Plymouth Township Trustee, Bob Doroshewitz, and Trustee Chuck Curmi stood up last night for the residents of Plymouth Township. They fought for transparency, and they fought for accountability. Truth be told, they were also fighting for their right to have their own voice on the Board of Trustees.
There were many residents in attendance last night, and one of the issues that was clearly on their mind, was this proposed policy change, to remove the right of Plymouth Township taxpayers to be able to come to the Township Hall, and ask questions of their elected officials at a public meeting of the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees.
This heavy handed change in the policy was the brainchild of Plymouth Township Clerk, Nancy Conzelman, and Supervisor Richard Reaume. The idea came from their displeasure at having some pointed questions asked of them at a meeting in January from local resident, Deb Madonna. Ms. Madonna was well within her rights to ask her questions, and she was asking questions that most folks wanted answered.
Ms. Madonna simply wanted board members to state publicly, and for the record, whether they were in favor of having a representative from Plymouth Township sit down and listen to the results of a feasibility study for the re-purposing of Central Middle School into an Arts and Recreation facility. This would cost taxpayers nothing, and would provide necessary information to Plymouth Township elected officials on this issue moving forward.
At that meeting, Supervisor Reaume used his gavel to shut down her questions, and refused to allow Trustee Doroshewitz, and the rest of the board to answer her question. This angered all residents in attendance, and the meeting got very ugly from that point on.
Conzelman and Reaume's childish reaction to that meeting was to bring a policy change to the agenda format, that dates back over 20 years. They wanted to change the agenda item from: Public Comments And Questions to Public Comments. Quite simply, they wanted to remove the right of Plymouth Township residents to be able to ask a question at a board meeting.
I would like to tell you what Nancy used as her excuse for bringing this ridiculous policy change forward, but I can't. Nancy Conzelman never speaks clearly, and never seems to use her microphone. I was sitting in the second row, and I could not hear a word she said in support of her proposed policy.
So the debate began, and to put this in wrestling terms, this was a tag team bout between the team of Doroshewitz & Curmi, against the team of Conzelman & Reaume.
Doroshewitz came prepared with an old policy from a previous board, stating basically, that in order for residents of Plymouth Township to be able to have transparency, and a voice with their elected officials, public comments as well as the ability to question elected officials should be respected. Doroshewitz put it in far more eloquent terms, but you get the point.
Doroshewitz was not done though. Doroshewitz finished by dropping a bomb on Conzelman/Reaume. Trustee Robert Jacob Doroshewitz kindly informed the rest of the board that if this policy was passed as presented, he would put a box at the entrance of the meeting room, and folks could put their questions in that box. He would then read and answer each question during the Trustee Comment portion of the meeting.
In one word: Brilliant! He would be well within his rights to do just that, and he could take all the time he needed, to answer as many questions as he deemed appropriate, as there is no time limit on Trustee comments.
At this point, Conzelman mumbled something that I could not hear, she was asked to speak up, but instead, she just clammed up. This left Reaume to fight the battle on his own. Reaume responded exactly how I thought he would. He stated that people would still be able to ask questions, but that they were just making their agenda reflect what other municipalities and school boards have.
Doroshewitz quickly shot that down, by correctly stating that “You say that now, but when the policy goes into effect, what is to stop you from shutting down questions in the future, if you don't like the question.” This statement echoed exactly how I felt, and based on the reaction from the audience, exactly what others felt. Reaume had no answer for that response.
Doroshewitz made a motion to pass the policy, which also had a change in the order of the Public Hearing item, but with the words AND QUESTIONS left in place. Trustee Curmi supported this motion, but was adamant about adding his opinion, and this was another important part of the equation.
It was mentioned by Trustee Arnold that all questions should be directed to the Supervisor, and that he be the one to decide whether or not they should be addressed, and if so, he should be the one to answer. Trustee Curmi took issue with that, and for very good reason. Curmi stated that if there are questions, as an elected official, I want to be able to answer those questions myself. He stated it more concisely than I am, but again, you get the point.
This is a huge deal. Curmi may disagree with the position of the Supervisor on an issue, and he simply wanted the right to answer for himself, as opposed to having Reaume be the sole voice of the board. Quite frankly, whether you like his answers or not, Curmi will always give you a straight answer, without the political spin, and that is absolutely refreshing.
Before the vote took place on the Doroshewitz motion, Treasurer Ron Edwards made a somewhat clumsy effort to back the Conzelman/Reaume position, by basically stating that he does not support the people's right to ask questions at a meeting, because then they would show up expecting to get answers to their questions, and if board members didn't have an answer, there would somehow be trouble. Or something like that.
When the vote came down, Kay Arnold, Nancy Conzelman, and Ron Edwards voted to remove the ability to ask questions, and Doroshewitz & Curmi were able to sway Kelly and Reaume to their side. This was a huge turn of events in my mind. If Reaume could be swayed from Ron Edward's position, this is an indicator of how Ron Edward's heavy influence on this board is being increasingly marginalized.
In the end, Doroshewitz & Curmi became the Tag Team Champions of the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees last night, and that my friends, was a good turn of events...