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City spat unresolved despite many letters

February 05, 2014 - Concerned citizen Cory Johnston has received flack from City Manager Carol Eberhardt over what she say is continual, unfounded criticism.

Emails have been sent back and forth between Eberhardt, Johnston, and other council members over what Eberhardt calls negativity that is no good for the city.

Johnston said he is just pointing out troubles he sees in the city.

Eberhardt said she doesn't mind when residents have criticisms for her or the city, but at least get the facts straight if you want to complain.

"This has been going on for years with other managers," according to Eberhardt, who claims Johnston is often just plain wrong about his complaints.

She also said Johnston complains about things he voted for when he served on the city council.

Johnston closely monitors audio from the city council meeting as well as various happenings around the city, takes notes and often makes comments on social web sites.

Over the past several weeks, Johnston has expressed his disapproval of how the city handled snowplowing after the area received 15.3 inches of snow.

After Eberhardt penned a letter to Johnston outlining how she felt his complaints were incorrect,Johnston in turn wrote a 25-page response.

Johnston summarized his 25-page response.

"The south bridge in the city's Depot Park meets no known standard for construction including ADA, the Michigan Building Code and AASHTO which is frequently used for this type of structure. How it was and is constructed is undocumented and there is no evidence that it has been inspected by anyone qualified to state it is adequate or safe for public use," he said.

Johnston said he enjoys walking city streets, and often takes photos when he sees a problem.

During a trip around the city after the snowfall, Johnston pointed out that some sidewalks in the city had yet to be completely cleared weeks after the gigantic snowstorm.

"Some of the sidewalks were impassible," he said, showing areas on Miller Road, along M-15 at Walton and at other areas of the city.

Eberhardt said the few employees in the Department of Public Works (DPW) department are not miracle workers and can only clear snow so fast. There are also problem having a place to put all that snow.

"Why is there all this snow in these places," he asks pointing out the footprints that dot sidewalks you cannot tell exist.

"It's clear people have tried to walk on them," he said, adding a city ordinance states sidewalks must be cleared within 24 hours.

"It took them over a week to clear the sidewalks," he said, and wondered why the city is not ticketing homeowners who have not met the city ordinance requirements and cleared the sidewalks.

"I want to be able to walk in the city," he said.

Johnston said the city ignores rules all the time adding that if residents or businesses do not clear sidewalks they should be done by city workers and issued a fine for the job.

Johnston has also expressed concerns over a recently repaired bridge in Depot Park.

Johnston's response letter cites recent repairs on the bridge saying that the repairs are haphazard and do not meet any Americans with Disability Act (ADA) requirements.

"Because the public walks on that bridge if it is not safe that opens up the city to lawsuits," he said.

A few weeks ago, Johnston said he submitted two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to obtain information about repairs made on the bridge.

Johnston said for the second FOIA, he received a request back asking him to provide a more specific request. Johnston said the response took seven days, rather than the required five.

He also added that when Eberhardt responded to the request only information about the bridge was provided.

Johnston said he submitted the FOIA request's out of concern of a lack of paperwork documenting that ADA standards were met.

"The ADA is a law that must be followed, if not the city can be sued," he said.

Johnston said his opinions about the bridge come from his expertise as a structural engineer.

"The city has ignored my letters about issues regarding both the bridge and sidewalks or whenever I say that something the city or the manager is doing is wrong."

Because of the letter Eberhardt sent to Johnston, and city council members, Johnston said he has resigned from a community organization he has worked with for years and is very passionate about.

"I just feel nothing positive will come to the Clarkston Center for Performing Arts if I'm involved," he said. "The organization is just too important to me to let that happen."

Johnston recently submitted a letter of resignation from the CCPA because the city works so closely with the center. He said his involvement will just hurt, not help, because of his relationship with the city.

"Because of my vocal opinions I just think it's best my name does not come up,"he said.

As for the criticism of the way she does her job, Eberhardt said she merely follows council orders. "I just do whatever they tell me to do."

"I am always open to criticism," Eberhardt insists. "All I ask is that if someone has criticism they propose a solution to the problem."

Her response to the letter:

"I will always work as hard as I can, my door is always open and I am always happy to help residents," she said.

"What's so offensive to me about all the complaints is that I try to make this place the best it can be and do whatever I can that is positive for the city I work hard for."

Johnston's most recent complaints could lead to big trouble for the city.

"There is nothing on the repair of the bridge, not one record that engineers inspected the bridge," said Johnston. "Someone with qualifications or certifications should have reviewed what was done to make sure it was safe."

"That's just plain wrong," responded Eberhardt over Johnston's comments saying that documents were in fact provided by qualified officials.

In Eberhardt's letter to Johnston she pointing out comments and complaints are some of the very things he voted for while on city council. Johnston says, so what.

"I think her response to my concerns are unprofessional and sad," he said adding that Eberhardt makes up things to discredit him and never brings up any of his concerns to the city council.

Johnston said he was blown away by the letter.

"As a citizen, any complaint I have should be addressed without question-without nasty letters," he insists.

Johnston said he is continuously surprised none of his concerns are ever addressed by city council, adding Eberhardt must spend a lot of city time working to discredit him-time that could have been spent working on finding out legal requirements and making improvements.

In the letter, Johnston also asked the city council to note the city administration has once again violated state law and city policy regarding a delayed FOIA request

Johnston said he considers the city to be guilty of gross negligence and misconduct.

Eberhardt said no matter what is done in the city, it will be wrong in Johnston's eyes.

Johnston said the city keeps violating the rules.

"What service is the city providing for our tax dollars if it doesn't enforce the laws and regulations it has adopted," he asked.

Staff writer covering Independence Township and Clarkston area.
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