Incorrect statements prompt apology from city manager, mayor
Feb. 26, 2020 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
Results of a controversial survey conducted by Eastern Michigan University in the City of Plymouth may have been slanted by city officials.
Questions on the survey prompted a public apology from City Manager Paul Sincock who last week admitted to false statements about the questionnaire to members of the Downtown Development Authority board. Sincock had earlier denied that the city framed the questions on the survey and also falsely stated that the city did not fund the project.
Sincock admitted that both those statements made at a Nov. 11 meeting were false and apologized to the DDA board members for his conduct last week at their regular meeting. Plymouth Mayor Oliver Wolcott also apologized for the erroneous information.
The main topic of the questionnaire was the future development of Kellogg Park.
Community activist David Rucinski, who has campaigned against the city plans for Kellogg Park for several years, filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the costs of the questionnaire and the origination of the questions. He told the DDA board that the documents revealed the city paid $2,300 for costs related to the survey and that members of the city administration were directly involved in the development of the questions, contrary to Sincock’s assertions.
The FOIA response revealed that the city community development director engaged Eastern Michigan University in July to prepare the survey at the direction of Sincock. Then in October, the DDA Development Director asked for a copy of the proposed survey questions from the college staff. Those questions were reportedly to have been included in the information packet at the following DDA meeting although no sample questions were provided to the members of the board, One week later, however, the DDA development director gave the community development director a list of questions that, “I would like to see on the survey.” On Nov. 11, Sincock denied any city participation in formulating the questions or in funding the survey.
“The FOIA documents show that the city manager spearheaded the survey back in July, that the city was an active participant in the development of the questions and that the city paid $2,300 for costs of the survey,” Rucinski said. “The only thing I can say about (the cost) is that in the future, if Paul says there is no cost in something, we should ask a follow-up question as to how much is ‘no cost,’ Rucinski said.
Wolcott apologized to the DDA board members for not clarifying or questioning Sincock’s Nov. 11 statements.
“We had about $2,500 worth of expenses related the survey and I certainly will strive to do better in the future to clearly identify those kinds of costs,” Sincock told the members of the DDA board. He said that he “literally did not know the questions until we received the report, you can believe that or not.”
Board member Ellen Elliott was obviously concerned about the false information provided to the board.
“Paul, I want you to understand that where we’re coming from is not about the cost. I don’t know how else to make you understand about the lies. When you repeat what the FOIA says, that’s not what it’s about,” she continued “It’s that you lied to us. If you don’t think that you did anything wrong, we have a problem.
“The issue is not about the survey itself, but the way in which it was handled,” Elliott emphasized. “This is about trust and credibility going forward. When citizens resort to FOIA requests, it’s an indication that they don’t trust their government,” Elliott said. “How do we rebuild confidence for the board and the citizens? How do we avoid this from happening again?”
This story was previously published in the Feb. 20 edition of The Eagle.