserving and protecting the character of our community and will bring her individual perspective to the Board."

Check out this resolution to be voted on Monday night:

BE IT RESOLVED to appoint to the Design Review Board the following person without an expiration term :   Corinne Khederian
  • Wow....no expiration date for the term...?
  • Has anyone else in the Township expressed interest or even been permitted to express interest in being on the Design Review Board?  No?  Oh, Right. This Board, that makes decisions, is only for elected employees (that is given information from hired employees....according to the ordinance the employees wrote)?  This Board meets at 2 pm, when many from the public can not attend because they are working; there is no microphone for the public to hear the agenda items and discussions; and no attempt is made by the Township to project the project plans, etc., on a large screen to view.
  • Who would decide?, when would someone decide?, why would someone decide?.....that Ms. Khederian would, at some point, no longer be a member of this Board? I guess you just have to be voted out of your elected office? Maybe?  You would still be a citizen of the Township?  Does that count?
Is the Township following all the laws and rules and best practices?  Just asking.
  • Did I tell you that all 7 Board members are running again in Nov. 2012?
  • Are there any people willing to challenge the current Board for any of those 7 positions?  
  • May 2012 dates are the deadlines to get your name in the required August 2012 primary.
  • Is it time to revisit the contract with the Township attorney, too?  Just asking.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Cost of "Free" on a Beautiful Day at the Open House

Hi All,

It was a beautiful, sunny, cool and colorful October afternoon at the Bloomfield Township Open House.  People of all ages, but mostly families with small children, were excited to see and ride in fire trucks, police cars and dump trucks.  There was even a helicopter on site. The Township personnel had the entire Telegraph Road government complex filled with information tables about everything from fire safety to water meters; give-a-way items for kids such as water bottles, balloons, pens, fire hats and hard hats; and food tables to keep everyone happy.  Kids and adults had the chance to hold the fire hose, perform CPR on a dummy, get fingerprinted, apply for a passport or even adopt an animal from the shelter.  You can tell that the entire Township worked hard to present a fun afternoon with the goal of fire safety and promotion of all that the Township has to offer.  They did a nice job.  It was "free".

Now, this is where the "watchdog" in me comes out.  How much did the "free" open house event cost the Township taxpayer and was the cost in this economy worth it?  Just because the Township boasts a AAA rating, shouldn't mean an open checkbook.  Last year this event cost:  $11,000.00 if I am recalling the figures correctly.  The cost of overtime is probably the majority of the cost.  What will the final "free" cost be this year?  Don't forget the hours spent organizing this event during "regular hours" probably won't be figured in the cost. 

I would argue that Township residents don't have the same financial resources as in past years.  While our hearts may always want to have the best and be the best...the time has come when our pocketbooks will need to do the talking/voting now and in the future on millage issues. It's time for the Township to reflect on some of their programs and make cuts.

There are other ways that families can learn about the Township.  The Township promotes many of the Township departments via special cable programs. These programs also cost money to produce. You can watch them on Comcast Cable 15 on your TV.  You can also get Video on Demand by going to the Township website and viewing programs on your computer if you missed the TV show. All Township residents can learn a lot just by visiting the official website regularly.  That's the key word:  regularly.  Many people miss events and public meetings because they didn't know about them.  The Township can do a better job promoting events on their website home page.  POSTING information is the "free" category I like. 

I don't think it is necessary to spend over ten thousand dollars for an afternoon to promote the entire Township.  In fact, I'm not sure how many of those in attendance actually live in the Township.  I did recognize many Township employees, CERT volunteers, Township elected officials and appointees.

The original purpose 25 years ago for an open house was to promote Fire Safety Week. When did the event change to this expensive and all inclusive format?   Whatever happened to field trips at the elementary level to the fire station?  Don't the police and fire departments have programs at the schools to help promote fire safety? Do "Sparky" and the K-9 dogs visit schools?  Should there be an open house at the Township?  Yes, all young kids like to climb on special vehicles and see firemen and policemen, but limit the scope and the costs.  My opinion.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More To The Story: Township Government Appointees

Hi All,

My last post informed you of the appointees chosen by the Township Board of Trustees for the vacant positions on the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Commission.  On Oct. 11, 2011, those appointees were sworn in at the ZBA meeting. (for photos and article see:  http://bloomfield-mi.patch.com/articles/new-bloomfield-township-officials-alternates-sworn-in)

Here is what I didn't tell you then...but you should know now.

1. The Board of Trustees did not interview any candidates in person, to my knowledge. One Board member actually suggested interviews.  The positions are generally for 3 years.

2. Even though the criteria for the positions said: 18 yrs., registered voter, 30 days living in Township, the Township Board seemed to have a rather more specific criteria in mind.  The Township leaders repeatedly mentioned wanting people who have already been involved with the Township in one way or another.  I don't think some applicants had a chance.

3. The Board seemed to be looking for people who will support the upcoming renewal of the 2.5 mills for public safety and actively endorse/work for that renewal.  For some reason, knowing the person and their millage positions seemed important.  What does that have to do with being on the ZBA and Planning Commission?  Knowledge of the law, ability to read site/building plans along with the confidence to make reasonable decisions should be more important.

4. The Township attorney gave an opinion that elected officials are not usually appointed to other Boards with the same general constituency, but that there is no statute that prohibits the Board from appointing Ms. Pam Williams, an elected Library Board Trustee, as alternate to the ZBA.  So, they appointed her. 

5. Since Ms. Stefanes resigned from both the ZBA and the Planning Commission (because employees may not also be board members), it was discussed at a Township meeting that perhaps Mr. Taylor should not be on the ZBA.  He is also a paid employee of the Township with the Board of Review that meets every March to hear taxpayer requests to adjust their tax assessments.  The Township budget lists as a line item:  salary and wages for those positions.  However, no decision was made by the Township Board of Trustees as to his status as employee or not.  As a result of the non-action,  Mr. Taylor was nominated by a Trustee to be the new Chairperson of the ZBA.  Apparently only Ms. Stefanes was asked to resign.  Why?

6. During public comment of an earlier meeting, I asked the Board what will be the procedure for appointment for those positions on the ZBA and Planning Commission that will expire Jan/2012?   Traditionally, the Board of Trustees appoint new members in December (2011).  Will the positions be posted and new applications be reviewed? Answer, I don't know.  According to Township tradition...the members of the Board do NOT need to respond to the questions asked during public comment.  They chose not to answer this question. 

7. Bottom line:  if you want to be in Bloomfield Township government..know the leaders and agree with their game plan.    My opinion.

8. Open and transparent government....that is what should be tradition.

9. If you are interested in being a CANDIDATE for Supervisor, Clerk, Treasurer or one of the four Trustee positions that expire in 2012......you must meet filing deadlines in early May 2012 for the primary election to be held in early August 2012.   All 7 positions expire in Nov. 2012.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals Vacant Positions Filled

 Hi All,

The Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees held a Special Meeting at 7 AM, October 5, 2011 to appoint new members for the vacant positions at the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals.  Supervisor Leo Savoie, according to Township law, was required to make the appointment for the Planning Commission with the full Board then voting on that appointment.  The Zoning Board of Appeals process was slightly different.  All members of the Board of Trustees could nominate a candidate, with full Board needing to approve the appointments.

Ms. Lisa Seneker was appointed by Supervisor Leo Savoie to fill the remainder of the vacant term on the Planning Commission.  The full Board of Trustees voted unanimously for that appointment.  The Planning Commission vacancy was created when Ms. Sherry Stefanes resigned as a result of the legal department noting that an employee of the Township may not have a position on either the Planning Commission or the Zoning Board of Appeals.  Ms. Seneker's new position on the Planning Commission expires January 1, 2012.  Ms. Seneker is also a current member of the Zoning Board of Appeals (Jan. 2014) and will remain in that position, as Township law requires one person to be a member on both Boards.

The two vacant positions on the Zoning Board of Appeals created by the appointment of Ms. Corinne Khederian to a Trustee position and the resignation of Ms. Sherry Stefanes have been filled by Ms. Carol Rosati and Ms. Tracy Leone. The motion to appoint the two current alternates, Ms. Rosati and Ms. Leone, of the Zoning Board of Appeals to the regular positions on that Board was unanimous.  Their new positions have a January 1, 2013 expiration date.

Since the two alternates moved up, that created two new vacancies on the Zoning Board of Appeals.   Both new vacant positions are as alternates on the ZBA.  After discussion of several candidates and one motion that failed, the Board of Trustees nominated and appointed Mr. Justin Winkleman and Ms. Pamela Williams in separate motions for the alternate positions on the Zoning Board of Appeals.  Their term as alternates will expire on January 1, 2014.

All the new appointees need to be sworn in before commencing their new positions.  Congratulations.

Because this was a special meeting of the Board of Trustees and decisions were made at this meeting, the video taping of this meeting can be seen on Cable 15 and on the Township website:
The exact schedule for viewing on cable and website was not known at this time.

There are several positions on both the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals that are due to expire January 1, 2012.  Those appointments are traditionally made and voted on at the (2011)  December Board of Trustee meeting.  The process to appoint for those positions was not answered at this meeting.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Special Meeting, Rescheduled Meeting and A Special Boy

Hi All,

The Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees will be meeting Oct. 5, WEDNESDAY morning  @ 7 AM  at the Township Hall  as a Special Meeting.
On the agenda:  Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals appointments.  The Board of Trustees will review the applications received and discuss each candidate and his/her  qualifications for the openings.  Look for the Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals appointments to be voted/announced at the rescheduled Board of Trustee meeting on WEDNESDAY, Oct 12 @ 7 PM .

Mr. Savoie has confirmed that the Monday, Oct. 10 regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Trustees has been rescheduled for WED., Oct. 12 @ 7 pm because of a lack of a quorum that evening. Please mark your calendars.  No agenda has been posted for that meeting.

The Design Review Board is Wednesday, October 5, 2011 @ 2 PM.
A. Signs:
1. 42994 Woodward Ave. – Sunoco Gas Station – Ground Sign
2. 6523 Telegraph Rd. – Roland Optics – Wall Signs

B. Special Events:
1. 3003 W. Maple Rd. – Detroit Country Day School – Open House & Summer Camp 2. 3600 Bradway Blvd. – Detroit Country Day Junior School – Open House

C. Site Improvements:
1. 3951 W. Maple Rd. – Oakland Hills Country Club – Outdoor CafĂ© Area
2. 4050 W. Maple Rd. – Maple Office Building – Dumpster Enclosure / Lighting

The Zoning Board of Appeals meeting scheduled for TUESDAY, Oct. 11 @ 7pm  still does NOT have the AGENDA  posted on the Township website.  The law required a 15 day notice which the Township complied with by publishing that agenda in the Birmingham Bloomfield Eccentric.  I spoke with the new Supervisor, Leo Savoie, this morning.  He listened to my request again for posting the ZBA and other agendas earlier on the Township website...especially if there are PUBLIC HEARINGS on the agenda and 15 day notification requirements.  To his credit, Mr. Savoie has made many other improvements at Township Hall since he began Aug. 1.  Perhaps this request for posting agendas will be the next step for more open and transparent government.

I see my role as a "watchdog" of local government.  Therefore, the "feel good" stories are sometimes missing. Today, I would like to share an email from a Bloomfield Township Trustee who has dedicated many years of service to the Bloomfield Township citizens. Perhaps, Oct. 8, we can say thank you .....please read about this very special boy...his son, Jack.


Hi Friends!

Jack will be walking on October 8th at The Palace of Auburn Hills for
Step Up 4 Down Syndrome.  
He's hoping you can walk with him or make a small donation.  
Check out his web page by clicking on the link.


If the link doesn't work go directly to Stepup4downsyndrome.org
Click on the Walk with us tab at top.
Click on team list.  Select JACK'S VIPs
Then Click team page and hear what Jack has to say. 
It's free to walk:)  Hopefully you can come:)

Jack turned 10 on September 3rd and made his First Communion in May! 
Regards, David Buckley