Why Were Voters Denied Right to Vote?
July 6, 2012 CITIZENS FOR CHANGE .
JUNE 2012 – PLYMOUTH TOWNSHIP INFORMATIONAL LETTER.
THERE IS MORE TO THE CONTROVERSY THAN FIRE AND EMS PROTECTION
Trustees deny Plymouth Township residents their rights
This letter is about more than the firefighter/EMS issue. It is about citizens being denied answers to valid questions. It is about citizens being denied their right to petition voters and receive a vote on the petitioned request.
We believe almost all residents when informed of the truth and when they have the facts will feel cheated of their rights. Citizens will see through the smoke screen and the self-serving agenda of the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees, a board who believe they know what is best for everyone’s safety even when citizens request an opportunity to vote.
Here are the events that led to the dismantling of the fire department, the closure of Lake Pointe’s Station 2, and the denial of your opportunity to exercise your vote.
Last November, a lawsuit was filed by Plymouth Attorney Lisa Stempien on behalf of the 4,000 Plymouth Township registered voters who signed petitions requesting a vote on a Special 1-mill Assessment (SAD). This SAD would help fund the Fire/EMS Department. Twp. Clerk Joe Bridgman was served with a subpoena seeking an order from the court requiring the Township to show cause for not allowing the issue to be placed on the ballot.
The lawsuit charged that board members and officials unlawfully denied the public their right to vote on the issue and cited the Township for its refusal to accept an $880,000 federal grant for public safety services. Township officials claimed their actions were in response to the withdrawal of the City of Plymouth from the joint fire protection service, which left a budget deficit of $1 million in the fire department.
The lawsuit was struck down for lack of sufficient evidence.
In December 2011, the Citizens Action Group of Plymouth Township was successful with a second lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court when Judge Wendy Baxter ruled that the required petition signatures had in fact been submitted to place a dedicated 1-mill tax assessment on the Feb. 28 ballot to fund the Fire/EMS Dept. This time Township Officials claimed and the Township attorney Tim Cronin argued in court that the petition language signed by the nearly 4,000 residents was misleading and unclear.
At the same time in order to ensure failure of the SAD and facilitate hiring part-time firefighters, Township Board Members:
-lowered standards for volunteer firefighters
-increased the hourly rate
-allowed volunteers to live 15 miles outside of township borders
-eliminated the need for volunteers to take EMS training
The fire department union offered more that $300,000 in cuts and proposed that the Township Board allow EMS units to transport patients to hospitals; this would allow the township to bill Medicare or patients for the service, instead of allowing the outside ambulance company, Huron Valley Ambulance of Ypsilanti, to collect the revenue. Officials would not agree to Plymouth EMS transporting patients and, instead, required that Plymouth EMS transfer patients to HVA ambulances for transport. The suggested reason for this policy is to maintain fire/EMS staff within Township limits. We should ask patients how they like this policy?
Just before Christmas 2011 after 4 court appearances and a court order requiring the Board give residents the opportunity to vote on the special millage, Trustees increased the requested millage to 10 mills knowing the electorate would not pass it.
In February, Plymouth Township residents filed a lawsuit with the Michigan Court of Appeals in an effort to stop the 10-mill question that the Township Board of Trustees placed on the Feb. 28 ballot. The appeal, filed by Northville Attorney Greg Stempien, charged that replacing the petition language violates the constitutional rights of Township citizens to petition their government for their right to vote. While waiting for a ruling, the group that originally circulated and submitted the petition and brought the court actions demanding the right to vote, withdrew their support for the millage question in its current form and urged a “NO” vote on the 10 mills.
Worried Township officials quickly and secretly formed a group, called Friends of Plymouth Township, and registered it as a political action committee to fight the ballot issue and defeat the Fire Department. The Friends of Plymouth Twp. group was spearheaded by Richard Reaume and his campaign manager, who was recently hired as a township employee and assistant to Ron Edwards. Before the February election, the Friends sent a slick expensive postcard to all Plymouth residents saying, “Vote NO.” The plan was to defeat the millage at all costs.
In April, still determined, Township officials filed a Motion to Dismiss with the appellate court in an effort to have Attorney Greg Stempien’s Michigan Court of Appeals lawsuit dismissed. The Township’s motion was quickly thrown out.
With the Fire Department already suffering from a reduction of 8 full-time personnel and the Township at risk, Richard Reaume and his trustees pushed through a lay off of all but 15 full-time firefighter, advanced life support (ALS) paramedics and closed the fire station critical to covering the township’s largest subdivision— Lake Pointe. This leaves 2 stations open with 5 firefighters on duty per shift. Two life-threatening incidents in Lake Pointe (reported in the Eagle) and one at Bradbury in the last few weeks indicate just how undermanned our fire personnel are and how vulnerable we citizens are.
Mr. Reaume prides himself and other Trustees in keeping taxes low and “right-sizing” Plymouth Township’s fire/EMS staff. Recent incidents that required calling Northville Twp. for mutual aid tell a much different story. Keep in mind that while taxes have not increased, residents are still paying a millage that funded a much higher level of services. Citizens are paying the same tax but receiving less in full-time fire/EMS coverage.
Today, the Michigan Court of Appeals is reviewing the appeal and will rule soon. The court may require Township Officials to adhere to the law and give Plymouth Township residents the opportunity to decide—an opportunity to save our fire department and preserve 24-hour ALS-certified paramedic and firefighter services.
In the meantime, be prepared to exercise your constitutional right to vote; this issue affects your personal safety and that of all Township residents.
The big question is: Why would Mr. Reaume and Twp. Trustees go to such extreme lengths in reportedly “right-sizing” our Fire Dept. and deny voters their rights?
Is this how you expect Township Officials to conduct Township business? Do you want your rights back? VOTE on August 7.