The Plymouth Township Board of Trustees will be conducting two meetings this evening. The first is a special meeting, which will begin at 5:45 PM, and is a special meeting. According to the Plymouth Township website, it will be to discuss pending litigation. This has become more the rule, rather than the exception lately. This is a closed meeting, not open to public scrutiny.
The regularly scheduled public meeting is set to begin after the closed session of the Board of Trustees adjourns. This is tentatively set for 7:00 PM. The public is invited to these meetings, and there will be two spots on the agenda where the public has a chance to offer comments, and ask questions.
I generally look over the agenda, and board packets for these meetings to get an idea on what to expect. For tonight, I noticed an item that piqued my interest. It seems a rather innocuous item, and on the surface no big deal.
Item #2 Adopt Rules of Proceedings, and Order of Business.
Basically, this is a policy that sets the order of the agenda for a public meeting. For all practical purposes, it is a boilerplate policy, that once set, is generally followed for many years, as an agenda is a pretty straightforward thing.
You call the meeting to order, say the Pledge of Allegiance, take attendance (roll call), approve the agenda, and so forth, and so on. Every public board has their set agenda format. I sat of the Board of Education at Clarenceville Schools for seven years, and we never changed our Rules of Proceedings. I have no doubt that they are still the same as they were when I last sat on that board.
So why the sudden interest in revising their rules? Why do they want to change things so suddenly? Generally, if you were going to do such a thing, you would most likely do it at the end of a year, and set it to take effect at the beginning of the the new year. This is the logical time line for such a change.
So I had a look at the board packet for the meeting. I looked on page 161, and there were no specific changes noted in the briefing, so one would assume that for some reason, they were just re-approving what was already etched on the proverbial stone.
On closer inspection, I see that they changed the order of two items. The “Public Hearing” part of the agenda used to come after “Public Comments And Questions.” In the new format, the “Public Hearing” section will come before the “Public Comments” section of the agenda.
Not a big deal right? That seemed to be the only change, and someone must have thought this is a more streamlined and logical way to conduct a professional public meeting. This item was put on the agenda at the behest of Township Clerk, Nancy Conzelman, and Supervisor, Richard Reaume, so it is most likely their idea.
That being said, it is usually stated in the brief, why an item is being brought before the board. In this case it should have said that Reaume/Conzelman wanted to make a change in the order of the agendized items. In this case, they didn't. They basically cited the law, and the Township Charter provision, allowing the board the legal right to adopt it's own rules of order for business. kind of vague if you ask me.
Well when Mr. Reaume starts getting vague about things, warning bells start ringing in my head. What is this fellow trying to pull now? I started looking at it, and thinking back on previous meetings. Something had to happen for him to want to change things in the middle of a new year, or at least after the new year had begun. Then it hit me.
They are changing the “Public Comments And Questions” section of the agenda to read “Public Comments” They took out two important words. AND QUESTIONS
You want to know what I think? I think they could care less about the order in which Public Hearing & Public Comments come in the agenda. They want the AND QUESTIONS removed. This is a slight of hand move, and it shouldn't stand. Reaume will present it as a change in the order of items, but it's not about that at all. It's about two words, and nothing more.
If the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees follow the recommendations of Supervisor Richard Reaume, and Clerk Nancy Conzelman, they will no longer have to answer a question from a taxpayer in Plymouth Township.
If you have a question for this Board of Trustees, you will no longer be able to ask it at a meeting in front of an audience, and on video record at the Plymouth Township website. You will be at the mercy of having to hope they return a phone call. They never answer the phone at the Township Hall, at least not my calls, so you will have to hope they decide to grace you with a return call.
This Board of Trustees, who already have a miserable track record when it comes to transparency, have just shut out the public even more. Not only do they not want to answer your questions, but Reaume/Conzelman are trying to remove your right to even ask a question. Don't think for a minute that Treasurer Ron Edwards is not involved in this as well. He is. Up to his eyeballs.
Here's the thing. They never had an obligation at a meeting to even give an answer to a question in the first place. You could ask a questiion, but they were under no constitutional obligation to answer. So why get so heavy handed, and change a provision that has been in place since at least 2004, and most likely long before that, in order to revoke the right of those who put the food on their tables, to even ask a question.
This is what they will do. If you ask a nice question, like “When am I going to get the cool calender you folks send out every year?” You'll probably get an answer like this. “We aren't supposed to answer questions at a meeting, but it will come sometime in December.”
Now if you ask a tough question like, “Why is this board being such jerks about doing business with the City of Plymouth?” You will most likely get the gavel from Reaume, he'll call you out of order, and say that, “We aren't allowed to answer questions at meetings, but if you have a comment, you can make it, but your three minutes are almost up.”
The reason that they are changing the rules on the fly is that this Plymouth Township Board of Trustees in general, and Treasurer Ron Edwards in particular, have incensed the people of Plymouth Township, as well as the people of the City of Plymouth so much in the last couple of months, that folks are at their meetings, and asking why the heck are they acting the way they are. Taxpayers are asking very direct, blunt questions of this board. Questions they don't want to answer. Embarrassing questions.
Bottom line? This is about Central Middle School, and the group known as PARC. This is about the Plymouth Arts and Recreation Complex, and the group that wants to do a feasibility study. The Plymouth Canton School District signed on to hear their proposal. The City of Plymouth signed on to hear their proposal. The Plymouth Township Board of Trustees refused to sign on to hear their proposal. It wouldn't have cost Plymouth Township one red cent to do this, and they wouldn't have been obligated to anything iother than a seat at the table to hear a feasibility study. They refused anyway.
Board meetings have been packed with folks who are literally begging these elected officials to just listen. All they have to do is listen. The Board of Trustees can vote no afterward, no problem, but just hear us out. Well Ron Edwards, in his most childish moment in recent history said “I want nothing to do with the City of Plymouth.”
He then doubled down on his ignorance, and made a motion to prohibit Plymouth Township from entering into any agreements with the City of Plymouth for the rest of his term in office. This motion actually passed by a 4-3 vote, and for the life of me, I still can not understand how a public official could ever be so stupid as to vote for something like this, but Mike Kelly, Kay Arnold, and Nancy Conzelman did.
So now you know why Richard Reaume, Ron Edwards, and Nancy Conzelman don't want you asking them anymore questions at a public meeting of the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees.
They are afraid you will ask for intelligent answers...