Former officials’ antics plague new board
Feb. 28, 2017 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
Plymouth Township Clerk Jerry Vorva says that the barrage of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests his office has received in the last two weeks is part of a scripted political ambush aimed to harass the new administration.
Vorva, who took office Nov. 20, 2016 replacing defeated incumbent Nancy Conzelman, said the purpose of the FOIA is to help people understand the workings of government, not a means of retaliation against a political opponent. He said the multiple requests by Thomas Parelly, a failed candidate for trustee, and Conzelman are at the direction of former Township Supervisor Shannon Price, also defeated by voters last year.
Vorva said that a Feb. 3 email written by Price, addressed to Parelly and Conzelman, was sent to Conzelman’s prior official township email, which is now his. The subject line reads, “FOIA.” The first line says, “Items to FOIA,” and lists eight topics ending with, “Did I miss anything?”
Vorva said because of the official email to the clerk’s address and the subject line, he opened and read the email, believing it was official township business within his designated responsibilities.
He added that within a few hours of receipt of Price’s email, the clerk’s staff began to receive FOIA requests from Parelly asking for employee payroll records.
The actions by the recently defeated officials riled Vova and other board members who criticized them at a recent public meeting, calling the tactics “childish antics.”
“I question Mr. Parelly’s motives. He’s not doing this in the spirit and intent of the FOIA, which is to aid in the understanding of government. His continued requests are aimed at seeking employee payroll information on township employees,”Vorva said.
Trustee Bob Doroshewitz in a social media post said he found the actions of the defeated board members strange and puzzling.
“What I find puzzling is that many of these documents (listed on the email) don’t exist…they know they don’t exist…they know they don’t exist because they didn’t create them back when it was their job to do so…”
Official records show just days before he sent the instructional email, Price registered with the State of Michigan as a Lobbyist Agent employed by M and B Consulting, LLC, 9613 Tennison, a Plymouth Township Limited Liability Corp. located at the same address of record as Price’s residence. According to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, the firm was dis- solved in 2015.
“It’s an intentional waste of our time, and a certain waste of taxpayers’ money,” Vorva said. “It’s just silly.”
One request reads, “…copies of all correspondence, documents, emails, budget items, contracts and their time cards in regard to the hiring and ongoing employment of the following employees, Sandy Groth, Susan Brams and Amy Hammye.”
Groth is the new deputy clerk and Brams is Supervisor Kurt Heise’s secretary. Hammye is the incumbent deputy treasurer appointed by former Treasurer Ron Edwards. Conzelman is said to have overtly objected to the salary amount offered to Vorva’s deputy. Conzelman’s deputy clerk was not reappointed after the election. Brams and Groth were both new hires.
According to a TV news report last week, Conzelman filed a complaint with the state Attorney General and then contacted the news station over a purported technical error she alleges occurred when the new township board adopted the 2017 budget, one prepared by Edwards and the previous board of trustees. Conzelman claimed the new board failed to have a formal public hearing on the budget, a state requirement.
Conzelman defended her actions in an online post saying she asked for payroll information to clarify the claim of Groth that she was not paid “an illegal amount of money.”
“I, like every citizen, have every right to FOIA any township information I want,” she posted.
Conzelman and Edwards were captured on surveillance video in township hall shredding documents and removing bags of items for nearly 24 hours on their last day in office. Vorva and other new officials, including Heise and Treasurer Mark Clinton, confirmed that they were greeted with empty file folders and missing financial and other necessary records during their first weeks in office.
“This why Americans are disgusted by politics…the campaign is over, it’s time to move on,” Heise said. Vorva told the audience at the recent trustees’ meeting that he had taken action and met with the police chief on the matter.
“To conspire amongst themselves…is not right.” Vorva said.