Guest Viewpoint: Where is the Clarkston village government transparency?

This is an open letter to the elected council for the City of the Village of Clarkston:
Mayor Haven, council member and Mayor pro-tem Wylie, council members Avery, Kneisc, Luginski, Marsh, and Reynolds.
According to the agenda item for Public Comments at City Council meetings, “public comments may be emailed” to the City Manager or Clerk “and they will be read out loud during this time.”
I sent public comments to the city manager, clerk and all council members on Sunday, June 7, 2020. Councilmember Sue Wylie emailed me a question about them, so I know she received them.
Maybe no one else did, or maybe you somehow collectively decided not to read my comments or recognize that they exist. Perhaps you do the same with other public comments. This is a violation of your written policy and probably Michigan’s Open Meetings Act.
It is also censorship.
I listened to the entire recording of the council meeting including the public comments from a new resident and his questions about enforcement policy that no one answered. What you probably do not know, because you never ask, is that problems with enforcement policy and procedure are not new. Many things are not enforced at all, others have received notices with no information on who to contact, as was the case with this resident. The city manager said “it was somewhat of a form letter they use” without ever saying who “they” were since it was not clear who wrote and sent the letter.
You said nothing even though you are responsible for policy and procedure.
With regards to the resident’s issue and decision to deny his porch railing by the HDC, there is a prescribed procedure for this in the city’s Historic District Ordinance. From what the resident said, that has not been followed but the city is attempting to enforce something prior to it being officially designated as wrong or notifying of the resident of his alternatives as required by your own ordinance. The notice was apparently written without any way to contact someone, incorrectly written, and corrections made by the city attorney were not incorporated.
Hopefully, you see this as a serious policy and procedure problem.
My suggestion at a minimum would be to read and question every charge from the city attorney so you have an understanding of the legal issues the city is involved in, what the city attorney is doing, and why the city is paying to have it done.
You never do that, there is no documentation other than the attorney invoices, you rarely receive any other information about legal issues, and the city is now in the Michigan Supreme Court arguing the city attorney can be paid with public funds to keep information from the city council and public at his discretion. If you think this is all acceptable, I must ask who you are representing?
Next is radar speed signs without proper competitive bids, located based on convenience not effectiveness, and no overall plan to address the numerous issues on Main Street.
Then we have the issue of storm drains that was added to the agenda 38 minutes into the meeting after the agenda had been approved even though the city manager was fully aware of the problem and costs that would need council approval. You voted to approve the use of public funds to address a problem on private property even when notified that it is private property with no evidence of public ownership or responsibility. When did it become the responsibility of the city to survey private property to tell them what they own and where it is? Even though you were notified, you said nothing about the possible repairs to the sanitary drain structures in the same private parking lot and the handicap parking not being in conformance with city, state, or federal requirements.
Why are you willing to spend public funds to solve private drainage problems but unwilling to address issues that directly affect overall public health, safety, and welfare?
My ongoing question is whether you are going to follow law, charter, ordinance, resolution, policy, and represent the people who elected you, or will you continue to act solely on whatever the city manager and city attorney want to do even when in violation of governing policy and regulations? Maybe we will get some guidance in the upcoming Michigan Supreme Court decision where it seems the residents of the city will lose no matter what the decision is. Either monetarily if the city loses, or if the city prevails, the Village of Clarkston will become a place where city information can be hidden away solely at the discretion of the city administration in a complete reversal of Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act.
The decision is yours. So far, it appears you have sided with secrecy and a neglect of your duty to represent the public health, safety and welfare.

— Cory Johnston

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