(Editor’s Note: Got something to say? Write it up and send it to me, [email protected]. Read on for Lou Santucci’s thoughts about transparency in Peninsula Township, staff raises, and legal fees related to the ongoing winery lawsuit. -jb)
Conflicts of interest galore! Strong arm tactics used on one of their own! Hiding all of this from public view! This is all brought to you by our Township Board, some of whom were not elected but chosen by the other members, so I guess they feel beholden to them in this self dealing travesty. I urge everyone to go to the Township website, bring up the minutes of the March 30 meeting and read them. You, like me, should be appalled.
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On March 30, 2023, hiding from easily accessible public view (by not using their YouTube platform), the Township approved the Township budget. One has to ask why they held such an important meeting without exposing their discussions via YouTube. Certainly, those who could not go to the meeting should be provided the opportunity to see this important discussion. One has to wonder.
Were they afraid that their winks and nods would expose the inner workings of this group when it comes to rewarding some of their own with monetary gifts from our treasury? That’s how it looks to this concerned citizen.
For those of you who do not follow the workings of the Township, the proposed budget included resolutions to give the Township Clerk a so-called merit pay of $3000 and a 5% increase in salary. What merits a $3000 payoff? What is a merit raise anyway? Does anyone know? For the Township Supervisor, the gift was also a 5% raise. This, on top of previous raises in 2022.
For the Clerk, it seems that the original one-time $3000 merit increase was made permanent. I am not sure, as the minutes are unclear. Our Treasurer, to her credit, tried to turn down this payoff. At least she realized this was an inappropriate use of our money.
If you read the minutes, I would say that the Treasurer was browbeaten into accepting the raise because it would make everyone else look bad. Well, guess what, folks. You look bad anyway.
To make matters even worse, against common sense and possible conflict of interest rules, the Supervisor and the Clerk voted for their own raise. WOW. But one has come to accept the fact that the Township officials have hardly ever met a conflict of interest situation they felt applied to them.
I wonder if they received legal advice on voting on their own raises. If they did, they should make that public. There is a principle when it comes to conflicts, and that is that one should avoid even the appearance of a conflict. This certainly was not the case here.
Below is an excerpt from the minutes, which underscores this skullduggery when it came Township Treasurer Marge Achorn trying to turn down her salary increase, which she had every right to do.
Shanafelt: I appreciate you doing this, Marge, and I think it’s for a good cause, but from a compensation committee perspective, you should take the increase. Given your role and function, it’s not appropriate for you to waive the increase.
Rudolph: I agree. You should take the increase. It introduces a practical issue when you don’t take it.
Sanger: I’m concerned about the implication – if you aren’t taking it, why are the others? Why aren’t they doing the same thing? Why don’t you take it and give some away if you so choose?
Rudolph: When I applied to be a trustee, I didn’t want to take a salary. You told me I had to take it. I think you should take this.
Achorn: That’s right; I did. I’ll do what you think best.
Yes, that’s right, Dave. Marge better take it, because if she doesn’t, you will look like fools. To her credit, at least Marge had the good sense to abstain from voting on her own raise. Shouldn’t we expect more from our officials, particularly when it comes to our money? They treat it like their own piggy bank, hoping no one will notice. Again, if you can stream all the other Township meetings, why hide in a back room for this one?
Transparency is the key to good government. On this score, they failed us again. I know the Township will argue that residents could always come to the meeting, but that doesn’t fly, and they know it. Making meetings available should be their first priority. Especially for those who can’t come to meetings for various reasons, from mobility issues keeping them at home to out-of-town domiciles for the winter. No excuses for not doing so. Don’t you agree?
One other issue of the budget should be of paramount concern. The total legal fees for the WOMP lawsuit are approaching a million dollars. No one knows if the Township is being reimbursed or not. It’s time for Township officials to tell us what the financial obligation of the Township is with regard to these costs.
In addition, they should let us know what happens if insurance does not cover the legal costs and the fines, if any. Again, transparency is needed here. I suggest that they address this question directly at the next Board meeting.
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers like the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and magazines like Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So of course, I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the Old Mission Peninsula. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb