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Mayor, city attorney and council should stop what they are doing

Guest Viewpoint by Cory Johnston

June 19, 2013 - In the city manager's first public letter since taking office six weeks ago (Clarkston News - June 5, 2013), she is "astounded" that non-residents can "cite chapter and verse of the city charter" while "those that who live here probably have never even read the document."

I often think that is true of our elected council but is it this really what a city manager should be saying about those who pay her salary? The city manager goes on to say some of us have no nerve and need others to write our letters. I have read the city charter and I write letters to my elected representatives citing charter, ordinance and resolution and they are ignored by those who supposedly represent me.

I write letters to the editor and created a facebook page just for comments and discussion about the Village of Clarkston. The Village Hall ignores all of this and our city officials joke about anyone who dares challenge them. It seems they have all been advised to not use names in their public comments no doubt to avoid the embarrassment of being so disrespectful of those they serve.

The same issue of The Clarkston News had an article about Freedom of Information in the city with statements from the city manager were both inaccurate and misleading. All meeting agenda, minutes and recordings are NOT online for anyone to review, contrary to what the city manager is quoted as saying.

Anyone can prove her statement wrong by going to the website. Agenda for meetings of the Historic District Commission for example are required by governing ordinance, but only one agenda (December 12, 2012) is on the city website.

In my letter to the city council (you know, the letters we have no nerve to write), I asked if we would now be charged for information previously received at no cost by email. I still don't have an answer. I was NOT sent information for the last meeting, contrary to what the city manager implied in the article. I still don't know if there is a policy for obtaining information on the affairs of the city, what it will cost, and who will make that determination.

Most troubling to me are the comments of the Mayor, council and city attorney made at the last two council meetings.

The Mayor admitted he in effect appointed himself as interim City Manager during the planned absence of the previous manager, made numerous calls to the City Attorney, and said nothing about the costs he incurred to the city or the violation of the City Charter.

We have no idea what else he may have done as the self-appointed administrator. All of this was done without approval from or notice to the city council. It ignores the basic concept of a majority rule that governs everything elected officials do, violates the City Charter which states that the Mayor shall have no administrative duties, and violates a council resolution that the Mayor was fully aware of. The Mayor claimed he was showing leadership.

The city council, with the insistence of the city attorney, decided to change an 8-year-old council resolution that limits the ability of any one elected official, including the Mayor, from acting independently of the council and incurring costs without the knowledge and approval of anyone and ignored the requirements of the charter.

I'm sorry Mayor but this is not democratic leadership. It is a scandal that you, the rest of the council, and the city attorney are doing your best to cover up and deny.

In my opinion, the Mayor and council should all resign from office for dereliction of duty and violating the public trust. The city attorney ignored obvious violation and instead insisted that the resolution must be changed as he needs to communicate with the Mayor at any time since the Mayor has ceremonial responsibilities.

He did not say that the same City Charter sentence that says the Mayor is "head of the city of the city for all ceremonial purposes" ends by stating the Mayor "shall have no administrative duties."

It was never explained why those "ceremonial" responsibilities now require unlimited access to an attorney when they didn't in the past, or have the violations been going on for some time?

The attorney can get paid $47.50 for a five minute phone call so he has reasons for wanting unlimited discussions. Neither he nor the Mayor documented what they discussed, so we have no idea what we got for our money.

The city should find a new attorney who will defend the charter and rules of the city instead of his personal opinions and interests. Let's find someone who serves the people who live here instead of just protecting the Mayor and Council from their ongoing mistakes.

Of course none of this will happen. The council will continue to agree with whatever is presented, charge the maximum tax they can, and raise fees wherever possible. They will agree with whatever the last city manager did and praise his service while agreeing with the new city manager to do it all differently. Charter, ordinances and resolutions will be ignored as they have been in the past. Enforcement will be done by arbitrary and unknown standards, if it is done at all. They will continue to ignore their responsibilities. When caught, they will deny everything and change the rules to suit themselves.

Letters to my local representatives go unanswered and unmentioned in council discussions. No one attends or comments on public hearings as some committee has already made all the decisions in private with no record of why. Since it seems we have no representation and the city has no viable government, I have decided to join the overwhelming majority of people who ignore the city government and do their best to pretend it does not exist.

There are too many good people and opportunities in the Clarkston area to waste time dealing with a government that serves no productive purpose and cares little about what the residents think of them or the rules that are supposed to govern their behavior. We can all do better, even with the weight of high taxes, little enforcement and no public vote or say on most of the government services we receive.

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