Letter to the Editor: City council needs to do better

Dear Editor,

The October 25, 2021 council meeting of the City of the Village of Clarkston was the last meeting prior to the November election where at least two new members will be elected, possibly three.
There are seven members in total, but they have been operating with only six for the last three months because they ignored charter section 4.22 to fill the vacant position within 30 days. Mayor Eric Haven was absent from this meeting so only five were present.
I went to the end of the meeting recording to hear what the council would say about the city manager’s recent spending in violation of charter and ordinance. This was not the first time he has done it and not the first time they have ignored the requirements.
This time, the spending was four times greater than allowed, two times greater than allowed for an emergency, and no emergency.
The draft meeting minutes only say, “to authorize the City Manager, retroactively, to replace the four rear tires on the City’s Ford F550 pickup truck at a total cost of $1,999.65…” The work had already been done and the cost incurred. It would cost even more to undo it. No mention in the minutes of this being a violation of law, city charter section 12, and ordinance 30 for purchases, spending and contracts. No viable reason was provided other than it is what the city manager decided to do.
This is how spending and contracts are done in the city.
One council member asked why they had to approve any spending. Sadly, this seems to be the attitude of the council. There is a consistent record of not protecting how the public dollar is spent and it applies to both spending and contracts that the council rarely sees, if they even exist.
Why does a council member not know their duties and obligation for the spending of public dollars? Why don’t they care?
Spending public dollars without approval, often without explanation, is what the city government does.
You will recall that they were all in favor of paying the city attorney to hide legal matters from themselves and the public. That caused a five-year court battle regarding Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled against the city, and it cost everyone a lot of time and money, but little has changed.
No one seems to understand that public dollars are being spent and both the city and state have rules in place to protect the public, except in the Village of Clarkston where it doesn’t matter.
To all the council members, new and old, please remember that you represent the public, not the city administration. You are entrusted to watch over the public dollar and assure that public funds are used in accordance with governing law, charter, ordinance, and rules.
Please consider doing better than those that preceded you.
To quote Dr. Suess, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Cory Johnston
Lake Orion

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