Shut down at the Redding Twp. meeting

October 30, 2015

Dear Editor,
On October 21, 2015 I attended the Redding Township board meeting as I had some questions and concerns that I wanted to express.  During Public Comment, I was able to address one concern and then the Clerk who was chairing the meeting abruptly shut down the Public Comment session and moved into a quick adjournment.  The meeting adjourned after 25 minutes.

Because I was not allowed to have any of my other concerns and questions addressed at the meeting, my only resort is to try and get the concerns expressed in the newspaper.

The question I was allowed to ask regarded a Special Board Meeting that was held earlier in the month.  I asked where the Notice of the Special Meeting was posted and if it was posted 18 hours before the meeting.  I was informed that it had been posted on the Township Hall door 18 hours before the meeting.  I pointed out that it was not posted on the large sign out front or on the website and quoted the Open Meetings Act (OMA) of 2013 that states that Special meetings must be posted on a website if the township maintains a website.    The response I received was “Oh well.”  And the Public Comment session was closed.

“Oh well”?  Ignorance of the law is never an excuse; and board members should be abreast of all laws regarding these matters.  The act also states that the notice must be “in a prominent and conspicuous place”.  The simple definition of conspicuous is “standing out so as to be clearly visible.” On a door, hidden behind a wall and not visible easily from the road or parking lot, is hardly conspicuous.

The Open Meetings act further designates penalties for not complying with the provisions which include it being a misdemeanor and subject to a $1,000 fine.  The second offense includes fine and jail time.

This was not the first time residents have not been made aware of Special Meetings.  The last time this board had a Trustee vacancy, there was no real notice of it.  The minutes for Oct. 2014 and Nov. 2014 have never appeared on the website.  I wondered at the time what was being hidden from the public.  In January 2015, the minutes for December 2014 appeared on the website and we magically had a new Trustee!  Now the Supervisor will say his standard, “If you want to know what is going on attend the meetings.”  The Open Meetings Act does not address that the public must do that!  I thought it was important to point this out because we have another vacancy in the Trustee position with a Special Meeting to come at some time in November-date to be set later.  The community has a right to know about this and be present if they so choose.

During the meeting a question was asked regarding damage done to the Town Hall building that were caused by a contractor, and questioning why the contractor’s liability insurance did not cover this. The answer that was given was that the supervisor negotiates all contracts, and since he was not at the meeting, the question would best be addressed by him.  Board members may not negotiate contracts but they are given (or SHOULD be) copies of the contract to review as they have to vote on approving them.  The sad part was that later in the same meeting these board members were able to recall that this same contract had wording that stated that the last payment for services could be withheld until all the leaves were cleaned up.  But they could not recall other details of the contract?  The citizens had to pay out around $540 to repair this damage.

Another concern that I had but was not allowed to bring up is that last month’s minutes indicated that the warning siren was not working on the warning but was working on the all clear.  This condition has been going on for several months.  The board had looked into having it checked out, but it would cost $150 for the first half hour of diagnostics.  The board decided that they would not repair it and immediately entertained the idea of selling it.  I wanted to ask if they had checked if they could sell it as it was purchased with grant money and there may be restrictions on that.  Also, why not have a Public Hearing to see what the residents would like to see done as there are a lot of residents who can hear that siren?  It may not reach the entire township, but it is located in a populated area.
This same board was able to find money in the current budget to give three members a $50 a month raise which is an additional $1800 a year.  This board found money in the budget to pay for a sign out front, but a warning siren is not worth even asking the people if they want it repaired, or even investigate what the repairs would entail?

My final concern was to remind the board that all discussions are supposed to be made in public.  With the upcoming Trustee position appointment, we have a right t know that there will not be any email discussions.  We have all seen that emails, even when deleted are still available on the servers, and the board should use the utmost caution in these matters.  Also I was going to point out that since the outgoing Trustee is not allowed to vote on their successor, there is no reason to pay that member $50 to attend that meeting.

In case the board is not aware I would add that according to my sources the fee for copying records under FOIA is 10¢ per page effective July 1, 2015.  I may need to use FOIA at some future date.

Sincerely,
Mary Beth Trzcienski
Harrison

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