Updated: 8:58 a.m., May 15, 2012
Residents angered and frustrated by a lawsuit brought in September 2010 by Supervisor Michele Economou Ureste and Trustee Steven Kaplan against West Bloomfield Township packed Town Hall Monday night after allegedly receiving a "robo-call" Sunday morning in support of the two government officials.
Residents at the meeting said it made mention of Trustee Larry Brown’s election to defer income earned at township board meetings ($125 per meeting) to a benevolent fund he established in 2009 in order to help township residents struggling with their water and sewer bills to keep their water on.
As part of the lawsuit, Economou Ureste and Kaplan claim that Brown should pay taxes on the income.
The item had been placed on the agenda in order to review the status of the lawsuit and the cost to taxpayers. Township attorney Gary Dovre said the suit, pending in appeals court, currently amounts to more than $39,000 in attorney fees.
"I’m urging the board members to use the truth for your township. Your constituents are watching you. We’re listening and watching this mud-slinging. It has the opposite effect," said Diane Rosenfeld Swimmer, a candidate for trustee in the Aug. 7 primary election.
Barbara Reider, an 42-year resident, said that the robo-call kept her up all night in anger.
"Last night, we get this call. I couldn’t believe it. I handed it to my husband, who said the same thing. I guess I’m even madder still that it kept me up all night. I can’t stand to see people persecuted for being charitable," Reider said.
The case was last in front of a judge in April 2011, when Rudy Nichols of Oakland County Circuit Court ruled in favor of the defendants on the issue involving Brown. Oral arguments on the appeal are scheduled for June 12.
Economou Ureste and Kaplan were not in attendance Monday night. Executive assistant Pat Chapin said that Economou Ureste was dealing with a dental emergency. No reason was given for Kaplan’s absence.
Board resolves to oppose oil and gas drilling
The fears of West Bloomfield residents concerned about the recent purchase of oil and gas drilling rights in town were heard by the board, who passed a resolution in opposition of oil and gas drilling in West Bloomfield.
Resident Kathy Chiaravalli attended a state auction May 9 during which Jordan Development of Traverse City purchased much of the available 18,347 acres in Oakland County, including land surrounded by that which is currently owned by the township, private property owners, or other institutions. She brought the matter to the attention of local government officials in fear of her home waterfront on Cass Lake becoming polluted by the water-intensive practice of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking."
Drilling and extraction operators are not allowed to condemn property, thus they can't force property owners out, according to a May 4 letter by township development services director Marshall Labadie. He continued that he could not imagine a business model succeeding if drillers were forced into small tracts of land.
In order to give "teeth" to the resolution, the board voted unanimously to direct township attorneys to draft an ordinance prohibiting drilling, but Dovre said that a zoning ordinance would be difficult to pass. Instead, Dovre will work with Labadie to draft an ordinance prohibiting drilling under environmental regulations.